RE: Why Churches Should Drop Their Online Services
I had quite a few things I wanted to write about in this newsletter - but then the New York Times posted an op-ed piece on online churches. Written by Anglican Priest Tish Harrison Warren, I had no choice but to formulate some kind of response. And respond I certainly did - you can watch my full 30 minutes on the topic here - but I wanted to highlight just a few points in this newsletter.
Ms. Warren's article is an important one, because it highlights the prevailing sentiment of confusion of those outside the walls of true, online ministry. Her main arching argument is that online church makes embodiment elective and that we are naturally craving embodiment as human beings; this natural craving is what keeps people coming to church... for the touch, the smells, and the sounds.
The distinct error is in Ms. Warren's assumption that God is only capable of working in the precise, unnuanced experience she has had in the church. The truth of the online church is that those in the communities being forged are experiencing embodied community. Our digital bodies are sharing in time together over Discord voice and video feeds. We share food together. We spend time together. We laugh and we cry together. It may feel elective to Warren's experience, but this is, in fact, the first opportunity for many to experience what traditional Christians have had the luxury to experience.
The second key error is in Ms. Warren's bizarre assertion that physical embodiment is what's keeping people coming to church. Uh, they aren't. The church is declining. Nones and dones exist. And they aren't pining for the traditional church potlucks and passing of the peace. Just because it's what made a traditional Christian come to church doesn't make it the de facto way to enter a community. This article is problematic in ways I can't adequately weigh in on when it comes to ableism - but I can weigh in on the reality of what God is doing in online communities. Don't drop your online church.