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The Question of Christian Community Online: The Case of the Artist World Network

TitleThe Question of Christian Community Online: The Case of the Artist World Network
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsCampbell, H, Caulderon, P
JournalStudies in World Christianity
KeywordsChristianity, community, internet, religion online

The past decade has seen a steady growth of technologies and practices that can be described as religion online. In many respects Christian groups and users have led the way in using the web for spiritual practices. From church websites becoming a common form of congregational advertising and communication to the rise of cyber churches and online prayer meetings, numerous forms of Christian practice have been transposed online. The Christian community has also been at the forefront of debates over the potential impact of ‘doing religion’ online. Concerns voiced by theologians, pastors and Christian scholars have included the potential that technology might become a substitute for God, the Internet could draw people away for organised religion towards individualised spiritualities, and that the Internet might reshape notions of traditional ritual and community. In light of these questions a new area of research has developed which involves exploring how Christian religious practice is being transformed in the age of Internet technology. Within such studies, the question of Christian or religious community online continues to surface as a central area of concern. As more and more Christian Internet users become involved in various chat, email and blogging groups, they are increasingly seeing and referring to these online social networks as religious communities. For many believers their Christian community involves both online and offline friendships and affiliations, a concept still problematic and contentious to many religious leaders. Thus, the purpose of this article is to investigate what constitutes a Christian community online and the possibilities and challenges that exist when Christians who gather for religious purpose online begin to conceive of their group as a Christian community. This is done by exploring a particular Christian online bulletin board, the ‘Artist World Network’, in order to understand how this group sees itself and functions as community. This investigation provides a way to address the question of what constitutes an online Christian community. It also opens up discussion on the possibilities and challenges online religious communities pose for offline Christian community.