This essay is one of six in a collection of theological reflections on social media and new media conducted by the New Media Research Fellows at Union Theological Seminary. They are based upon the case studies conducted by the research fellows in 2011. Explore the Findings tab for more information about the rest of our work.
Study questions: Note that this essay includes questions at the end to help you go deeper into the topic, or to help others you may be leading to go deeper. Some of those questions will connect to other essays and case studies.
Imagine this scene: you walk into a church with chairs or pews
facing forwards. Near the front, there are chairs where the pastor and
ministers of the church sit facing the congregation. There’s a large wooden
table that functions as an altar. And hanging from the ceiling—almost
hovering above and between the altar and the congregation—is a large
emblem of a wireless router.
This router signifies what it means to get online without being
connected to a large computer in the wall. It connotes Web 2.0 capability,
instant messaging, smartphones, and chat rooms. It’s a symbol of Christ and
At first blush, this seems laughable. Even churches that are media
savvy in this digital age would be loathe to call new media salvation itself. Most
churches would insist that Jesus is the one who saves. The gospel message has
not changed. We still look to the cross as a symbol of our faith. New media
might change the way we connect to one another; it might even change how we do
church. But it doesn’t change salvation.
Or does it?
In its broadest sense, a savior is one who saves us. Christian
traditions use various terms to describe salvation. “Redemption” suggests an
understanding that humanity must be “bought back.” It has the connotation of
setting the enslaved free. “Reconciliation” implies a reunion of parties who
have been alienated from each other. “Atonement” draws from language of
agreement and making amends for an injury or wrong. From the root word of
“salve,” a healing balm, “salvation” seems to be about that which will make us
healthy and whole. Our terminology matters because it says something about what
we think salvation does.
Nevertheless, all concepts of salvation must address some basic
questions: Save who or what? From what are we being saved? To what? How? And
who does all this?
In the study of systematic theology, we neatly separate these
questions into different categories: doctrines of sin, salvation, Christology, church,
and eschatology, or the end-times. We assign complex theories to the basic
ideas about what’s wrong with us, what ought to happen, and how we get there. One
could argue that these are central questions to life. Paul Tillich offers a
method of correlation for answering these questions.
That is, he considers these to be existential questions that life poses to all
people. Philosophy, anthropology, sociology, and many other fields of study offer
answers. For Tillich, theology should provide the answers to these queries. Christianity
is distinguished in part by its focus on Jesus of Nazareth as the primary
So what does Jesus do? Christian theology answers this question in
several ways, four of which are particularly relevant in an age of new media. This
paper will examine four significant way of understanding Christ’s role in
salvation—as mediator, teacher, liberator, and the content of salvation.
There is evidence that new media function in communities of faith in some of the
same ways as Christ. In 2011, the research fellows of The New Media Project conducted
several case studies at churches and organizations around the country that are
using social media in innovative ways. A
close look at some of these cases can help us consider whether or not new media
Christ as mediator
In classical Western Christianity, Jesus’ salvific role is that of
mediator. In its broadest sense, the story goes something like this: God and
humanity were once in idyllic close relationship with one another. Something
happened. There is now a rift between God and humanity. Humans will always sin
and that separates us from God. Jesus is able to repair or bridge the gap
between God and humanity. Humanity now has access to a closer relationship with
This is atonement theory, writ large. Augustine is credited
largely for his interpretation of Genesis 2 and 3, in which he sees Adam and
Eve’s decision to eat from the tree of good and evil in the Garden of Eden, as
a “fall” from humanity’s intended relationship with God. This was the beginning
of “original sin,” which all people inherit at birth by virtue of being human. In
many traditions, death is the punishment for sin, and Jesus keeps humanity from
a life of eternal damnation for that sin. Objective theories of atonement focus
on how much God reaches out to humanity to effect salvation. For example,
during the Middle Ages, Anselm, the archbishop of Canterbury, posited sin as an
affront to God’s honor and righteousness. As
sinful humans, we owe God an infinite debt that we are unable to pay. Sin cannot
go unpunished, but the just punishment would annihilate humanity. Only a human
could repay what humanity owes. As a sinless human, Jesus’ voluntary death
satisfies the debt we owe God and saves all of humanity from eternal damnation.
The Reformation theologian John Calvin understood sin as the breaking of divine
laws that merit punishment. In the crucifixion, Jesus takes the punishment that
we deserve. Because Jesus is equally human and divine, Jesus is the perfect
substitution for us. In both understandings of salvation, Jesus mediates the
rift that sin creates between God and humanity. We now have access to a closer
relationship with God and to eternal life in heaven.
Subjective theories of atonement focus on humanity’s response to
what Jesus does for us. Peter Abelard, a contemporary of Anselm, understood sin
as consent to wrongdoing. In “Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans,” Abelard
indicated that the moral example of Jesus offers a demonstration of God’s love
for us. Jesus’ role is an ideal example of how we should love one another. The
more we are able to imitate who Jesus is and how Jesus lived, the more we are
transformed. We are changed by Jesus’ model of love, and we repent to God for
our sins. Twentieth-century theologian Walter Rauschenbusch went one step
farther in Theology of the Social Gospel.
He says that it is our responsibility to learn how Jesus sacrificed for us
and take up our own social and religious causes—even if it means significant sacrifice. Again
Jesus mediates the gulf that sin creates between God and humanity—this time
through being a moral example, through love.
New media as mediator
Many churches are clear that new
media help to bridge gaps between people and between people and God. Mediators
are often said to “stand in the gap.” In a Christian context, a mediator
“stands in the gap” between people who would not attend church and those who
do; between people who do not have a relationship with God and those who do;
between those who are alone (with or without their faith) and those who find
faith community. While heaven or eternal life is one goal of salvation, for
many people, church community is a righteous end. Inasmuch as churches strive
to embody the kin-dom of God about which Jesus preaches, becoming a part of
such a community is a part of salvation. When churches use new media to create
community that might not otherwise exist, they mediate salvation.
Quest Church in Seattle is clear
that new media help to create community. In the case study written by Jim Rice,
one member of the church mentions using new media just to find the church. The
church member notes that the website and its use of search engine optimization
makes the message of the church easy for people to find. He also notes that
they use new media for “drawing in people who may be outside of the realm of
traditional church shoppers.” In
this sense, new media mediate between church and the people looking for church.
Quest Church describes the small
groups that meet via Facebook as communities that share prayers and concerns. I
immediately think of the image of Jesus in the Farewell Discourses of the
gospel of John (John 14-17). In these chapters, Jesus prays earnestly for his
disciples and their future community. He is standing in the gap, praying that a
Spirit will come to create community in his absence. Both Eastern and Western
church traditions have understood the Holy Spirit as that aspect of divinity
that blesses and animates the church. In this case, Facebook is that Holy
Spirit creating community in the absence of Jesus of Nazareth—creating
intimacy, making prayers, and sustaining community.
Another case study subject, House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado, also uses new media to create community. One example can be found in how they hold worship and dialogue services in local bars. They share the information on Meetup.com and often attract people who would not ordinarily come to a church. Likewise, the pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber, notes that most of her pastoral care happens online or via text messaging. Not only is she able to reach out to people in a more time-efficient manner than if she were using traditional media, but new media also allow other people to help in the pastoral care process. As
a community is able to offer comfort to others who need it quickly, they
mediate the love and presence of God. New media not only reduce the reliance on
a single individual (the pastor) to offer care, but it also shows how God’s
love can be mediated through several individuals. While this aspect of communal
care is not exclusive to the use of new media, it is made possible in new and
faster (and thus one might argue, more effective) ways because of new media.
Community of Hope AME Church in
Hillcrest Heights, Maryland, another case study subject, also uses new media to
connect people to faith community. Tony Lee tells a story of connecting with
people online and through their offering of livestream video. Two examples help
to illustrate this. On one occasion, he was in the hospital in the greater
Washington, D.C., area and saw people who identified with Community of Hope—even though
they lived in east Asia. They were visiting sick members in their family. Because
this family was connected to Community of Hope online, they felt like part of
the community and received pastoral care in person while they were in the
New media literally mediated between one family and their connection to
community and pastoral care—just when they needed it.
As another example, Tony Lee often notes that he learns more about
the membership of this church of over 2,200 members on Facebook than any other
way. He saw a Facebook posting indicating that the relative of a church member had
committed suicide. This allowed him to reach out to that person, attend the
funeral, and offer pastoral care to the family. Because
of the stigma of suicide, this person might never have mentioned this to the
pastor or another minister in the church. But new media allowed the pastor to
acknowledge the reality of the family’s grief and demonstrate the love of God.
Mediating between sinful humanity
and God is different from mediating between those looking for spiritual
community and the church they actually find. Churches are ostensibly more
flawed than God. Yet inasmuch as churches are—at their best—visible embodiments of God’s vision and God’s
community (the kin-dom of God) on earth, anything that helps people connect to
God and faith community becomes Christological. It spans the gap between
individuals in search of meaningful community and communities striving to
represent the best of who God is.
Christ as teacher
The idea that we are saved through
Jesus’ role as a teacher has held more sway in Eastern Christian circles than
in the Western Christian world. Many first, second, and third century
Christians did not see the gap between God and humanity as one that was caused
by the destruction of an ideal relationship that once existed. Rather, the
first century bishop Irenaeus of Lyons asserted that humanity’s primary problem
is its immaturity.
We are far from God because we are not mature enough, wise enough, or
knowledgeable enough. Salvation does not restore a lost nature; salvation gives
us more than what we lost. Kept alive largely in the concept of theosis, salvation is about how humanity
might unite with or become divine.
early Christian thinkers in the Eastern churches describe Christ as the great
teacher who guides us into this knowledge and relationship with God. In this
understanding of salvation, salvation is a process; it is about gradual growth
and transformation. Christ teaches us in several ways. First, Christ reveals
God. Understanding Christ as the Word, or Logos of God, Christ is the revealer
of the transcendent God. We are able to learn about God because we see God in
Jesus Christ. As early as the second century, Justin Martyr described Christ as
the universal teacher who instructs the Greeks, the barbarians, and even the
patriarchs and prophets of the Hebrew Bible because Christ brings saving
doctrine to humanity. For Origen, Christianity was the greatest educational
power in the world, with Christ as the great teacher. Clement of Alexandria said
that Christ does more than reveal God; Christ is responsible for training
humanity for a virtuous life. Humanity learns how to be moral and spiritual
from Christ. Gregory of Nyssa indicated that humanity learns by imitating
For all of these thinkers, salvation does not aim to restore a relationship
between God and humanity that was lost. Salvation aims to grant humanity more
than its original inheritance. Salvation offers an immature and incomplete
humanity immortality, perfection, and union with God.
is a different kind of salvation than is associated with Gnosticism. Unlike in
many Gnostic traditions, in a pedagogical understanding of salvation, the
knowledge that Christ offers is not secret or for a select few. Christ offers
us information about who God is, while also teaching us how to live that we
might become closer to and one with God. This is an education that is
content-based, value-based, and
New media as teacher
The Mobile Learning Initiative at
Abilene Christian University is one example of how new media function as a
teacher. The goal of Abilene Christian University, one of the New Media Project
case studies, is “to educate students for Christian service and leadership
throughout the world.” In
the Mobile Learning Initiative, all students and faculty are given mobile
devices (an iPhone or iPod Touch) with a customized app that allows them to
access course materials, financial information, and obligations. Through the app
and the mobile device, students can respond to surveys anonymously during
class, while also asking questions and responding to quiz questions during and/or
The Mobile Learning Initiative does
not function as Christ just because it takes place in an educational institution.
It’s the way the Mobile Learning Initiative creates a constant environment of
learning that reveals its Christological dimensions. A leader in the project,
Scott Hamm, states that the Mobile Learning Initiative makes Abilene Christian
University’s educational ethos “part of the ambient noise of everyday life.”
As learning and interaction between faculty and students become
more seamless parts of their lives, the Abilene Christian University community
finds itself doing education in new ways. For example, the professor is no
longer the purveyor of knowledge and expertise. Rather, teaching helps students
to discover, interpret, and synthesize multiple streams of knowledge. One could
understand this shift in teaching as doing more than imparting information, but
it also helps students become more like the teachers themselves. This shift is
clearly tied to the use of new media on the campus.
In many ways, this is how Christ functions as teacher. The goal in
a pedagogical soteriology is not just to impart information about God, but also
to help humanity become more like the Teacher. The goal of using the mobile
devices and app isn’t just to make more technologically-savvy students. At
Abilene Christian University, there is an explicit mission for spiritual
development and the development of a stronger Christian community. New media do
more than facilitate this learning; it is actually the conduit for this
activity. The media itself is part of the teaching process.
Christ as liberator
Liberation theologies are best known
for their understanding of sin and salvation in the context of oppression. In
its various instantiations, liberation theologies assert that sin is caused by
the ways that humans oppress one another. This kind of sin creates rifts among people
and also between God and humanity because this is not God’s will for the world.
Salvation is liberation; it is freedom from oppression. Some feminist
theologians symbolize this as a large supper table where all are welcome. For
many black liberation theologians, it is a beloved community of justice and
For ecological theologians, it is a world where all of creation is honored as
unique and important to God.
Liberation theologies often
highlight Jesus as one who shows us how to live a life in solidarity with the
oppressed. Early black and Latin American liberation theologians focused on
biblical passages like Luke 4:16-30, where Jesus is in the synagogue and reads
from the book of Isaiah. Jesus says that he is anointed to “bring good news to
the poor … to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight for the
blind, to let the oppressed go free.” Peruvian theologian Gustavo Gutierrez said
that is an indication that in Jesus we see that God has a preferential option
for the poor. Black theologian James Cones described this as God being on the
side of the oppressed. In addition, the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and
Luke show Jesus’ spending time with the outcast of his society—from tax
collectors to women. This is interpreted as a model of inclusion. As Jesus
spoke out against the injustices of his time, we also understand Jesus’ role as
a prophet for the disenfranchised. The cross is important because it
illustrates how authorized powers often slander and destroy those who are
speaking out for justice, compassion, and inclusion of those whom society
treats as the least important, or the most invisible.
Christ is the one who sees the
oppressed, cares for the oppressed, and takes the side of the oppressed. Christ
is one who liberates us to the ideal community of justice. As Christians, we
live out the gospel as we imitate Christ’s role of inclusion and stand in
solidarity with the oppressed knowing that this is where God is.
New media as liberator
Community of Hope AME Church is a
prime example of a church where new media liberate. Community of Hope also
partners with a non-profit organization, Dreams Work, which helps young people to create media projects that speak out
against bullying and other social ills. Community of Hope functions as a
producer, as it is actively involved in drawing in individuals who would not
normally be interested in church or other positive activities. In fact,
Community of Hope has become well known for its ability to attract young people
who might otherwise be entangled with gang activity. One way they do this is by
having video games on the church website and
communicating with members through text messaging, Facebook, and Twitter. They
speak the language of the young people and offer them community at Community of
Hope. If sin is being alone and excluded and written off, then Community of
Hope’s use of new media saves people to visibility, community, and inclusion.
They understand social activism as part of what it means to be Christian, and
new media help in their community work. As the ministers at Community of Hope
communicate with people on Facebook, Twitter, and via live-streamed worship
services, they are able to help people who have felt disenfranchised and
excluded from church communities to feel welcome and noticed.
Another example of how new media function to liberate people from
sin can be found in the Darkwood
Brew online television program run out of
Countryside Community Church in Omaha, Nebraska. Darkwood Brew offers a
combination of video news magazine, a coffeehouse Bible study, and worship to
anyone who wants to watch online. The initiative is clear that its mission is
to reach the spiritually homeless and to provide resources for those seeking a
more expansive and progressive understanding of Christianity.
One could rephrase the initiative in this way: It is unfortunate
when people don’t have a place where they feel spiritually at home. In fact,
most media is centered on one fundamentalist idea of what it means to be
Christian and that idea is constricting and alienating to some people. This is
not just lamentable. It is sinful because it oppresses and excludes. Individuals
who cannot find their identities, communities, or support in the fundamentalist
mode of Christianity still need to have a relationship with God and a faith
Darkwood Brew is able to provide resources for those who want a
“less polarized, more inclusive and more loving faith.” It
literally offers theological reflection and “a sense of larger connection to
those individuals or whole communities who feel isolated by fundamentalist
interpretations and presentations of their faith,” says Kathryn Reklis. In
its ability to counter alienation, create a more inclusive faith, and create
community for those often outside the authoritative religious structures,
Darkwood Brew liberates as Christ does.
Young Clergy Women Project can also be
seen as a liberating Christ. This project is a community of roughly 600 women
who gather in various online formats to offer support to each other as women
under the age of 40 in ministry settings. Here the sin is the patriarchy and
ageism of many traditional church and institutional structures that cause women
to be isolated from the kind of support they need to serve as effective leaders
in ministry. As these women are separated from one another—and often
other women in ministry—by geography, new media create a community of compassion and
justice where their voices are heard and they are not considered a vast
Although some members of The Young Clergy Women Project meet in
person annually, the network and its relationships are constructed completely
online. The new media are the network. The community does not just connect
online in order to connect in person. New media are what allows the women from
around the country to think together, question together, support one another,
and find camaraderie and solace.
New media liberate young clergywomen from the isolation of their positions
within larger societal structures by creating glimpses of the ideal community
in their midst. On and through platforms facilitated by Web 2.0 technology,
these young clergywomen imitate Christ as they are able to offer this community
to one another. They are not only better equipped for the ministries to which
they are called, they are also representing the presence of God for one
another. They could not do this without new media.
The House for All Sinners and Saints also offers glimpses into the
liberating role of new media. House for All Sinners and Saints succeeds through
a combination of in-person embodied experiences and a pervasive air-like use of
new media. While it is not the focus of the ministry, the church is committed
to an inclusive environment, especially about LGBTQ issues. New media
facilitate and mirror this kind of inclusion. One member says, “We live our
life online, and lots of outsiders consume and comment on what we do.” New
Media Project research fellow Jason Byassee notes that for House for All
Sinners and Saints, “the message that there is no in or out is not just
promulgated, but demonstrated, via social media.” In
this sense, the message would be there without social media and file sharing.
But new media do more that share the message; the church’s use of new media
actually reflects and embodies that message. As new media create porous
boundaries and reaches those outside of the “church community who can attend in
person,” it includes by being inclusive itself. Inasmuch as inclusion (as a
form of justice) is one of God’s goals for the world, and a church’s use of new
media includes, it literally helps to save us.
Christ as content
For many Christians, Jesus is not
just the one who brings salvation. In many Christian traditions, Jesus is the
content of salvation. Salvation comes by believing that what Jesus does is
found in who Jesus is. This can be seen in scriptures like Romans 10:9: “If you
confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God
raised him from the dead, then you will be saved.” Much of this hinges on the
understanding that Jesus is a perfect combination of divinity and humanity. He
is the union of what is familiar with what is mysterious. He is both known and
unknown. Jesus’ uniqueness as fully divine and fully human is testified
throughout Christian scriptures: the stories of his birth through Mary, his Sonship
of God, the performance of healing miracles, his resurrection after death. These
are things that no ordinary human being can do. This is affirmed throughout the
Nicean and Chalcedonian creeds. Thus salvation is believing that Jesus is
uniquely divine, without sin, and the path to God and eternal life.
New Media as content
Social media experts agree that
successful use of new media is content-rich. That is, organizations and
individuals should use social media to say more than what they had for
breakfast; they should offer information that is fresh and enriching to the
lives of the people with whom they interact. The phrase coined by Bill Gates in
a 1996 article states this well, “Content is King.”
churches, social media use is not the content; rather Jesus is. And the use of
social media is not the goal; rather relationships with people are. When asked,
most clergy will say that social media help them to evangelize. A tool, not
salvation itself. The content is Jesus. Regarding Nadia Bolz-Weber’s approach
to House for All Sinners and Saints, Jason Byassee says, “She’s out for your soul.”
New media use is not the Word that saves. New Media are so
pervasive and accessible that it lacks the uniqueness of a Jesus who saves by
his divine-human status. There is nothing to believe about new media that will
alleviate our sins or get us eternal life. Eugene Cho, pastor of Quest Church,
says that technology is neutral and can be used in both positive and negative
Christians would not be inclined to describe salvation as neutral. Salvation,
on the other hand, is a consistent and reliably good thing.
New Media as Christ?
In her important work on metaphorical theology, Sallie McFague
discusses the power of using multiple metaphors for understanding the
relationship between God and humanity. She notes that metaphors are disruptive
and partial. There are ways that the two things being compared are similar, and
there are ways that they are dissimilar. There is, she notes, an is and an is-not-ness to all good metaphors.
To give two quick examples: (1) The legs of a chair. Like most
legs on animals and human beings, the wooden poles support and uphold the main
seating area of the chair. Unlike most human and animal legs, the legs of a
chair do not bend or walk. (2) God as parent. Like a parent, God cares for us,
knows more than we do, helps to create us. Unlike a parent, God is also seen in
a sunset or flowing river and does not literally sire children. These metaphors
stick, however, because the truth of them helps us to understand something more
clearly, or in terms that are more familiar to us. The more a metaphor
resonates, the more it engages what is familiar to the individual or community
engaging it, the more staying power it has.
For these reasons, it may be helpful to think of how new media are Christ. New media are a mediator,
teacher, and liberator. When churches use new media to create community,
connect to people, offer greater inclusion, justice and compassion, new media
save us. When churches use new media to help people to strengthen their
relationship with God, feel seen and heard, and to show the love and presence
of God, new media save us.
There are ways that new media are not Christological. If salvation is
about believing something about Jesus of Nazareth, then new media are a poor
metaphor for salvation. All of the aforementioned goals are best attained
through some use of new and old media. Whether it’s the embodied worship at House
for All Sinners and Saints, or the way that Community of Hope mixes bake sales,
church picnics, and printed flyers into their use of Bible apps on mobile
devices and live-streaming ... most churches are able to embody the kin-dom of
God best through strategic uses of both new and old media. Likewise, Darkwood Brew
offers their embodied program to others entirely online. They gather for the
purpose of recording the program that is offered to other people across the
country. Darkwood Brew imagines that people are also gathering together in
groups to learn from their programming, so they still expect a level of
The Young Clergy Women’s Project is a notable example. This
community functions entirely online. Through a community that rarely meets in
person, they are able to serve an inclusive, supportive, and liberating function
for a community often disenfranchised by larger religious structures. This
feels like the kind of thing Jesus might do.
Yet perhaps like the legs of a chair or the idea of God as a
parent, there are enough similarities for us to think seriously about how
understanding new media as Christology can enrich our thinking about how
salvation happens in a digital age.
Monica A. Coleman, a research fellow for the New Media Project, serves as Associate Professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religions and Co-Director of the Center for Process Studies at Claremont School of Theology and Associate Professor of Religion at Claremont Graduate University in southern California.
The New Media Project is a research project helping religious leaders become theologically savvy about technology. To request permission to repost this content, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Paul Tillich, Systematic Theology, vol. 1 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
 See all six case studies published by the
New Media Project at http://www.cpx.cts.edu/newmedia/findings/case-studies.
 Anselm of Canterbury, Cur Deus Homo (Chicago, Open Court, 1903).
 Peter Abelard, “Exposition of the Epistle to
the Romans” in Scholastic Miscellany:
Anselm to Ockham, trans. and ed. Eugene Fairweather (London: SCM Press,
 Jim Rice, “At home with new media: A profile
of Seattle’s Quest Church,” New Media Project at Union Theological Seminary, http://www.cpx.cts.edu/newmedia/findings/case-studies/quest-church/article.
 Jason Byassee, “Ancient liturgy for scruffy
hipsters with smartphones: A profile of Nadia Bolz-Weber and House for All
Sinners and Saints,” New Media Project at Union Theological Seminary, http://www.cpx.cts.edu/newmedia/findings/case-studies/house-for-all-sinners-and-saints/article.
 Monica A. Coleman, “Go-go preaching: New
media at Community of Hope AME Church,” New Media Project at Union Theological
 Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus Haereses (Leiden: Brill, 1977).
 See Werner Jaeger, Early Christianity and Greek Paideia (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press
of Harvard University Press, 1961).
 Lerone A. Martin, “ACU Connected:
Groundbreaking initiative reshapes education at Abilene Christian University,”
New Media Project at Union Theological Seminary, http://www.cpx.cts.edu/newmedia/findings/case-studies/abilene-christian-university/article.
 Letty Russell, “Ecclesiology,” Dictionary of Feminist Theologies, ed.
Letty Russell and J. Shannon Clarkson (Louisville: Westminster John Knox,
 See, for example, James H. Cone, A Black Theology of Liberation, 2nd
ed. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1986).
 See, for example, Sallie McFague, Body of God: an Ecological Theology
(Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993).
 See Walter Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel (New
York: Macmillan, 1922), and James H. Cone, The
Cross and the Lynching Tree (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 2011).
 Kathryn Reklis, “Becoming the media:
Darkwood Brew at Countryside Community Church (UCC),” New Media Project at
Union Theological Seminary, http://www.cpx.cts.edu/newmedia/findings/case-studies/countryside-community-church-ucc/article.
 Verity A. Jones, “Webs of interconnectivity:
Inhabiting the world of The Young Clergy Women Project,” New Media Project at
Union Theological Seminary, http://www.cpx.cts.edu/newmedia/findings/case-studies/the-young-clergy-women-project/article.
 Byassee, “Ancient liturgy.”
 Bill Gates, “Content is King,” Microsoft, http://web.archive.org/web/20010126005200/http://www.microsoft.com/billgates/columns/1996essay/essay960103.asp.
 Byassee, “Ancient liturgy.”
 Sallie McFague, Metaphorical Theology: Models of God in Religious Language
(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982), and Models
of God: Theology for an Ecological, Nuclear Age (Philadelphia: Fortress
Study questions (going deep)
- Have you heard or used any of the following
words in connection with the concept of salvation: redemption, reconciliation,
atonement, wholeness? Which of these
terms speaks the most to you/ your community? What might this say about how you/ your community understand(s)
- When new media helps connect people to faithful
community, what is happening?
- How do new media do some of the same things that
Christians assign to Jesus?
- Does your community use new media for connecting
people? Teaching? And/or emphasizing justice and
compassion? Can you name specific ways?
- Can thinking of new media as salvific expand
what is included in our ideas about salvation? In what ways? Could you call this
“salvation in a digital age”?
- In what ways is new media not like Christ? What is
lost when we think of new media as saving us?
Further study questions (going really deep)
Research fellows for
the New Media Project have written six different but interrelated theological
essays, each focusing on and drawing from a distinct theological tradition and
discipline. The following questions draw from the essay above and its
relationship to the other New Media Project reflections.
- Salvation through Jesus is significant in part
because of the understanding that Jesus is God incarnate, the “Word become
flesh.” Kathryn Reklis’ essay on Incarnation pushes our
understanding of what it means to be embodied in the flesh. How might her discussion of incarnation and
embodiment with new media affect the role you think new media plays in
- This essay describes Jesus as mediator, teacher
and liberator. Jim Rice’s essay describes various models
of church – as institution, community and herald. Do you think that certain models of church
gravitate toward different understandings of Jesus? How should the correlation between model of
church and Christological function affect what kinds of new media a church
- Historically, Christianity has understood the
Holy Spirit as the aspect of God that animates and vivifies the church. Verity A. Jones’ essay elaborates on the various ways that the
relationality of the Trinity is active in the life today’s churches. What understandings of Jesus correspond to
how Jones describes the Trinity’s role in connecting, cultivating, converting
and changing the church? Are the same
uses of social media relevant in these views of salvation and sanctification?
- Jason Byassee refuses to declare new media as either salvific or
distracting. Rather, he believes we must
ask whether or not new media furthers the mission of living out the gospel in
today’s world. Which image of Jesus best
does this? Which use of new media best
- Many of the models of salvation reflect the
cultural understanding of their time. For example, as the Greeks valued education, they discussed Jesus as
teacher; as the feudal system dominated Europe, the idea of violating God’s
honor took hold. Lerone A. Martin suggests that the
implications of new media are not that new. Is new media as salvation the model for our time? Will it change over time as well?