The future of religion in America
|Topics:||🤳 Social Media, Church, 🗽 American Culture, 🌎 Globalization|
We cannot talk about the future of religion in America or any other part of the world for that matter, without looking into the issue of globalization. Globalization basically refers to the creation of a common global culture from by creating significant commonalities between the various existing cultures. This is facilitated by the fact that it is now possible to share I information with people with most of the modern world nearly instantaneously thanks to advancement in technology. Globalization works by taking the local orientation of a given people and stretching it across the world. This is also the case with the globalization of religion; it is not confined to one part of the world or to a particular structure. Instead, it is spreading all over the world and reaching audiences of different walks of life, transcending culture, time and place (Pew, 2006). With globalization has come the fear of decline of religion due to the secularization of the society with there being likelihood that the secularized influence will overwhelm religion (Berger, 2012). While it is partly true that secularization could result in the marginalization and possible elimination of local religious groups, it should also be noted that religion has its fair share of endurance and power that might just be the reason why religion is not about to decline, even with the global secularization. While organized religion is on the decline with fewer Americans subscribing to it now, a large percentage of the population still has spiritual and belief interests and value spirituality (Berger, 2012).
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The role of media in religion is the most influential as far as the future of religion in America is concerned. Media is one of the most powerful communication tools and with globalization and advancement in technology, it has only gotten better. Media plays a significant role in the socialization of its consumers through the information and various forms of entertainment that it provides. As such, media has the power to shape opinions and exert influence on such matters as politics. Media has also been observed to have a huge influence on the social construction of religious reality on its consumers. While most people tend to view media and religion as opposite forces, the reality is that the two are actually interrelated and to some extent interdependent as well. Religion has, since time immemorial, used mass media to great extents. One illustration of this is the 1450 printing press invention by Johannes Gutenberg that made possible mass printing and distribution of the Holy Bible not only in Europe but also in other parts of the world as well. The Bible remains the most published and bestselling book of all times, with a constant demand for nearly six centuries now; no other book has hit such records. This goes to show just how much religion depends on print media. Over the years and with the emergence of different religious groups, the demand for print media has only risen as there is an increased use of printed literature in the form of hymnbooks, pamphlets and other forms of religious literature through which religious teachings and principles are enforced. This is further supported by the fact that the levels of literacy have increased considerably over time and as such, the availability and use of print media is somewhat an assurance of the continued existence of religion, even in the years to come.
With the evolution of media has come the evolution of religious use of media as well. The most important form of media evolution has been the emergence of broadcast media and religion has made full use of it. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir broadcast; now called Music and the Spoken Word, which aired first in 1929, is still being produced for radio and television weekly to date. Television and radio popularized religion and preachers with the likes of Norman Vincent Peale, Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart and Billy Graham among others being some of the earliest religious speakers to hit the airwaves. They also brought into being the concept of “televangelization” which has contributed significantly to the growth and spread of religion (Chaves, 2012). More recently, we have the likes of Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer who have used television and radio to spread the gospel. At the present, there are very many radio and television channels that air religious content.
Recorded media is another of the various forms of media that have promoted the existence and growth of religion. Religious music, videos, films and other forms of recorded media play a significant role in the impartation of religious values. Music is timeless, and its rhythm and sound makes it easier to appeal to larger populations as compared to other forms of media such as print. As pertains to social media, the presence of religion is not as great as is the case with other forms of media. However, this is gradually changing as key religious figures and institutions have social media accounts on which they post religious messages. Also important is digital media (Chaves, 2012). The internet has made it very easy to access religious information. It is now possible to even stream religious content from any part of the world and therefore religion is now spreading to areas that may have otherwise been difficult to reach due to various barriers.
The role of media in the future of religion closely relates to the concept of mega churches. A Mega church refers to a group of large protestant congregations sharing distinct characteristics such as well defined organizational structure, many outreaches and social ministries, an active congregational community, powerful senior minister and more than 2000 people attending weekly worship. Examples of renowned mega churches include Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church of Houston and Randy Frazee’s Oak Hills Church of San Antonio. More mega churches are emerging every day and it is expected that this trend will continue to grow. It is worth noting that these mega churches use media intensively to attract believers and spread the gospel. They use modern music, elaborate web pages, social media platforms, broadcast media as well as other forms of media and communication channels to reach out to believers from different parts of the world (Chaves, 2012). Given that media is playing a significant role in ensuring that religion continues to exist, mega churches and other religious institutions that use media to reach out to people will continue to be successful in their quest hence the continued existence of religion.
It is beyond any reasonable doubt that the future of religion greatly relies on media influence. Media is here to stay and it gets better with the constant technological advancements. It is also a very powerful tool that if properly used, will ensure the continued existence of religion.
- Mark Chaves (2012). American Religion: Contemporary Trends. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
- Pew Research Center (December 4, 2006). Religion in a Globalizing World. Transcript. Web. Retrieved on January 18, 2018.
- Peter Berger (July 2012). Further Thoughts on Religion and Modernity. Society; Volume 49 Issue 9.