Edited by Samira Rajabi
Edited by Jeremy Garber
Amber M. Stamper
For evangelicals, the allure of mass media evangelism has always been the potential to reach ever-more-distant “unsaved” populations across the globe. However, as the print and broadcast revolutions quickly revealed, targeting individuals’ needs and developing a sense of personal intimacy between evangelists and audience via these media proved a perpetual challenge. The digital revolution transformed this relationship: the interactive capabilities of the Internet and the ability to inexpensively target niche audiences re-shaped mass media evangelism. However, a close examination of evangelistic practices online reveals that, in fact, this latest “revolution”—rather than representing entirely novel ground—actually more closely approximates the type of evangelism that has taken place in brick and mortar churches and non-virtual environments since Christianity’s origins.
The concept of “rhetorical space”—drawn from rhetorician Roxanne Mountford’s work on how the design of pulpits and church buildings directly impacts the types of pastoral and congregational behaviors promoted—helps us to see why. Using Global Media Outreach’s Jesus2020.com and The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s PeacewithGod.net websites as exemplars, I explore how, by conceptualizing evangelistic websites as rhetorical spaces with architectural features functioning persuasively in a manner similar to physical spaces, scholars of digital religion gain a theoretical framework for effectively describing the unique draw of these sites. Three elements of design in particular reveal how web design works imperceptibly to create a personalized, intimate, and interactive experience, while quickly moving users to make the decision to convert: the rhetorics of interface, navigation, and virtual relationship design. Understanding evangelistic websites as rhetorical spaces thus allows scholars of digital religion to see ways in which Internet evangelism has many similarities with evangelism in non-virtual spaces, pushing us to view it as a more familiar and historical strategy than is commonly recognized.
Camp is defined as a style that is characterised by excess, artificiality, theatricality, exaggeration, sentimentality. What could this possibly contribute to Christian theological aesthetics, the study of God and theological issues through the aesthetic, art, beauty? This paper proposes, through a discussion of camp in its “incarnation” in Pedro Almodóvar’s cinema, that it has several aspects to offer. Camp uncovers and challenges the categories of truth and reality in theological aesthetics as well as the artforms in which this truth can be discovered. Its embrace of the superficial and material can be seen, in theological terms, as an incarnational aesthetics that offers redemption through the affirmation of the material, not its disruption or negation. Camp underlines the subversive power of pleasure and laughter against tendencies that dismiss pleasure as escapism, and challenges theological aesthetics to acknowledge the wisdom that lies in emotions and affects. It criticizes by fostering solidarity and empathy, rather than antagonism. Thus camp represents a challenge to self-critically reflect on processes of exclusion on an aesthetic and a social level, and challenges us to imagine a different world, a world of beauty, love and passion.
Through a case study of the Facebook page of a Jewish Orthodox environmental project based in Germany, this paper explores the ways in which religion and modernity might be made compatible and what role digital media plays in such interaction. On the basis of the empirical material gathered for this paper, the author presents a typology of religious-environmental processes of hybridization. The analysis draws from the concepts of multiple modernities, public religions and religious branding in order to discuss whether the combination of religion and modernity is enabled or compromised by the collapsing of boundaries between the public sphere and the marketplace in late modern societies. The findings suggest that Facebook and its affordances make possible the particular intersections of religion and environmentalism, of public sphere and marketplace, that are characteristic of the case under study.
This essay examines complexities that attend digitizing a cultural heritage artifact that is sacred to a contemporary community. It argues that scholars must first determine how the artifact participates in the life of its community. If this participation is integral, scholars should treat the artifact as a present-day cultural phenomenon, inseparable from its community. To explain the implications of this shift, the author turns to ethnography, which has a lengthy tradition of interacting with communities for generating research. Photographing a sacred artifact is not unlike other ethnographic research, whether tape recording stories, collecting documents, or gathering information about social practices. To guide digital work, the essay proposes ethnographic ethical principles, demonstrating their value in digitizing the 8th-century St Chad Gospels at Lichfield Cathedral, England—supporting Jamie Bianco's recent call for an "ethical turn" in the digital humanities.
Alexander Darius Ornella
The article proposes that the short-lived science fiction series Caprica (2009–2010) espoused a rather atypical ideology that was based on the prominence of women and femininity in the narrative. Through women, the series merged science and religion, body and mind, human and machine and established a moral code based on respect for those usually “othered” in the genre. The narrative accomplished this by consciously employing and then re-arranging western gender stereotypes, which led to the emergence of a specifically feminine approach to science that was, amongst other things, also religious. This combination had subversive potential because of the series’ premise that God actually exists and is actively involved in human/cyborg affairs. Women emerged as points of contact on behalf of this God who pitted them against rationalized and universalized male science.