So I’ve fleshed out a little what I mean by Internet “Protestantism” and include Internet “Catholicism” because what I’m about to write applies to both. It’s still a working hypothesis and developing work so it’s in the early stages. It would be interesting to see what studies on social networks that use the Internet look like and how they directly and indirectly impact social relationships, faith relationships, faith development, etc.
Internet “Protestantism”/”Catholicism” is not a theology though it affects the expression of theology. What I mean is, that Internet “Protestantism”/”Catholicism” focuses on the methods and medium of how the theology and spirituality are spread, discussed, and disseminated. In this case, it involves the “protest” of online posters to past means/methods of media. The main medium is the Internet/web though they may use other media to share, express, etc. their faith. The “protest” may come as a result of rebellion, rejection, abandonment, lack of knowledge about previous media, definitive generational aspect (Millennials are more likely to use the Internet exclusively for information and social aspects), and/or other reasons. It may not be a true “protest” but a change in relationship to the developing media and technology. People today are more likely to use the Internet for fun, communication, entertainment, work, etc. than when it was first used by the public. I don’t think this is necessarily a new wave of theological development though it is a new “wave”/aspect of social interaction. Also, Internet “Protestantism”/”Catholicism” use the Internet exclusively or nearly exclusively to share, express, question, etc. their particular faith. Many people may confine their more troublesome aspects of their faith life to the Internet where they believe anonymity and virtual environments will protect them from scorn and protect their Christian reputation.
There are three areas/divisions: the good, the bad, and the ugly. (Yes, it’s the title of a movie but it works well here.)
The good: main purpose is to share and help others by providing useful information, support, and resources. There is a balance between Internet life and real life (an essential element in these divisions). People in this group use the Internet as a tool but know that it has limitations in regards to actual relationships and the accuracy of information.
The bad: main purpose is to keep control/a tight leash on a select group of people (“believers”) or looks to a select group or individual’s posts/blogs/sites for all their spiritual, emotional, faith needs. They spend inordinate amounts of time on the Internet or may balance unevenly towards too much time focused on one thing. Or they may spend a balanced amount of time but focuses on one specific group or individual to the exclusion of all others. Looks at the Internet as the ultimate weapon rather than a tool. Refuses to see limitations or applies limitations only others especially those that don’t agree with them. May post offensive, false, or misleading information, especially of other faiths and use that false, offensive, misleading information as a measuring stick of acceptability (if you agree with A, you’re okay but if you disagree you an apostate and damned to hell).
The ugly: main purpose is to attack, demean, degrade, libel anyone who does not agree with them. Very isolationist. Refuses to read or accept any opinions/fact except his/her/the group’s own. Has strict rules that must be adhered to. Requires readers/members not to read outside their own beliefs. Demonstrates no love of others. Hatred is a required element. Spends time destroying others through words or video. Deliberately refuses to discuss any point. Believes their theology is the “only correct” theology possible and everyone else is a mission field or an apostate. Targets specific groups. Uses fear and lies to accomplish this. (Jack Chick is an example of this especially in regards to Catholics.) Time is spent in attacking or coming up with attacks on others and considers those who don’t do the same as uncommitted, lacking in faith. Has a narrow definition of those who are “truly Christian” which includes only their specific theology and other tagged on beliefs. Will not discuss or dialogue and if they do, steps around the questions, deliberately does not answer or provides half an answer with no evidence or support, resorts to name calling and attacks if the person they are “dialoguing” with doesn’t automatically agree with their opinion, can’t stand to be shown they are in error. Adheres to double standard in behavior. Possible mind control and spiritual abuse.
These are beginning, working classifications. They are far from perfect but they give an overview of possible traits and behaviors of those in “Internet Protestantism/Catholicism.” I’ll be continuing to work on this subject as I come across information, ideas pertaining to the topic.