Belonging without Believing

Church as Community in an Age of Digital Media

in International Journal of Public Theology
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This article flips on its head Grace Davie’s notion of ‘believing without belonging’. From a consideration of the internet and social networking media as a public space and a new ‘public’ or fifth estate, the article proceeds through a discussion of religious activity online to investigate the concept of community, the function of communication theology and the place of morality in online activity. Finally, the article considers the popularity of Sunday Assembly and concludes that there is a significant move towards belonging without believing both on- and offline.

Belonging without Believing

Church as Community in an Age of Digital Media

in International Journal of Public Theology

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References

1

Grace DavieReligion in Britain Since 1945: Believing without Belonging (Oxford: Blackwell1994) p. 94; rewritten as Religion in Britain: A Persistent Paradox (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell 2015) still using the phrase ‘believing without belonging’ while also introducing the notion of ‘vicarious religion’.

5

See for example Barry TaylorEntertainment Theology: Exploring Spirituality in a Digital Democracy (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic2008); Justin Wise The Social Church: A Theology of Digital Communication new edn (Chicago: Moody Publishers 2014); Brandon Vogt The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts Online Activists and Bishops Who Tweet (Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor 2011); Elmer Towns and Todd Mullins Online Churches: An Extensive Analysis and Application (Lynchburg: Liberty University Press 2014); Kimberly Young and Patrice Klausing Breaking Free of the Web: Catholics and Internet Addiction (Cincinnati: Franciscan Media 2007); Derek C. Schuurman Shaping a Digital World: Faith Culture and Computer Technology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press 2013); Douglas Estes SimChurch: Being the Church in the Virtual World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 2009); Jesse Rice The Church of Facebook: How the Hyperconnected are Redefining Community (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook 2009); Jonah Lynch The Scent of Lemons (London: Darton Longman and Todd 2012); Dwight J. Friesen Thy Kingdom Connected (Grand Rapids: Baker Books 2009); Jana Marguerite Bennett Aquinas on the Web? Doing Theology in an Internet Age (London and New York: T. & T. Clark 2012).

7

Sebastian Kim‘Editorial’International Journal of Public Theology6:2 (2012) 131–6 at 132.

8

Jodi Dean‘Why is the Net not a Public Sphere’Constellations10:1 (2003) 95–112 at 95; see also Jürgen Habermas The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society trans. Thomas Burger (Cambridge: Polity 1989 [original in German 1962]).

9

Dean‘Why is the Net not a Public Sphere’98.

10

Callum G. Brown‘The People of “No Religion”: The Demographics of Secularisation in the English-Speaking World Since c. 1900’Archiv für Sozialgeschichte51 (2011) 37–61 at 56.

12

Rachel WagnerGodwired: Religion Ritual and Virtual Reality (Abingdon and New York: Routledge2012) p. 133.

15

Clint Schnekloth‘Virtual Church’Word and World32:3 (2012) 245–51 at 249 (original italics).

17

A. BrunsBlogs Wikipedia Second Life and Beyond: From Production to Produsage (New York: Peter Lang2008).

20

See Jeffrey H. Mahan‘Religion and Media’Religion Compass6:1 (2012) 14–25 at 14.

21

Ibid.17.

22

Ibid.18.

28

B. Bailey and T. StorchThe Blogging Church (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass2007) as cited by Gelfgren ‘“Let There be Digital Networks and God Will Provide Growth?”’ in Cheong Fischer-Nielsen Gelfgren and Ess eds Digital Religion Social Media and Culture at p. 237.

30

Avery DullesThe Craft of Theology: From Symbol to System (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan1992) p. 22.

32

See for example Jonathan Freedland‘Are Smartphones Causing a Bonking Crisis?’The Guardian26 November 2013; Carolyn Gregoire ‘Too Much Texting Could be Harming Your Love Life Study Finds’ Huffington Post 11 January 2014; Richard Alleyne ‘Mobile Phone Addiction Ruining Relationships’ The Telegraph 30 November 2012.

36

See ibid. p. 194.

37

See ibid. p. 199.

38

@RickWarren 4:06pm 6 December 2010as cited by Cheong ‘Twitter of Faith’ in Cheong Fischer-Nielsen Gelfgren and Ess eds Digital Religion Social Media and Culture at p. 200.

42

WagnerGodwired p. 127.

43

Ibid. p. 134.

44

Graham WardCultural Transformation and Religious Practice (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press2005) p. 110; Graham Ward ‘Between Virtue and Virtuality’ Theology Today 59:1 (2002) 55–70.

45

Nicholas M. Healy‘Why There is No Christian Community’Christian Century (16 May 2012) 26–31 at 28.

46

Ibid.27.

48

See Heidi A. CampbellWhen Religion Meets New Media (Abingdon and New York: Routledge2010) p. 38.

52

Richard S. Vosko‘Liturgical Technology, Social Media, and the Green Church’Liturgical Ministry20 (2011) 87–92 at 87.

55

Ibid.91.

56

Ibid.90.

57

CampbellWhen Religion Meets New Media p. 141 and p. 124.

59

Ibid. p. 212.

60

CampbellWhen Religion Meets New Media p. 126.

61

See for example Helene Milena‘Proposed Constitution of AoSL’The Anglican Cathedral of Second Life<http://slangcath.wordpress.com/2010/07/13/proposed-constitution-of-aosl/> [accessed 21 October 2014]. Mark Brown’s virtual services can be accessed at <http://slangcath.wordpress.com/author/bsnzceo/> [accessed 21 October 2014].

65

Ibid.246.

66

Ellen Charry‘Virtual Salvation’Theology Today61:3 (2004) 334–46.

68

Peter Horsfield‘Theology as a Virtualising Enterprise’Colloquium37:2 (2005) 131–42 at 137.

69

Ibid.137–8.

70

Ibid.140.

73

Mary Hess‘Life On Screen and Other Musings on Faith, Food, and Media’Word and World32:3 (2012) 252–8 at 253.

76

H. HegstadDen virkelige kirke. Bidrag til ekklesiologien (Trondheim: Tapir Akademiske Forlag2009) p. 197) as cited by Lundby ‘Dreams of Church in Cyberspace’ in Cheong Fischer-Nielsen Gelfgren and Ess eds Digital Religion Social Media and Culture at p. 37 (original italics).

84

See for example Esther Addley‘Atheist Sunday Assembly Branches Out in First Wave of Expansion’The Guardian14 September 2013 <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/14/atheist-sunday-assembly-branches-out> [accessed 26 January 2014].

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