Huntington, Ind.—Younger evangelicals might decide the U.S. presidential election in November depending on how effectively they organize through their own new media to support state and national candidates.
So say the editors of the first comprehensive study of new evangelical media in North America. Fifty contributors, including Dr. Kevin Miller, associate professor of communication at Huntington University, examined everything from evangelical blogging and podcasting to drama, computer gaming, public relations, advertising, radio and TV broadcasting, movies, books, periodicals, theme parks, comic books, music, merchandizing and more.
Miller says in the book that American and British evangelicals sometimes use different standards to evaluate media. Americans criticize “graphic sexuality” whereas their U.K. counterparts emphasize “graphic violence.” Speaking for many younger evangelicals, Miller explains that evangelicals can “endorse cinematic depictions of violence and sex” that are “cast in the full context of their consequences.”
Miller also says that evangelicals ought to consider the value of the kind of technologically restrained living practiced by Anabaptists, including the Amish. He says that “MP3-toting evangelicals” need to figure out how to leverage “YouTube, social networking sites and the next new information technology to foster Christian community.”
The just-released book, “Understanding Evangelical Media: The Changing Face of Christian Communication” (InterVarsity, 2008, 347 pp.) is edited by Quentin J. Schultze and Robert H. Woods, Jr., professors of communication at Calvin College and Spring Arbor Universities, respectively.
“Younger evangelicals have flooded to new media, creating their own, nearly invisible social networks,” says Schultze, also the executive director of the Gainey Institute for Faith and Communication at Calvin. “Reporters are mistakenly focusing on traditional, high-profile Christian TV and radio programs, overlooking millions of younger evangelicals who are not so quickly predisposed toward particular political stands.”
Schultze adds, “These Gen-Xers, Yers, and Millennials are not interested in traditional evangelical broadcasting and are forging new media networks under the radar of news media. They’re downloading audio files of engaging sermons from distant churches, reading edgy books published by unconventional Christian authors, writing blogs that criticize as well as support existing Christian leaders, posting spiritually satirical YouTube videos, and getting together for social-oriented theological discussions over a latte or a microbrew.”
Woods says that the political vibrancy of young evangelicals reflects their social consciences and flows from young evangelicals’ belief that worship is the stage for comprehensive social action, not just for voting and party politics. “Younger evangelicals’ blogs tell the story,” he says.
The book’s editors and authors have created a Web site that is monitoring the spectrum of new and old evangelical media. The site, www.understandingevangelicalmedia.com/, is “using the only medium available for tracking new developments on the fly,” says Calvin College’s Schultze. He adds, “It’s going to be an interesting fall as younger evangelicals organize online to influence not just the November elections but the ways that future evangelicals think about what it means to be faithfully engaged in society.”
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