This article investigates the construction and transmission of charisma through online channels and its role in the formation of religious identities. Mindful of Max Weber’s observation that charisma inhabits the relationship between a leader and his/her followers, I argue for a critical reappraisal of the theoretical model in the light of the ubiquity in the twenty-first century of new, virtual forms of social encounter. I focus my analysis on the Christian creationist movement in the United States and particularly on an influential leader called Ken Ham. Using digital ethnographic methods, I show how Ham constructs charisma online and how a virtual community forms itself around his charismatic claims. I illustrate how this virtual community intersects with offline worlds and suggest that the theme park attractions that Ham’s organisation runs (Creation Museum, Ark Encounter) are imbued with deflected charisma by virtue of their association with his online avatar.
Kołodziejska, Marta and Anna Neumaier. 2017. Between individualisation and tradition: transforming religious authority on German and Polish Christian online discussion forums,” Religion 47(2): 228-255
Abstract: The aim of this paper is to connect the debates on individualisation and mediatisation of religion and transformations of religious authority online on theoretical and empirical basis. The classical and contemporary concepts of individualisation of religion, rooted in the secularisation debate, will be connected with Campbell’s [2007. “Who’s Got the Power? Religious Authority and the Internet.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 12 (3): 1043–1062] concept of four layers of religious authority online. The empirical material consists of a joint analysis of German Christian and Polish Catholic Internet forums. In a transnational comparison, the findings show similar tendencies of individualisation and emerging communities of choice, as well as a lasting significance of textual religious authorities, although different levels of authority are negotiated and emphasised to a varying extent. However, in both cases critique of the Church and religion usually emerges offline, and is then expressed online. While the forums do not have a subversive potential, they facilitate adopting a more independent, informed, and reflexive approach to religion.