Medias Aid in the Rebirth of Religion
One could argue that new media was the killing factor in the semi recent decline of people who followed religion, and while that might have been true, I believe that its come full circle. New media is giving religion new life, among a few generations of people with whom, religion lost touch. Religion is reaching out to people by way of media. Id like take a look at some of the ways that new media has been both beneficial and detrimental to the participation in religion.
Our generation falls sort of awkwardly between two major events in media. We got the tail end of the new and amazing things that could be done in entertainment with the television. As well as the very beginning of the explosion of the Internet and more importantly, social media. As our parents were growing up, Televisions were the newest things, reaching record numbers of people with just one show. It’s no wonder those shows ended up shaping individual lives and trends in whole populations at a time. I’ve watched a number of shows in my lifetime that have shaped the way i see things and how I live my life.
First we will look at a couple of television shows and movies, who sacrificed the face of religion in the name of comedy. Making religion the butt of jokes on widely watched television shows, is what I believe is to blame for the fall in religious following. This use of comedy, as well as just the addition of something new to focus on, like a flashing new shiny box in the living room were equal contributors. Because this is what our parents learned this is how we were brought up, and the things we were exposed to.
I’d like to share a few examples of Religion in TV shows I watched growing up. Family Guy; whether you love or hate it we’ve all either watched it willingly or grudgingly. There’s a well-known episode where Jesus calls on God for help, and God cannot be bothered by Jesus because he’s too busy in bed with a woman, another, perhaps more insulting example, is again with God, where he creates the earth by passing gas, then lighting a match. Though brief, there was a small shot, of “religious people” in the extremely popular movie “Mean Girls”, where the “religious” are portrayed as country bumpkins, sitting on piles of hay and blabbing about homosexuals. My last example is of a scenario which appears on a number of shows, I can most easily remember it being of BET’s hit show The Game, which chronicles a group of pro football players, the main character Derwin Davis, lives by the bible, praise and worships god, and is consistently given trouble by his teammates. Its funny, I cannot easily remember anything good ever being said about religion on TV, but can give you a whole list of the bad.
Thankfully time and technology have progressed and we now find ourselves in a time where the new media is Social Media. With countless outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, many people are finding ways to start new or rekindle old relationships with religion. Everywhere you turn on a social media site there’s another post or picture saying; “Repost if you love God, He sees you reading this.” or something of that sort, but some people are taking it much further. Churches all around the country have physical patrons, A church in Florida boasts over 15,000 worshippers on any given weekend, now while there’s no way that their building could physically accommodate for those people, they have ministers who help people to worship digitally. They do this by offering online prayers, prayers that can be printed and used and read over and over again, bringing a much longer life to the words of these pastors which would normally go in one ear and out the other during a Sunday morning service at church. Like this church in Florida, many other religious leaders are taking their wise words and support to the World Wide Web. The Vatican has a YouTube channel which is posted on and get this, The Dalai Lama Tweets! Social media has been likened to the printing press by a professor Stephen O’Leary who says that social media has advanced the accessibility of the church in a huge way, just as the printing press made the bible accessible to all. New media, seems to always have a significant effect on religious acceptance, and following in America.
With every good thing of course comes the bad. Yes, you can have and gain access to religious leaders from almost anywhere and at any time, and surely that’s helpful, but some wonder if that devalues the religion and churches, if you can get it anywhere what makes it so special? Additionally, the expression and sharing of religiousness and spirituality can lead to and provide the opportunity for those expressing to be bullied, by the notorious cyber bullies, adding an element of vulnerability that isn’t usually present when attending a church or common place of worship where everyone has the same intentions.
Taking the Cons into account I still believe the Pro’s are far more plentiful. New Media; Social Media is allowing for many to be connected to their religions even when away from home or in a strange place, where perhaps they cannot find a good church. While there is potential and certainly instances of bullying due to the expression of religious affiliation on social media sites, I’d like to think that support occurs more often. The biggest advantage that I see coming from online worship and the presence of religion in social media is the permanence. Online pastors, religious leaders and even just friends and family who post religious information on social media, are providing permanent support, that can be saved and printed and passed on and on, having limitless potential to the amount of people it can reach and help and the amount of time it can spend helping people. I think this is just the very beginning of the relationship between social media and religion and the best is yet to come.
1. Campbell, Heidi. “Reflections on Correlations between Religious Affiliation, Education and Internet Use.” Welcome. Digital Religion, 9 Apr. 2014. Web. 26 May 2014.
This source talks about how religion is used in new media
2. Cheong, Pauline H. “Religious Organizations Create Global Impact through Digital Media – Religion Press Release Services.” Religion Press Release Services. RNS, 12 Mar. 2014. Web. 26 May 2014.
This source talks about the impact of social media in religions..
3. Hoover, Stewart M. “Media and Religion.” MEDIA and RELIGION (n.d.): n. pag. Web.
4. Larson, Rosane. “Effects of Social Networks on Religious Belief and Practice.” Journalists Resource RSS. N.p., 7 Dec. 2011. Web. 26 May 2014.
I used this Source to gain knowledge about different types of media influences
5. Lawton, Kim. “Religion and Social Media.” PBS. PBS, 01 Apr. 2011. Web. 26 May 2014.
I used this source to help me understand a critical part of the relationship between religion and social media, and how they interact. It also gave some great insight from real “online pastors” and how they use social media, and the importance they Believe it has.
6. Learmonth, Michael. “PTC Unhappy with TV’s Religious Stereotypes.” Variety. Variety, 2006. Web. 25 May 2014.
I used this source to tell me about concrete disputes regarding religious slurs and stereotypes in media, specifically TV. It also provided me with an example on how religion is and was portrayed on TV.
7. Roberts, Mark D. ““Are Social Media Changing Religion?” – Henry G. Brinton at USA Today.” Belief Net. Belief Net, n.d. Web. 26 May 2014.
This source was used to gain background on the topic
8. Tinsely, Ron. “The Handwriting on the Wall: The Pros and Cons of Social Media Use …” The Handwriting on the Wall: The Pros and Cons of Social Media Use … Prophetik Soul, 2013. Web. 24 May 2014.
This article gave me a deeper look into the pros and cons of the relationship between Social media and religion, most specifically the cons as those were tougher for me to come up with.
9. “The Effect of Social Media on Religion.” Dating God. Dating God, 8 June 2011. Web. 26 May 2014.
I used this source to gain more background knowledge on the topic
10 “When Religion Meets New Media.” When Religion Meets New Media. N.p., 7 Feb. 2012. Web. 26 May 2014.
This source provided a different look on the way religion is portrayed in the media