November 4, 2007
Jesus 2.0: Christianity in Cyberspace

One aspect of media convergence that fascinates me is the crossroads between "convergence and conversion," the ways in which religious communities find interesting new ways to use the Internet to provide explicitly Christian venues to build community, share videos and music, and consume media content. A recent Forbes piece by Andy Greenberg looks at some of these initiatives, including Godtube, Mypraize, and MyChurch, among others, in what one person calls "Jesus 2.0." In pointing to this piece, I wanted to look back at some of my own writing about "Jesus 2.0" over the past couple of years here on the C3 blog.

I first wrote about GodTube back in April, when I discovered the hit Christian parody "Baby Got Bible." Back then, I wrote, "The parody video presented a Christian version of the rap classic from Sir Mixalot, except this brother has a fetish for big Bibles instead of badonkadonks. 'You Christian brothers can't deny/That when a girl walks in with a KJV/And a book mark in Proverbs/You get stoked/Got her name engraved/So you know that girl is saved.'"

Christian cinema has gotten quite a bit of attention over the past couple of years, with the launch of divisions like Fox Faith. Back in April 2006, I wrote, "Christian communities have powerful methods for word-of-mouth, with preachers and outspoken church members spreading the word about products. Christian bookstores are another powerful way to target the Christian community, and products from the Left Behind series to Veggie Tales have had strong support from Christian consumers, not to mention The Passion of the Christ." See more here.

Meanwhile, the Gospel Music Channel has moved forward with creating interesting new advertising deals for its offerings through video-on-demand, as I wrote about last November. I wrote, "The Gospel Music Channel was launched back in October 2004 as the first advertiser supported gospel cable network. Ford has been a leading advertiser with the network for some time, including deals as the exclusive automobile advertiser for certain block's of the network's programming."

Perhaps most interesting in this "Jesus 2.0" vein is discussion among Christian fan circles as to whether file sharing constitutes "spreading the word" or stealing content. I wrote:

There are even some who see it as a moral strength to spread the word of gospel music. And, if you think about the history of gospel versus the Christian music industry, it is understandable. I remember attending gospel music singings in my youth at small churches in Western Kentucky, almost every Saturday night, where a variety of regional gospel music acts would come by. Many of them would only charge a minimal fee, if anything at all, but they made their money from the generous love offering always planned for the end of the service. The church people always balked at the bigger-name acts or one of the regional acts who gained more widespread appeal because some of them would then charge a bigger fee for agreeing to come and sing. Is that un-Christian?

While at MIT, I did an interview with Darrell Belcher, a preacher at a small church in Echols, Ky., where I attended in my youth. Darrell and I talked about the ways in which preaching changes depending on the media format, and I wrote about how these lessons are important as religion extends into cyberspace.

As I wrote last November, "In our discussion of how these new tools of convergence are being used to reshape the media industry and to provide tools to everyone, we can't forget religion's role in the process and the way the Christian community in particular has always innovated in regard to grassroots distribution and marketing. These tools are being used for myriad purposes, and religious groups have been very adept at them."

Thanks to Eleanor Baird for pointing out the recent Forbes article.

Any thoughts?


On November 13, 2007 at 12:21 AM, Hillary Kolos said:

Did you see this NYT Mag article about the abundance of religious discussions generated on YouTube?


No, I hadn't seen that, Hillary. Thanks for sharing the link. I know that I had seen some discussion in the past about GodTube and whether it was really that necessary to have a dedicated site for religious groups when there were sectors of YouTube already devoted to these sorts of discussions...That's an interesting question in general about launching targeted communities, as to whether they are more beneficial as a completely different platform or as a community existing within the larger user community of a much more established site...