Stewart, “The “Almost” Territories of the Charismatic Christian Internet”

Stewart, Anna Rose.  2015. The “Almost” Territories of the Charismatic Christian Internet.  In The Changing World Religion Map.  Stanley D. Brunn, ed.  Pp. 3899-3912.  Amsterdam: Springer Netherlands.

Abstract:

The constantly emerging technologies of the internet are frequently described in terms that evoke space. As online technologies continue to grow in their global ubiquity, it is appropriate to consider how the virtual geographies that are conjured in online engagement extend beyond the web browser. This chapter builds upon anthropological approaches studying religious communication to consider how internet engagement with some religious Believers creates and provides a sense of presence in an inspirited world. I first discuss how anthropologists approached the relationship between religious communication and space before considering Charismatic Christians in the UK. Following 12 months of fieldwork in their churches in the South of England, I describe a range of everyday internet practices and the spiritual implications held by my informants. The key finding is that the technologies of the internet provide for Believers contexts in which they are able to perceive and directly experience the dimensions of their spiritual battles. While British Christianity continues to suffer steady decline, web-based resources allow Christians opportunities to experience connections with others as part of an unstoppable, global, wave of revival. This sense of sanctified online community is tempered by knowledge that words transmitted in some online contexts may be witnessed by non-Believers. While this knowledge is mostly welcomed by members, shared spaces such as Facebook or Youtube can become sites for spiritually hazardous confrontations. In their engagement with online media these Christians experience online comments lists, blog entries, and social networking platforms as sites in which struggles for global, national, and personal salvation are staged and restaged. For these Christians, the spaces of the internet come to be experienced as territories in constant transition.

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