Caught in the net

joseph-dath.jpg

On Saturday, I presided over a wedding in a lovely park in Maryland. It was a perfect day. The sun was shining, the flowers were blooming, and the bride and groom, they were beautiful, practically glowing at the ceremony.

They met over the Internet, during the last presidential election. I’ve only done two weddings this year (the HOS loves doing them, he must have one every weekend–I think he ought to retire in Vegas). Both of them have been couples who met over the net.

What’s that about? Is it the sad state of the social scene for young adults in D.C.? Is it a national trend?

I know it’s not just in D.C. Many people who are finding community, sharing information, and working for social change in cyberspace.

When a blogger-friend told me that her daily on-line diary was a source of connection for her, I was confused. But then my husband began blogging, and surprisingly, within three months, we began talk about the frequent comments of Agnostic Atheism, Hearty Heretic, He is Sailing, My Inner Edge, and many others around the dinner table.

We’ve all seen the net effects on evangelical religious communities: The Emergent Village and Sojourners/Call to Renewal, have become places where Christians can connect with the like-minded. We’ve learned a great deal about the New Monastics, too (and we wish you well with rebuilding).

With a book coming out, I’ve become more aware of the business of publishing. My favorite Hip Mamma says that most books sell 1,000 copies. Alban books do better than that. Their books sell 2,000 to 3,000 copies, and a bestseller can do 10,000. It’s been interesting to open up a blog site and find out how print reader numbers compare to on-line reading. Of course, there are many problems with comparing those very different sorts of stats (Apples and Oranges. Really.). But it does make me wonder how many people read the Theolog versus the Christian Century.

Allison Fine writes about the work of social change. She has a contagiously optimistic outlook about all of this, especially in the work of activists. She contends that the Internet can help us move from serving soup until our elbows ache to actually solving ills like hunger and homelessness.

In addition, Fine points out something else: “Localness matters: relationships can be started online, but they are strengthened and deepened by in-person activities.” We have to be online and on-land.

It’s a great reminder as the church learns to live, and move, and have our being in the connected age, that we can’t become completely caught in the net. As we form relationships, share information, and work for social justice, we can’t forget our incarnational ministries either. We still have to move beyond our flat-screen relationships, and learn to be there for one another, in the flesh.

photo by Joseph Dath

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2 thoughts on “Caught in the net

  1. The internet is a phenomenon that brings misfits like myself together. I guess that can be good or bad, depending on what kind of misfit you are 😉 When I began doubting Christianity, I was soundly condemned by a few people whom I trusted. I think I was maybe too doubtful in my faith for thier comfort. I spoke to a pastor at church where I was preached at with apologetic arguments that I had heard on a million previous Sunday evenings. They never took the time to just listen to me. My wife tried her best to undrestand, and was, and is, a marvel of patience. A prominant member of our church visited our house a few weeks ago and just told us that it was very difficult to love us anymore. Wow, I haven’t changed a bit either, but there you go.

    With the Fundamentalist stranglehold I was in, I now find myself intrigued by sites like yours, EmergingPensees, PofD, etc.. I was told that more liberal forms of Christianty were the Enemy Within. Now that I think back, I have to wonder what in the world they are afraid of??

    I am not much of an online internet geek, but I use it to find people who are going through the same struggles, or who at least understand. To find alternate points of view. To learn. To try and figure out what makes the most sense. And yeah, sometimes to vent. I don’t dare to it in person, face to face in my old church. I tried that. I think our more Fundamentalist churches would be wise to listen to a few open-minded apostates like myself, and maybe see what makes us tick. I was told by them why I was leaving, but they never asked me why.

    Thus the internet. I guess it just brings people together who would otherwise never find each other.

    Yikes – sorry this reply turned into a bit of a rant.

  2. I have a friend who attended a “Fundamentalists Anonymous” group. It really gets under your skin, doesn’t it?

    There are so many people out there, walking around with these spiritual bruises, feeling damaged and manipulated. There are people who can hardly doubt, or question, or even think, without being shunned from their own communities and families.

    Most progressive churches allow people to think, but they can be messy too. There’s no doubt about it, church can bring out ugly things in people. I stick with it because I’ve also seen it bring out the best in people.

    What you describe is a wonderful thing–a connection for people who are going through the same struggles, people who at least understand.

    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to listen. I’ve certainly learned a lot.

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