Posts tagged ·



Christianity in the online world

no comments

I was offered to give a talk last Thursday at Christian Focus, at Warwick Uni. As blogging is something I started to take more seriously over the past few months, and because it has become more important in my life, I felt that it would be a good opportunity to personally reflect on how this online-ness fitted in my life. I also thought that, as several initiatives such as try to work out ways to use the internet to evangelise, and as viral videos such as this one recently took my facebook wall by storm, it would be good to share these insights with my student friends.

I recorded the talk, most of which you can listen to here, but will outline some of the points below:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

In short, I think that being online changes our life, and in particular our Christian life, in three main ways:

1. Anonymity

The Internet brings the possibility of anonymity. This has its blessings, as it is a safe environment to go to, without the constant fear of losing face or standing: on the Internet, through anonymity, you can ask questions you wouldn’t necessarily dare to ask. Our prayer requests online can become more sincere and personal as the risk of losing face disappears, and as the need to look holy subsides.
It is also a safety net for experiments, such as, for me, this blog when I started it: I did not know where it would lead, but if I failed, I could always start something else and just forget about this blog. This is a luxury in many real-life cases.
Of course, it also is an open door for trolling and abuse, and ill-thought harsh words. And as there is no relationship involved, the receiving of the message is completely dissociated from its broadcasting.

2. Increased choice

This dissociation also happens in real life, when people choose books, or churches: choice happens in real life as well as online. But, online, the pool from which we choose is much wider. A better fit to what we resonate to, is available. The people whose blogs I chose to follow and regularly read tend to post content to which I would say “yes! that makes sense!” than those that would make me go away troubled. Maurillio Amorim recently posted about the illusion of knowing what we want and how, effectively, through giving us more choice, we are denied real influence.
I don’t only choose what I read. I also choose what I write. The capacity to edit is part of that choice.
What this means at the end of the day is that my Internet experience of Christianity is very much me-shaped. I take on what mirror images of me say and believe it to be influence, while I dismiss more easily the bits that I disagree with.

3. Constant fragmentation

This ability to switch off is present everywhere. We have browsers with many tabs (as I’m writing this, I have seven tabs open, and I got distracted by something and now have twelve) and compartmentalise the discrete bits of information into those very short-term placeholders. As such, this information is only affecting us at the surface level, for a very limited part of our identity. Moreover, online, we share information – and the exchange has a tendency to remain at the cognitive level.
Online, we get the illusion of being completely engaged, because we are reachable 24/7, and because we have access to stuff at our own convenience; and, worse, we get interrupted from real life experience by texts/emails/other online elements. That fragmentation is threatening to be pervasive into our own lives.

How have you seen your identity change when online?

Lesson from The Shawshank Redemption

1 comment

The Shawshank Redemption is one of the greatest films made.


Image: Donald Tetto, reused under CC license

What makes it special is that we’re not looking at the story of Dufresne. That story, itself, is incidental – what matters is the way the lives of those around him are affected, culminating with Red’s change of attitude towards the parole board.

Here’s what Dufresne is:

1. Relentless and determined, even when everything goes against him
2. Caring and selfless 
3. Constant – no matter what hardships come his way, he’s not getting angry or changing identities.

That’s what allows him to effect such a profound change in those he meets. And it’s those changes that are important.

The question is:

Whose life are you changing? And how?

Being a Christian – believing in Christ


What is a Christian?

When I asked this questions to a few people around me, I got a variety of answers. Non-Christians generally associated  it with “someone who goes to church”, or the escapatory “someone who self-defines as a Christian” whereas that answer never featured amongst Christians.


I expected answers from Christians to revolve around beliefs and creeds. A few did (“a christian is just somebody who believes that Jesus came, died and rose again”), but most talked about enjoying a relationship with Christ (either in such terms, or in terms of following Jesus).

This is good, as I think undue focus is put on beliefs, creeds and even doctrinal statements. Being a Christian is a matter of identity, and that identity is pervasive beyond the simple level of belief. For that reason, mission must go further than trying to convince people of the truth of our beliefs. In fact, belief is a very small part of it.

How would you answer to the question “Oh, so you’re a Christian? What does that mean?”

The issue is, there’s little teaching available on Christian identity. It is hard to explain what it means – to unpack what lies behind “being in a relationship with Christ”. Analogies with human relationships are very limited; I’d even argue that rather than trying to understand our relationship with God from our human relationships, we should try and model our human relationships on the one we share with Him.

Being a Christian, to me, means feeling and welcoming the presence of Christ in our everyday life; and letting Him inform our decisions. It means deferring to someone we know is a higher authority.
This can mean naturally turning to prayer and feeling at peace that our life is in God’s hands.
The Bible, and the creeds, whichever they are, help us know more about who God is. But our beliefs are in no way the only things defining us as Christians.


A few years back, I went through a very rough ride which left me completely shattered. So much so that I wanted to be alone. That very presence of Christ which I was feeling, I no longer welcomed. I still believed about the factual reliability of the Bible’s claims; I still believed that salvation was mine; I still believed that God could help us all. But I didn’t welcome it. I wanted some time off.
This was probably the time of my life where I felt most miserable. But I still self-defined as a Christian, just one who wanted to be left alone. I knew, in my mind, that God’s presence was within reach, but stopped feeling it.

Have you ever wanted some time off God?

Would you say that in those days I was a Christian?