The Digital Evangelicals: Contesting Authority and Authenticity after the New Media Turn
How are digital media altering everyday lifeworlds? How are increasingly habitual, Internet-mediated devices reconfiguring structures of power? This book (forthcoming in August 2022 with Indiana University Press) focuses on the intertwined narratives of evangelical Christianity and emerging digital culture in the United States. Concentrating on the religious and cultural logics of communication that inform American media patterns, this book charts the rise of a dueling, formative tension between two dominant media traditions that began with the Protestant Reformation and culminate in the digital era. An influential paradigm of media sincerity places high value on embodied, interpersonal communication characterized by immediacy and directness. A second paradigm of media promiscuity disperses texts and discourses widely and indiscriminately in effort to extend Christian community, evade the problem of physical distance, and share the good news of evangelicalism. These chapters trace the conflicting paradigm through American history and up through the rise of the digital.
Through a series of interlinked case studies, the book centers its narratives both on evangelical discourses on social media between 2010 and 2020 and the increasing presence of social media in everyday evangelical lives. Like oral, print, radio, and televised developments before them, new media networks reconfigure normative conceptions about technology usage. Supplementing online studies with five years of ethnographic fieldwork, The Digital Evangelicals argues that with the rise of new media and reconfiguration of the tension between sincerity and promiscuity over time, a crisis in evangelical authority has come to a head. The digital turn introduces into the evangelical media ecology modifications relating to religious authority, the circulation of information, and what counts as “authentic” interpersonal interaction. Twitter, the blogosphere, dataphones, Wikipedia, Instagram, podcasts, Skype, digital Bibles, and Facebook constitute new arenas for debate about social and religious boundaries, theological and ecclesial orthodoxy, and contestation over new media’s duplicitous value and danger.
Table of Contents:
Part I: Media and Message
1. Media Sincerity and Promiscuity: Origins
2. Evangelical Media Ecologies from Print to the Internet
3. Evangelical Theories of the Digital
Part II: Authenticity Construction across New Media: Case Studies
4. #FareWellRobBell: Heresy Discourse and the Horizontalization of Authority
5. Feminist Publics and the Progressive Evangelical Blogosphere
6. Instagram, Authenticity, Affect
Part III: Local Technologies in a Global World
7. Emerging Midwestern Evangelicals and Digital Media
8. Media Ambivalence in Emerging Evangelicalism
Conclusion: Zoom Church, Cancel Culture, and the Exportation of Evangelical Media