social media

The Student Behind Viral #IStandWithAhmed: 'I Had To'

Image via WFAA-TV/RNS

Fort Worth, Texas, native Amneh Jafari never expected to help spark an international movement.

But when the senior University of Texas Arlington psychology major saw a picture on the news showing Irving teen Ahmed Mohamed in handcuffs for bringing a homemade clock to MacArthur High School, it felt personal.

“It really saddened me,” Jafari said.

“I have younger siblings, and I felt like I was looking at them.”

Group Prods Fellow Mormons to Get Behind Family-Friendly Immigration Reform

Image via @Kate_Kelly_Esq / Twitter / RNS

Mormons teach, preach, and sing about families being together forever in heaven, but some members of the Utah-based faith want to exclude one group from that promise, at least on Earth.

Undocumented immigrants.

And, while the LDS Church supports immigration reform that keeps families together, its leaders have not pushed that idea in worship settings where Mormons are gathered. Nor has it called out those who disagree. In other words, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has gone largely silent on the issue.

#FergusonTaughtMe: What People of Faith Have Learned Over the Past Year

a katz /

Activists march in New York City on October 11, 2014 in solidarity with renewed protests in Ferguson, Mo. Photo via a katz /

One year after the shooting and killing of Michael Brown, #FergusonTaughtMe is trending on Twitter. Activists, faith leaders, intellectuals, and everyday members of the movement have used the hashtag to explain how Ferguson fundamentally altered their racial consciousness. Embedded are a few tweets from Christian leaders who shared how Ferguson changed the way they do faith. 

Weekly Wrap 7.10.15: The 10 Best Stories You Missed This Week

1. Read the First Chapter of Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Sequel

Happy Christmas in July! Read this excerpt of the much-anticipated Go Set a Watchman — due to be released on Tuesday. Or listen to the chapter, featuring narration by Reese Witherspoon, over at The Guardian.

2. Pope Apologizes for Catholic Church’s ‘Offenses’ Against Indigenous People

"I humbly ask forgiveness, not only for the offenses of the church herself, but also for crimes committed against the native peoples during the so-called conquest of America."

3. When Algorithms Discriminate

So there’s this, from the Upshot: "Research from the University of Washington found that a Google Images search for ‘C.E.O.’ produced 11 percent women, even though 27 percent of United States chief executives are women. (On a recent search, the first picture of a woman to appear, on the second page, was the C.E.O. Barbie doll.)"


Faith online. Image courtesy Oakozhan/

Faith online. Image courtesy Oakozhan/

A friend recently found out that his girlfriend had been cheating on him. They broke up, she pleaded with him to take her back, they picked up where they left off, the trust issues proved too much to bear, and just a few days later he started dating another woman.

Interestingly, all of this information was divulged via social media. I, along with everyone else who knew the couple, was given front row seats to this Jerry Springer-ish episode that terminated their relationship.

As a society, we have definitely blurred some lines between what becomes public and what remains private.

Thanks to the abundance of information at our fingertips, we need only turn on the television or stand in the checkout lane or search Google to uncover the most up-to-date gossip on any public figure. And thanks to social media, we now get to know far more about our friends and acquaintances than we probably care to.

It seems that nothing is private anymore. But in what some may see as a terrible downturn in society, I find a glimmer of hope — this is, in part, paving the way for deep and relevant discussions on faith to take place in the public forum.

Yet when it comes to matters of faith, it seems a majority of us remain silent. Why is it that we will readily invite the entire world on our date via instagram, yet we are so hesitant to open up about our beliefs?

Sojo Stories: OVERRATED

Still frame from Sojo Stories: OVERRATED. Image courtesy Sojourners.

Still frame from Sojo Stories: OVERRATED. Image courtesy Sojourners.

Eugene Cho is overrated.

At least that’s what he’ll tell you in his new book, Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World?

Cho, pastor at Quest Church in Seattleand founder of One Day’s Wages and Q Café, is an outspoken Christian voice for social justice. His first book is a self-professed confession of the risks of personal platform in the work of justice — and a call to humble self-awareness for Christians in an age of social change-idealism. When justice and changemaking are buzzwords, how do we embrace the long challenge of bettering the world while remaining humble about our place in it?

Watch the interview below.

Hashtag Activists Battle Online Anti-Muslim Speech, but #DoesItWork?

Linda Sarsour protests during a rally in Ferguson, Mo. Photo via Linda Sarsour/RNS

ISIS terrorist rampages, waves of anti-Muslim hate speech and fear-mongering Islamophobia are inspiring an outburst of online activism in the form of Twitter hashtags.

The question is: Does it work, especially over the long term?

An army of “clicktivists” — a mix of earnest advocates and pointed satirists — has entered the fray armed with 140-character positive, peaceful or humorous counter-messages.

Using names such as #TakeOnHate, #IStandUpBecause, and #NotInMyName, the pushback approach promotes the complexity, diversity and positive contributions of Islam and Muslims. Others, such as #MuslimApologies, offer sarcasm in service of the same message.

Yet the hashtags are often immediately co-opted by trolls spewing an opposite message. And some experts question whether clicktivist campaigns have lasting worth.

Linda Sarsour has no doubt they do. She’s a Brooklyn-based Palestinian activist in the streets and on social media and a co-creator of #TakeOnHate. The hashtag is accompanied by a resource website, launched in March by the National Network for Arab American Communities.

“The insidious thing about anti-Arab hate speech is that it seems to be acceptable, where the ‘N-word’ or anti-Semitic remarks are not taken with the same degree of outrage,” said Sarsour, who was chased down the street in September by a man who was later arrested for threatening to behead her

VIDEO: Not in Our Name

When facing a new threat, it is easy for the media and news consumers to cast judgment on an entire demographic, as is being done to the Muslim community in the wake of ISIS. In his piece “On Being a Muslim Parent” (Sojourners, December 2014), Eboo Patel addresses the struggles of having to shield his children from Islamophobia in a time when fear is contagious.

Likewise, British Muslims have begun a social media campaign called #notinmyname to combat these stereotypes perpetrated by the Islamic State militants. In this way, members of the Muslim community are able to speak in defense of themselves and the values their community truly stands for.

Watch the video below and read tweets from online #notinmyname users to hear truth and clarity from an active and global Muslim community. 






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Atheists Tweet More Often than Muslims, Jews, Christians, Study Shows

This tag cloud shows the top 15 most discriminative words used by each group studied. Photo courtesy of Lu Chen/RNS.

What does a map of the U.S. religious landscape look like in 140 characters?

A new study of Twitter finds that self-identified religious users are more likely to tweet to members of their own faith than to members of a different one. The study examined people whose Twitter profiles identified them as Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and atheist.

And while adherents of all six groups studied tweet frequently, atheists — among the smallest populations in the U.S. — are the most prolific.

“On average, we can say the atheists have more friends, more followers, and they tweet more,” said Lu Chen, a doctoral candidate at the Kno.e.sis Center at Wright State University who co-authored the study with Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn of Rutgers University-Camden. They will present their findings in November at the sixth annual International Conference on Social Informatics.

Mormons Embrace Social Media to Push Back Against Official Church Teachings

Mitch Mayne, Dr. Caitlin Ryan, Wendy Montgomery, and Diane Oviatt during the screening. Photo via Mitch Mayne/RNS.

It was a gathering that would have been unthinkable just five years ago.

On a cool summer evening, in a borrowed classroom overlooking San Francisco Bay, about 150 men and women gathered to screen a short documentary about a Mormon family whose 13-year-old son came out as gay.

The Montgomerys, who accepted their son and his news, were ostracized by church members, some of whom refused to accept Communion distributed by the young man in church. Like many conservative Christian denominations, the 15 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bans homosexual activity and considers it grounds for exclusion from Mormon rites, rituals and even the afterlife.