Jione Havea (Ed.)
Mediating the Real – A Native Take
Jione Havea 21
Religion and Media in a Digitally Polarized Landscape
Miguel M. Algranti 45
Mediating Politics, Media and Religion – The Protestant
Mediascape in Brazil
Magali do Nascimento Cunha 57
Displaced Persons and Refugees – #JESUIScentrism and the
Fernando Martin Chinnici 75
Can’t We All Just Get Along? – The Caribbean Mediascape
Marsha Nathalee Martin 83
When Pulpit as Media Fails – The Kiribati Seascape
Tioti Timon 93
Talking Back to Hegemonic Constructed Lies
Anthony G. Reddie 105
Fourth Industrial Revolution – A Missiological Critique
Roderick R. Hewitt 125
Plasticity and Neoliberal Subjectivity – A Theological Critique
Zachary Thomas Settle 143
The Palestinians, Israel and the Bible – The Software that Fuels
Mitri Raheb 161
The Colonial Oppressiveness of a Biblical Concept – Hospitality
Miguel A. De La Torre 175
Covid-19: New normals, Old platforms
Jione Havea 193
MEDIAting Theology is one of the outcomes of the DARE (Discernment
and Radical Engagement) forum hosted by the Council for World Mission
at Mexico City (May 24–26, 2018). The contributors presented
their papers and received feedback from one another and from other
participants at the DARE forum (but not all of the papers presented at
the forum are included here). Following the DARE forum, contributors
revised their essays for the (long) processes of peer review and publication.
Two of the essays were not presented at the DARE forum
(chapters six by Tioti Timon and twelve by Jione Havea). The delay in
the publication processes allowed time for an epilogue to be added, in
response to Covid-19.
The work on this collection was facilitated by encouragements
from Collin Cowan and Sudipta Singh of the Council for World Mission.
This publication comes with gratitude to both colleagues. This
collection also benefited from, and with much appreciation for, the
helpful comments and insights of blind reviewers. The warm welcome
and critical discernments by the editor of the ContactZone book series,
Volker Küster, enabled this collection to come out on this platform. Finally,
to the contributors and to everyone who helped make this
publication possible, simply, Shukran jazilan.
Media makes religions tick. In many forms – ancient, old and recent
forms – media (as a conglomeration) is in the fibers of religions, and it
streams (stalks, hacks) in all menus of life. Media does not discriminate
between religious and non-religious bodies, sacred or secular contexts.
It crosses, negotiates and trades products, workforces, interests, societies,
corporations and empires. In other words, media mediates, a
function that itemizes (or, it is in the barcodes of) all religions; all religions
mediate between myths of origin and belonging, between bodies
of knowledge and belief, between loci of meaning and reasoning, between
grounds and spheres of existence, between states of being,
between sovereignties, between creations, between species, between
races, between narratives, and between many other things. Media does
as religions say (through many-colored theologians and interpreters)
they do: mediate.
This collection of essays comes at, and plays with, the intersection
of media and mediate (as function), with suggestions for and illustrations
of doing theology and hermeneutics in the age of media. 1 Media
– one of the arms of globalization, where it intersects with capitalism,
development, [neo]colonialism, and so forth – is a force to reckon with
in the current contexts of theology and hermeneutics. Media is not a
new phenomenon, for religions constructed and functioned as media
bodies in ancient societies. Religions continue to depend on media for
their propagandas, and media also benefits from religious projects (e.g.,
megaprofits from the publication of scriptures and religious literature).
There is codependency between religions and media; in other words,
religions and media help each other tick, even if the click between them
are not always obvious.
While most of the contributors are located in the Christian traditions (but not all would pass
as Christians of good standing), the following chapters invite conversations with theologians
and interpreters from other religions as well.
10 Jione Havea
This collection takes the intersection of media with theology (from
here forth, it includes hermeneutics) as reciprocating: media boosts theology
in its functions to inform, to connect and to educate, and theology
humbles the (globalizing) media with a reminder that, to coin a pun,
media is in mediation but not in domination. In other words, media and
theology intersect at mediating (negotiating, interceding, resisting, protesting)
rather than at rousing occupation or colonization. The topics
addressed in this collection range from social media and #tag cultures
to political movements, to the fourth industrial revolution and artificial
intelligence, to homiletics, to social resistance, to occupied lands (especially
Palestine and West Papua), to the procession of refugees and
migrants (to Latin America, and from the Caribbean to Britain), to climate
change, to Covid-19, and to the need to joder (to screw)
imperializing powers. 2
1. Flows of the book
After an opening chapter that necessitates theologies that mediate and
locates the rest of the essays in that need, the chapters are divided into
two overlapping parts: the essays in Part 1 discuss examples of the functioning
of media on a selection of land- and sea-scapes from the global
south, and Part 2 contains essays that showcase mediating theologies
by interrogating hegemonic ideologies, practices, theologies and governments.
The opening chapter by Jione Havea reflects on the links between
media and theology with a “native take” on the question of “What is
real?” In the age of media, “fake” dominates and problematizes the inquiry
for “what is true,” which intertwines with the question of the real.
Jione launches from several starting points: from “the Real” in the footsteps
of Jacques Lacan and Slavoj Žižek; from the not fully postcolonial
Pasifika where “the real” drowns in troubled waters, thanks to
nuclear testing nations and global climate injustice; from (is)lands
where “the real” has been wiped out by the “great white flood,” and the
Miguel A. De La Torre explains that joder is a Spanish verb that one would never use in polite
conversation, basically meaning “to screw with.” In De La Torre’s work, an ethics para joder
is an ethics that “screws” with the prevailing power structures. The undocumented immigrant
who stands before the vastness of domination has few ethical alternatives. When the undocumented
start to joder, they play the trickster role, literally creating instability, upsetting the
prevailing social order designed to protect the power and privilege of the gracious hosts providing
hospitality. To joder refuses to play by the rules established by those who provide a space
for orderly dissent, pacifying the need to vent so that the power relationships within the existing
social structures are not challenged and changed.
land and its resources have been stolen with the sanctions of the “doctrine
of occupation”; from West Papua (still under occupation by
Indonesia) where “the real” is ignored by international neighbors; and
from the desktops of children and young people who obviously know
more about the media world than older theologians. From these starting
points, what’s real? How has media hidden and/or exposed the intersections
of these real points?
Several “homing devises” (ideas that home) emerge: For the sake
of critical theory, “the organic real” is obligating. For Pasifika, the cry
for climate justice includes condemning nations that deposited 24,000
years half-life nuclear waste into the ocean that links all lands in the
world. For postcolonial (is)lands, the settler ideologies and theologies
that still govern them require decolonization. And for West Papua,
simply, Merdeka – real, thorough, freedom. These homing devises are,
easily, real in ideological and symbolic ways. To move them into materiality
(which requires compensation) and justice (which requires
negotiation) is a task for mediating theologies. Finding resemblances
between media and nativehood (to coin a term), as in the features of
liquidity and fluidity, Jione imagines that mediating theologies would
devise as well as offer provisions for the organic real, including subjects
who live under occupation and minded by carers who see them as empty
and worthless (e.g., children and young people).
The essays in the first part of the book discuss the presence and functions
of media in religions (Algranti), in public places (Cunha,
Chinnici), and in local communities and churches (Martin, Timon). The
experiences and voices shared in these essays rise from the global south,
where the tolls of the globalizing media are disturbing and unavoidable.
Media is like a wave that one has to surf, drink and/or dunk, and hopefully
Miguel M. Algranti (chapter 2) interrogates a dominant narrative
about social modernization which credits media technologies with an
important role in the historical disappearance of religion from public
life, and its late repositioning inside the private fences of middle-class
domestic life. For some, this is a tale about moral crisis that comes with
the lack of structures of religious authority. For others, it is a heroic
story about the empowerment of social groups to challenge the repressive
apparatuses of religious bodies (especially churches) and
oppressive regimes. However, in the current fall of secularizing prophecies,
it is hard to ignore the deep engagement of religious
12 Jione Havea
communities, movements, institutions and cultural forms in the horizons
of modern communication technologies, and their associated
systems of signification and power. This new landscape transforms traditional
definitions of religion and sacred spaces into digital, and online
borderlands where interactions arise between the online and offline
worlds, between the digital and the embodied.
Borderlands are not just at the walls and fences that divide nations,
or only manifested in the teachings and doctrines that separate religions
and denominations; media has brought the borderlands onto the screens
in kitchens, living rooms, bathrooms and bedrooms. Media has made
religions tick in private spaces, with opportunities to spread their missionary
positions far and wide.
Magali do Nascimento Cunha (chapter 3) reflects on the emergence
of progressive Protestant political activism in Brazil, beyond partisans
and electoral campaigns, expressed in digital media. The object of the
study is to identify these activists, the theology that nurtures them and
how their action takes place particularly on Facebook and Twitter.
Previous studies by Cunha and by religious scientists provide the
theoretical basis for understanding the context of the political participation
of Brazilian Protestant in the present time. These approaches
present Protestants in Brazil as “Evangelicals” – a term used in the missionary
era to create a strong identification of the new faith brought to
the country with the Evangelhos (“Gospels” in the Portuguese language).
In this sense, “Evangelicals” are those who preach the Gospel
and are faithful to it. Nowadays “Evangelicals” is used in Brazil to represent
Christians who are non-Catholic and non-Orthodox;
Evangelicals in Brazil are known as “Protestants” in other contexts.
Cunha presents approaches that relate communication and politics
with an understanding of the senses of activism and digital activism.
Evangelical/Protestant activists base their political involvement in theologies
born in Latin America such as Liberation Theology and Integral
Mission Theology that strongly relate faith and life, faith and political
Based on a mapping of Protestant activists in two social media, Facebook
and Twitter, Cunha focuses on twenty-two Protestant
influencers who dedicate themselves to political activism, and profiles
their action and demonstrate the contents that they accentuate in their
posts in social media. Social media is an intense space of action for this
group, but it is invisible in the mainstream media which delineates the
character of counter-hegemony to its action. This case offers a subsidy
to the reflection on how alternative media can be seen as a means to
oppose the hegemonic occupation of the public space by the logic of
the empire. The activism of Protestant individuals and groups represents
a sign of resistance to this logic and an effort to open grounds that
contribute to redefine the predominantly Protestant conservative ideology
Fernando Martin Chinnici (chapter 4) analyses the impact caused
by current immigration movements in Argentina, historically known for
its complex identity matrix, configured over the last centuries by receiving
massive amounts of immigrants. Chinnici’s study deals with the
social processes involved in the design of state policies and strategies
for reception and integration of displaced persons and refugees.
When we speak about humanitarian crises such as the situation of
large groups of people seeking asylum after a war or another extreme
situation – beyond focusing our attention on the impact that these movements
produce on the recipient countries – we should also analyze the
causes and origins that led to their dispersion. In the world of
#JESUIS(x), not all causes have the same symbolic weight. The massive
expressions of support for victims of violent, critical or
catastrophic events, become visible or invisible through small “viral”
phrases in the field of social networks. Whatsoever at first impression
can be considered as a simple manifestation of solidarity, or as a personal
stance against the impact produced, in some cases it turns into
#JESUIScentrism indicators; giving clear evidence of the profound differences,
explaining the “explosions” of #JESUIS posts, and the cases
where these have not been identified. It is virtually impossible to address
these issues without regard to “religion” and “the religious,” as
decisive factors for classification and reification of facts and social
Marsha Nathalee Martin (chapter 5) brings attention to the ongoing
colonial legacy of the Caribbean. As ancient as smoke, verbal communication
(human sounds) and drum signals through to organized moguls
aimed at sharing information, and to modern and emerging web-based
communications and platforms – the existence, discovery and occupation
of the Caribbean isles depended on media to frame, package and
share the story of how they came and continue to be. The reliance and
dependence on media to educate, often dictating the ideals, and to preserve
the cultural norms, lend itself to expressly embracing media as a
developer, shaper, transformer and communicator of the ideologies of
the isles. With such a major role, media becomes an opportunity to dismantle
perceptions that ideologies from one place or another is more
suited for this or that locale.
14 Jione Havea
Media also turns the lights and waves on itself bringing exposure
to whom or what the players and powers are. The occupation of the
Caribbean, generally, and Jamaica in particular, possesses ideology that
is either affirmed or suppressed. In that context, Martin presents a case
for whether ideology and media can exist harmoniously; where users
and consumers are not left in terror and fear that they will awaken and
discover next to them, an invasion of or by foreign ideals.
Martin touches on several matters of concern in the Caribbean context:
whether media (as a source of information) and ideology (which
islanders share through their stories) are or should be separate; the suitability
of an ideology for a context, and the place of the media
(celebrated among the most important achievements of globalization)
in making that decision; whose stories, values and attitudes matter in a
context, and the place of media as the determiner and regulator of those
in the isles; what other entities outside of modern media could participate
in the dissemination of ideologies (stories), as a sign that the
islands are mature, learned and confident that another way is possible;
how faith systems shape island ideologies, so the twain (ideology and
theology) could meet without the fragmentations in the “right” or
“wrong” theologies or the “rightness” or “wrongness” of ideologies;
and for what good might come from the three – media, ideology and
theology – intersecting. At the current time, media makes the Caribbean
tick (by shaping and controlling ideologies). The driving question then
is this: Could theology get along with media in shaping Caribbean ideologies?
Tioti Timon (chapter 6) shares Martin’s concern, from a different
context, on the other side of the world – from the islands of Kiribati,
where the definition and reaches of media has widened. Words go out
through innumerable channels to a greedy and unsuspecting public. The
spoken word has immense importance, and one place where this applies
is the church. The pastor’s weekly sermon is a powerful media that does
not only inform the people of what is happening but also shape the mentality
of the people on what to think and do. In Kiribati, almost all of
the citizens are Christians and words from the pulpit carry a powerful
message. While media has a responsibility to report accurately, what
happens if the messages communicated by preachers are confused,
twisted, or even simplified, so that they are not consistent with the biblically
inspired messages of the church? What happens when the pulpit
broadcasts fake news?
On these questions, Timon looks to church administrations and theological
colleges. In Kiribati, the bug or virus stops there. It is not
enough to be inspired by biblical teachings and church traditions (qua
sources of ideologies); it is necessary to also pay attention and be inspired
by what happens around the island, especially the doom that
climate change promises and media disseminates. In other words, it is
not helpful to look upward and heavenward but not take notice of what
happen downward and seaward.
This cluster of essays calls attention to media waves of different
contexts, and invites theologians and interpreters to surf, drink and/or
While the essays in this second part also stomp on the grounds of the
media, they take a turn to the mediating function of theologies. This
turn includes calling out racism (Reddie), development (Hewitt), capitalism
(Settle), occupation (Raheb) and oppressive biblical theologies
(De La Torre). While the call for mediating theologies expects patience
to negotiate and to relate, there is room in this function to also joder
(screw) with the system.
Anthony G. Reddie (chapter 7) reflects on the ways in which Blackness
as a construct has been demonized and Black people of African
descent have been subjected to forms of objectification and non-being.
Reddie explores the framing optics of media, occupation and ideology
in the construction of Blackness. This framing optics help us to explore
the various forms of religio-political negation of Blackness, which have
their roots in the imposition of empire and colonialism that has sought
to “fix” Black people as the aberrant other.
Reddie outlines the continued role that Black religion has played as
a means of both critiquing the spurious axiomatic normativity of Whiteness
alongside the rehabilitation of Blackness and its concomitant
subjective liberation of Black selfhood. The essay explores how the fixity
of Blackness has shifted and mutated from the “Dark Continent” of
Africa to the cosmopolitan and cross-cultural realities of Diasporan experience.
Blackness across the globe has become a transnational reality
that poses hermeneutical challenges around our perceptions of sameness
Reddie, a well-known Black liberation theologian, critiques the
means by which imperial, mission Christianity colluded with White
western forms of hegemonic, ideological control in order to promote a
racially demarcated hierarchy that has positioned Black people as “less
than” in the world order. He outlines the ways in which aspects of Black
religion continue to operate as a form of anti-hegemonic resistance
16 Jione Havea
against continued neo-liberal colonized Whiteness. Particular emphasis
is placed on Black liberation theology as the most radical manifestation
of Black religion across the African diaspora.
Also from African and Caribbean heritage, Roderick Hewitt (chapter
8) explores the effects that the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4 th IR)
of cyber-physical systems that is impacting industry and business may
have on the human identity and relationship. Hewitt postulates an intersectional
and missiological reflection that incorporates the broad
themes of media, ideology and communication:
• Media: How will the fast changes in communication technology unleashed
by advances in the 4 th IR affect human relationship and trust
of each other?
• Ideology: Who sets the agenda of the ideology for the 4 th IR and what
are its key objectives? To what extent does it take into account the
diverse and complex nature of human identity and relationships that
are formed by different cultures?
• Communication: With artificial intelligence (AI) being able to provide
human-like interactions and decision making, do augmented
humans equipped with AI constitute the next phase of being human?
What are the implications of AI for human identity and relationship
The 4 th IR is part of, and co-progenitor to, the media age. In that context,
our challenge is not just how do we as humans relate in a world that is
run by technologies and machineries but how (echoing the questions by
Martin and Timon) to shape theological minds and pastoring souls for
the media age.
Zachary Thomas Settle (chapter 9) brings attention to the economic
and capitalist sides of the media age. Drawing on Karl Marx’s detailed
account of the nature of capitalism and Michel Foucault’s sketch of
subjectivation, Settle sketches the nature of neoliberal subjectivity (that
is, the normative vision for human being under the guise of neoliberal
capitalism – the normative form of subjectivity that capitalism seeks to
foster for its own maintenance).
Marx spends a great deal of time in the first volume of Capital explaining
the ways that society is structured around capitalism’s drive
for labor. Settle draws on Marx’s analysis to demonstrate the plasticity
of time, space, and relationality by demonstrating capitalism’s manipulation
of each of those categories for the sake of extending and
accumulating surplus labor. Capitalism, functioning as a disciplinary
structure, also has profound influence over the formation of subjects.
Mediating the Real –
A Native Take
Media is a mass. I use “media” in this essay to refer to a massive conglomeration
of technologies (tools, skills, knowledges) that are
susceptible to being (or may have already been) conscripted into the
service of empire, as Joerg Rieger defines it: media, like empire, are
“conglomerates of power that are aimed at controlling all aspects of our
lives, from macropolitics to our innermost desires.” 1
Appealing to a biblical imagery, media is one of the modern answers
to Qoheleth’s ancient question, “Who knows the interpretation of
a matter?” (Eccl 8:1): media knows and disseminates interpretations
(read: technologies). Media also constructs alternative interpretations,
as well as alternative texts. Media operates as if it knows everything
from the top of the sky to the bottom(s) of the sea, and all the way to
the floor of the underworld, and to the edge of the deep. It can see and
map every corner, and it manoeuvres as if it is capable of revealing what
Jesus wanted to conceal in the domains of humans (Gospel of Thomas,
Saying 3): 2
If those who lead you say to you: “Look, the kingdom is in the sky!”
then the birds of the sky will precede you.
If they say to you: “It is in the sea”
then the fishes will precede you.
Rather, the kingdom is inside of you
and outside of you.
When you come to know yourselves, then you will be known
Joerg Rieger, Christ & Empire: From Paul to Postcolonial Times, Minneapolis, MN 2007,
See full translation in Stephen J. Patterson, James M. Robinson and Hans-Gebhard Bethge,
The Fifth Gospel: The Gospel of Thomas Comes of Age, Harrisburg, PA 1998, 7–32.
22 Jione Havea
and you will realize that you are the children of the living Father [and Mother].
But if you do not come to know yourselves, then you exist in poverty
and you are poverty.
In a way, media operates as if it is “the All” who is “over all” (Gospel
of Thomas, Saying 77):
I am the light that is over all. I am the All.
The All came forth out of me. And to me the All has come.
Split a piece of wood – I am there.
Lift the stone, and you will find me there.
In the modern world, media is omnipresent and omniscient. It is present.
It sees. It knows. It codes. It devises. It maps. It constructs. It has power
to define what are real. Yes, knowledge is power, and Michel Foucault
was correct 3 way before PlayStation gamed the concept. Knowledge
constructs. Knowledge discovers. Knowledge decides. Knowledge disciplines.
And nowadays, knowledge is at the mercies of the media – a
point that will hopefully turn Foucault and company in their graves.
Media is so massive that it reaches into all pockets of life. Media is
everywhere – for instance, in the following chapters: media is in the
forming and in the unravelling of religions (Miguel M. Algranti, chapter
2) and governments (Magali do Nascimento Cunha, chapter 3), in
public places and the waves of refugees and migrants (Fernando Martin
Chinnici, chapter 4), in the sharing and distorting of news and information
(Marsha Nathalee Martin, chapter 5), in the gatherings of
worshipping communities (Tioti Timon, chapter 6), in the technologies
of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Roderick R. Hewitt, chapter 8), in
the tentacles of capitalism (Zachary Thomas Settle, chapter 9), and in
the truths about and the lies of empires (Anthony G. Reddie, chapter 7;
Mitri Raheb, chapter 10; Miguel A. De La Torre, chapter 11). Because
media is “the All” of the modern time, i call on behalf of the contributors
to this book for mediation of our praxis and ways of thinking, of
our missional leanings and theological duties. In this chapter, i bring “a
native take” to this call for mediation and in the process locate the views
presented in the following chapters.
1. The real
In the public domain, there is a popular assumption that something true
must be real. But in recent information media events, it seems to make
no difference if something was true or not and much less whether it was
Cf. Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge: And the Discourse on Language, New
York 1972 and Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison, New York 1977.
Mediating the Real – A Native Take 23
real or not. Many nontruths (lies, fakes) are real and they get disseminated
(tweeted) as if they are truths; on the other hand, many truths are
clearly unreal. Needless to say, many real claims (e.g., ideologies and
theologies) are not physical and visible to the eyes. 4 There are more to
“the real” than what the eyes see, and this assertion invites disassociating
“the real” from the tests of truth and materiality (or reality).
I here shift to one of the significant turning points in Western psychoanalysis
and philosophy: “the Real” in the works of Jacques Lacan
(who was under the influence of Sigmund Freud) which, to appropriate
one of Jesus’s insights cited above, may be conceived as “the All that
is behind and beyond all.” Lacan distinguishes three registers (compare
to Freud’s stages of development): 5 the Imaginary order refers to who
or what one imagines others/things to be or mean; the Symbolic order
refers to how others/things are embodied and mediated through speech
(langue in comparison to langage, logics and structures); and the Real
order refers to whatever is behind but also beyond both the appearance
(Imaginary order) and the naming (Symbolic order) of someone or
something. For instance,
• Imaginary order: whatever
signifies for someone, by
association with and differentiation from objects that are not-
(the ability to differentiate is associated with the contrast
between presence and absence in the Freudian “mirror stage”
Many well-constructed doctrines and theologies make no difference in the lives of normal
peoples; those doctrines and theologies are not edible and thus make a difference to the poor
For a helpful synthesis of Lacan’s psychoanalysis see Adrian Johnston, Jacques Lacan, in:
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Fall 2018 Edition, Edward N. Zalta (ed.) (https://
24 Jione Havea
• Symbolic order: the terms and names that the
brings into speech e.g., fish, ika, poisson, etc. (in other words,
what an imagery brings into the realm of language);
• Real order: whatever comes through (from behind, below and beyond
the Imagery and Symbolic orders) at the intersecting of
-and-fish (e.g., lunch, longing, anticipation, satisfaction,
disgust; water, swim, drown, gag, etc.).
The Real in the Lacanian sense is not about being present or absent,
being there or not-there (conditions of reality), so it is not always obvious
or possible, but about the affect sparked by the Imagery and
Symbolic orders. Another way to conceive the Real is to locate it in the
realm of the sublime:
While eluding precise definition, the sublime can be described as a complex
feeling of intense satisfaction, uplift, or elevation, felt before an object or event
that is considered to be awe-inspiring. Although the sublime is sometimes
characterized as a complex combination of satisfying and discomforting elements,
it is on the whole a positive and pleasant experience: perceivers
typically desire the experience to continue. Related concepts are elevation,
wonder, reverence, awe, and admiration – perhaps one could think of the sublime
as a kind of “aesthetic” awe. An example of the feeling of the sublime
would be the exaltation or excitement felt before a vast or powerful object, a
natural wonder like the Grand Canyon, or a work of architecture such as the
Great Pyramid of Giza. Contemporary psychologists have sometimes studied
the sublime under another name, “awe.” (1) 6
In the shadows of the sublime, the Real is about affect – feeling and
sensation; similarly, the permutation of the Real-sublime-awe-affect is
at the bullseye of modern communication media – sensationalism.
I come as a native from outside of the Western world to the intersection
of the Real and the sublime, and my awes and sensations are not
always uplifting (in the jouissance ways of more comfortable people).
Robert R. Clewis, Editor’s Introduction, in: The Sublime Reader, Robert R. Clewis (ed.), London
Mediating the Real – A Native Take 25
For instance, my awe with the Grand Canyon is with the power of water
to dig into mountains and valleys – a power that we see in the rising
sea-level on the shores of Pasifika (for Pacific, Oceania) islands; and
my awe with the Great Pyramid relates to the workforce required to
erect it, through a practice that continued into the transatlantic slave
trades, the end of which in the 1800s coincided with the beginning of
the abduction of blackbirds from the waters of Pasifika. Yes, i 7 am at
awe and uplifted but, as a native, onto the paths of activism and in the
direction of mediation.
2. Going native
I have quietly affirmed my nativehood as an empowering identity (or
“brand”) and tried to pull it free from under the romanticizing sketches
(by some anthropologists) and demonizing gazes (by some missionaries)
of non-native politics and scholarship. I have attempted this by,
first, identifying myself as a native (from Tonga) in all of my academic
publications and, second, by foregrounding aspects of Pasifika native
(especially oral) cultures that shape my thinking about the subjects of
I use the native brand proudly, for two main reasons. First, in order
to contest the assumption that natives are naïve (suckers), foolish (rash)
or barbaric (savages). Natives have technologies and civilizations (see
also, essay by Miguel A. De La Torre), for we too can think and construct,
remember as well as teach. A personal anecdote makes this
point: during a conference in Parramatta (NSW, Australia) a few years
back, a white man inquired as to what i was doing there. I responded
that i was part of the organizing team. He pushed me further, so i told
him that i was a lecturer at that college where the conference was held.
To which he replied, “I didn’t know that Tongans can teach.” Serious
or not, he was voicing a common assumption – that Tongans (read: natives)
are not enlightened, and so we cannot teach. My return to him
was sharp: “I teach white people as well” (see also, essay by Anthony
G. Reddie). My response was not in order to stir up racial or color tension,
but to expose the default assumption of many white people that
native people are backward and unintelligent. We may look different,
smell unusual and act aggressively, but we are also people with
I use the lowercase with the first person when i am the subject, in the same way that i use the
lowercase with “we,” “you,” “she,” “he,” “it,” “they” and “other.” There is no justification for
privileging (by capitalizing) the first person individual (a leaning of English grammar) who is in
relation to other subjects.
26 Jione Havea
intelligence and civilizations – this position was recently highlighted in
the 2008 movie Black Panther, directed by Ryan Kyle Coogler, an
American. So my affirmation of the native brand is in order to be a thorn
on the side of white supremacy.
Teaching is something that traditional academics and White societies
value. What is more significant (and signifying) in native societies
is the gift of memory and remembering. This is powerfully portrayed in
the Mexican based animation, Coco (Disney 2017). It tells the story of
young Miguel finding his great-great-grandfather Héctor in the world
of the dead, discovering that Héctor wrote the songs that made Miguel’s
hero (Ernesto de la Cruz) popular, exposing that de la Cruz poisoned
Héctor (preventing him from returning to his family), and returning to
the world of the living to assure that Héctor will not be forgotten. There
are more to this captivating story, but memory and remembering are
foregrounded in this revealing movie; memory and remembering are
also the winds on the sails of native oral cultures. Put another way – our
emphasis is not so much about teaching as it is about working so that
the wronged are remembered.
Second, i affirm nativehood because it helps me see the maneuverings
of media. In the networking of globalization (market, politics),
media “holds” the world in a state of liquidity, with fluid walls. Time
and space feel synthetic, and distance seems immaterial if not irrelevant,
for the happenings in one city are instantly projected live in
another city on the other side of the world. Liquidity and fluidity are
capital and technological advancements in media’s globalized world;
similarly, liquidity and fluidity are the textures of the webs and flows
of the world of natives. Our physical world in Pasifika is a liquid world,
and our ways and practices manifest our fluid cultures.
An example of fluidity in native thinking is how we in Pasifika understand
stories, legends and songlines as myths of belonging rather
than as myths of origin as European anthropologists and historians assume
when they interview in our waters. This is my way of saying that
i do not take (the truths about) origins as the primary interest of natives.
I am not interested in origins nor in truths but in “points of entry” (starting
points) and in “homing devises” (ideas and plans that make one
belong and feel at home).
Every person, no matter the task, works from multiple points of entry
and need homing devises. One does not enter from only one point;
one does not have only one myth of belonging. Even when one thinks
she or he is reentering an old point of entry, in a liquid world that point
has shifted since the last time. There is no rigidity, no fixity. One enters,
Mediating the Real – A Native Take 27
lands and homes at a point that is always shifting. Fluid. Flux. And
multiplying. Such is the way things (net)work in the native Pasifika
world, and similarly in mediascapes. On this occasion, i affirm my native-hood
because it enables me to “awe” at media.
In light of the foregoing reflection, it is not enough to name and
reach the Real order or to be moved by the sublime; it is necessary also
to be at home, and to enable others to feel that they belong and are at
home where they are. This is a critical concern for natives in diaspora
(to a foreign land or internally, as with West Papuans and Palestinians),
whose struggle is with naming where “home” is, and for islanders who
are expecting to become climate refugees, whose struggle is with what
will “home” mean when their home(is)land is no more (so Seforosa
In the following subsections, i offer a native take on “entry points”
and “homing devises.” I am forced by the conditions of writing to procced
in a linear manner, from point to point, but the points made in the
following subsections would flow into each other in the world of orality.
To facilitate the flow of orality, Table 1 presents the titles for the
following subsections, with an invitation to read them as currents that
flow into each other.
Merdeka or bust
Negotiate and bust
Children and young people
One of the oral practices shared by Pasifika natives is talanoa, which
refers to three oralizing events – story, telling (storying), and conversation
(story-weaving). In this native frame, each of the currents in Table
1 is a talanoa – a story, a storying, and a story-weaving. Taking the
term talanoa as an example of Lacan’s Symbolic order, to move into,
with and beyond talanoa is a native example of the Real order.
I muse in the following subsections on several starting points for envisioning,
and nativizing, the Real. I expect that the imagery of the Real
changes depending on one’s point of entry and, like Maui the shape
shifting demigod in Disney’s Moana / Vaiana, the Real would also
change its shape and its character in the currents of talanoa. In talanoa,
the same character of the Real may serve opposing functions, like the
28 Jione Havea
fire throwing Te Kā who was also the goddess Te Fiti in Moana /
(1) Many reals
The Real is more than one. Lacan and Žižek 8 offer opportunities for
envisioning the Real materially, rhetorically, politically, and ideologically.
I take Lacan and Žižek as my entry point here, and in the currents
of talanoa add native twists to the Real:
• The material (physical) Real has to do with economics as well. Madonna’s
“Material girl” (note the lines “the boy with the cold hard
cash is always Mr. Right” and “only boys who save their pennies
make my rainy day”) is an example of the economic side of the Real,
and this invites closer attention to pillars of society and faith. In the
case of Abram, for example, critical attention to his wealth in the
Genesis narrative is warranted. Abram was a “material man” in Genesis,
with wealth and slaves (see Gen 12:5).
• The rhetorical Real has to do with acts of scripturalization: 9 what
and whose stories get told, and which ones get scripturalized? 10
Which of the scripturalized are noticed and privileged, and which
are ignored and set aside? As expected, some details of the rhetorical
Real do not receive appropriate attention, e.g., “There were Canaanites
in the land” (Gen 12:6) when Abram arrived is part of biblical
memory that many readers do not notice. Abram was both a material
man as well as an occupier of another people’s land. In this regard,
the fact that something has been scripturalized does not mean that it
will be recognized and taken seriously.
• The political Real is about power and control. And power has to do
with economy, color, race, rights and privileges: e.g., the removal of
rights from Ishmael has a lot to do with the political Real (in the
interests of Isaac) and with rhetorically disempowering the Egyptian
slave woman who was his mother (see Gen 16).
Slavoj Žižek expanded Lacan’s theories into three modalities of the Real – imaginary Real,
symbolic Real, real Real. (Cf. Slavoj Žižek, Interrogating the Real, Rex Butler and Scott Stephens
(eds), London 2006 and The Žižek Reader, Elizabeth Wright and Edmond Wright (eds),
Cf. Vincent L. Wimbush (ed.), Scripturalizing the Human: The Written as the Political, New
Talanoa sits on this side of the Real, and so does US President Trump’s fake news – both are
mythologizing attempts, but for different purposes.
Religion and Media
in a Digitally Polarized Landscape
Miguel M. Algranti
This essay analyzes the linkage between religion and digital media 1 in
a social context where occupation, 2 gender inequality, 3 exploitation,
displacement, xenophobia, racism and religious bigotry 4 are the order
of the day. 5 Religion, as both a concept and lived experience, is recreating
itself 6 in both digital and non-digital spheres of existence through
the use of hashtags and search queries, and congregations gather together
not in person but rather online, around the world, and numbering
in the millions. 7 The study of the reach and limitations of the medium
itself opens up new ways and challenges in which religious identities
Cf. Heidi Campbell, Digital Religion: Understanding Religious Practice in New Media
Worlds, New York 2013; Clifford G. Christians, Religious Perspectives on Communication
Technology, in: Journal of Religion and Media 1, 2002, 37–47; Daniel Stout and Judith Buddenbaum
(eds), Religion and Mass Media: Audiences and Adaptations, Thousand Oaks, CA
1996; Jeremy Stolow, Religion and/as Media, in: Theory, Culture, and Society 22, 2005; Stout
and Buddenbaum, Genealogy of an Emerging Field, 5–12.
Cf. Jeremy Stolow, Nation of Torah: Proselytism and the Politics of Historiography in a
Religious Movement, unpublished PhD, Toronto 2000.
Cf. Wendy Wall, The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Publication in the English Renaissance,
Ithaca, NY 1993.
Cf. Bruce Lincoln, Holy Terrors: Thinking about Religion after September 11, Chicago, IL
Cf. John B. Thompson, The Media and Modernity: A Social Theory of the Media, Cambridge
Cf. Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, in: Illuminations,
Hannah Arendt (ed.), New York 1968.
Cf. José Casanova, Globalizing Catholicism and the Return to a ‘Universal’ Church, in: Transnational
Religion and Fading States, Susanne Rudolph and James Piscatori (eds), Boulder, CO
1997, 121–143; Kenneth M. Wolfe, The Churches and the British Broadcasting Corporation:
The Politics of Broadcast Religion, London 1984.
46 Miguel M. Algranti
can be both deconstructed and expanded upon to include communities,
displaced practices and processes of cultural adaptations that are often
Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given;
and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth
to have (Luke 8:18).
It’s been canon for the sociology of religion, since the work of Emile
Durkheim (1858–1917), that religion, as a social phenomenon, relies
on the ontological duality between the sacred and the profane. These
two categories are considered to be so radically opposed that any possibility
of a middle ground is heresy itself. One could argue that this
pair of opposing classes are the basic unit for religious discourse and
the substance from which religious symbolic networks are made. 8
Moreover, according to Paul Ricoeur, myths are the specific form in
which religious symbols acknowledge this duality through narration
and dramatic structure. 9 The eternal struggle between good and evil offers
a narrative contour to religious symbols where the distinction
between the sacred and the profane need to be continuously reenacted
in rituals. Similarly, it’s been canon for information theory and digital
communications since the works of John Tukey (1915–2000) that a bit
or “binary digit” is the basic unit of information. One bit is typically
defined as the uncertainty of a binary random variable that is 0 or 1, or
the information that is gained when the value of such a variable becomes
known. It’s between 0 and 1 that every piece of code finds
correspondence between these values and the physical states of the underlying
storage or device. In many ways, salvation and digital
information use the same form of a binary unit to link the spiritual with
As Jeremy Stolow foresees, in today’s world of digital media, it is
essential to remember that religion always involves techniques and
technologies that we consider as “media” just as, by the same token,
every medium necessarily participates in the realm of the transcendent,
if nothing, by its failure to be fully subject to the instrumental intentions
of its users. It is also worth noting, in at least one etymological account,
that both the words “religion” and “communication” refer to the work
Cf. Alexander R. Galloway and Eugene Thacker, The exploit: A theory of networks, Minneapolis,
Cf. Paul Ricoeur, The Symbolism of Evil, Boston 1967.
Religion and Media 47
of binding together, and it is in this sense, that religion in many ways
informs and hold the imaginary and figural archive for all techniques
and technologies that render the world available to human will. 10
Whether as the transmission of a numinous essence to a community of
believers, the personal experience of the divine, or the exchange between
heavenly powers and earthly practitioners, “religion” can only be
manifested through some process of mediation. Through history, in
countless forms, communication with and about “the sacred” has always
been enacted through written text, 11 ritual gestures, images and
icons, architecture, music, incense, unique garments, saintly relics and
other objects of worship, markings upon flesh, wagging tongues and
other body parts. 12
This interdependence is simultaneously complemented and challenged
by a dominant narrative about social modernization which
credits modern media – starting with the printing press 13 – with a critical
role in the world-historical dis-embedding of religion from public
life, and its late relocation inside the walls of the interior, invisible universe
of the individual believers. Some consider this as a tale about the
loss of meaning and moral crisis that comes with the dematerialization
of palpable structures of religious authorities. Others think it is a heroic
story about the empowerment of social groups to challenge the repressive
apparatuses of church and state. In both cases, the metanarrative is
structured around the assumption that the mere expansion of modern
communication technologies is somehow commensurate with a dissolution
of religious authority and fragmentation of its markers of
affiliation and identity.
However, even the most prosaic description of what is going on in
the world today is likely to provoke some doubts about the myth of
modern media as agents of secularization. We cannot help but notice
the deep entrenchment of religious communities, movements, institutions
and cultural forms in the horizons of modern communication
technologies and their resultant systems of signification and power. In
Cf. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, New York 1964.
Cf. id.Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man, Toronto
1962; Eric McLuhan and Frank Zingrone (eds), McLuhan: Escritos Esenciales, Barcelona
Cf. Sarah Coakley (ed.), Religion and the Body, Cambridge 1997; Bryan S. Turner, The Body
and Society: Explorations in Social Theory, London and Thousand Oaks, CA 1996; Michel de
Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, Berkeley, CA 1984.
Cf. David Tracy, Writing, in: Critical Terms for Religious Studies, Mark C. Taylor (ed.),
Chicago, IL 1998, 383–394.
48 Miguel M. Algranti
the context of our contemporary geography of digital information
flows, virtual reality, panoptical visualization, concentrated media
ownership and fragmented audiences, it seems no longer possible to
contain religion within the confines of “traditional” social logic of institutional
loyalty, the performative demands of face-to-face
interaction, the controlled circulation of sacred texts, or the localized
boundaries of “ritual time.”
2. The Lamp under the Bushel
There is an absurd paradox that sits at the center of our modern world.
While technological progress has produced the infrastructure for a free
international communications network, people are more disconnected
than ever. Occupation, gender inequality, exploitation, displacement,
xenophobia, racism, and religious bigotry are at the order of the day.
The futuristic utopia that digital media was predicted to bring for humanity
has been, instead, replaced by radical political segregation based
on information technologies. The current state of extreme political polarization
is a secondary consequence of these technological transformations
that we don’t fully understand. The real power of digital
media is not what it allows us to see but what it can strategically hide
from our sight. Understanding the form and dynamic of this digital polarization
pushes our chances forward for constructing a critical
approach to the subject.
The possibilities are endless; on the internet you can find an audience
because you can segregate across the world. Little niche audiences
of every country can come together and support an enterprise. As we
share content online, there is some form of evolution within the circulation
of user-generated information: we can make a picture of a cat
with a catchy phrase like “he got tuna,” but as the picture spreads people
can tweak the image or the phrase until the best iteration get shared and
spread across the internet. The same process happens with religious,
theological, political or ideological arguments, different versions of the
same case can and will pop out. Debates on the internet are a pantomime;
14 people are not debating at all. Communities create what they
think their opponent’s argument is, then agents within that community
can tweak that argument to evolve it until it becomes a version of itself
that triggers an emotional response that compels the user to share it with
everyone else. “Look at what the other side thinks, see how awful it is.”
Content in the digital networks keep evolving ideas until they get
Cf. Michael Warner, Publics and Counterpublics, in: Public Culture 14, 2002, 49–90.
Religion and Media 49
terrible – those are the ones that get shared and shared. Like in evolution,
we are changing arguments to make the worst of themselves and
then share it. This dynamic is leading polarization across the world.
Moreover, the internet is organized by algorithms that are designed to
distribute the most engaging content, the one that compels an emotional
reaction and gets us liking or sharing and promoting those even further.
This dynamic is where fake news comes from, instead of bringing people
together fake news tear the social fabric apart. The World Wide
Web let us form social groups and evolve our prejudice further and further.
While the rise of digital communications blurs the lines between
the transmitter and receptor, our ideas and debates had been radicalized
and polarized to the point of no return. 15
Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) put each of us at
the center of an extensive web of connections and make the consequence
of our moral decisions much more immediately manifest.
Instead of hearing about one alarming thing a day, we hear about 500
disturbing things. We are obliged to engage with the dark side of modern
society by clicks and emojis while in the comfort of our private
walls. Humanity is seriously networked together more than we ever
have been, and the subject choices are amplified and distributed not
only far faster than ever but with far more impact.
A few years ago, the interplay between social media and militarist
politics was relatively anomalous, mainly located in the Internet’s margins,
infrequently covered in the media, and poorly understood. Over
these years, the militarization of social media and other digital communication
tools grew on a massive scale, commensurate with the global
spread of social networking and mobile technologies. From the utopian
horizon of a connected world, where information flows freely, a new
level of social engineering has emerged. These past few years have been
a testament to the hijacking of democracies (Cambridge Analytica) and
the interplay between military occupation and digital media as in Israel.
A new type of occupation is taking place in the virtual space of our
sensibilities, the occupation of subjectivity.
In today’s technological landscape, scholars of religion have been
emphasizing the modalities in which religious, faith-based congregants
and laypeople can engage with one another. This process allows for the
deconstruction of lived religion in the twenty-first century as well as
resignifies its importance in everyday life in a way which emphasizes
Cf. Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel (eds), Iconoclash: Beyond the Image Wars in Science,
Religion, and Art, Cambridge 2002.
50 Miguel M. Algranti
that religion no longer needs to be strictly experienced in pews and
houses of worship, but on digital platforms without geographical
boundaries. There is a positive academic approach to digital media that
empowers people to take part in the world around them, to exist in both
community and cross-cultural identities not based on geographical location.
For example, regardless of one’s religious affiliation,
individuals can reach out, and both connect with or debate between
members of different faiths and communities. Facebook and other digital
platforms opened the doors to how individuals connect with not
only their religious communities but also the leaders of other movements
they might have never known about. Digital platforms like
Twitter are said to break down both socioeconomic barriers that prevent
interreligious dialogue from occurring in person by encouraging or allowing
for religious dialogue, critique, and sharing to be not only
experienced by the individuals but also shared with their digital community.
Twitter is an interdisciplinary space that is not just restricted to
one mode of thought but various modes through the growing interconnections
that individual and organizational users can experience to gain
better access to further their spiritual or religious lives.
What is sacred or religious has been changing fast. Studying the
reach and possibilities of the medium where it is manifested opens an
opportunity for new ways of understanding what type of discourse and
practices are sacred in this time and era.
3. The Sacred and the Digital
On the internet, as a medium, the sacred is lived and experienced
through online rituals and constant circulation of “religious” content.
Deconstructed, tweaked and reconstructed through different flows of
information, what is sacred emerges from digital interactions under new
forms. From our analysis, we perceive that faith practiced in digital environments
points to a change in the way believers experience and
express what they think is sacred. Change that occurs through new temporalities,
new spaces, new materialities, new discursivities, and new
rituals. Religion as we traditionally know it is transforming, and the
“new religion,” which is uncovered, can help us to characterize digital
mediatization (its ways of being, thinking, act, etc., in the digital age).
On the one hand, temporarily, the traditional times and periods of
the liturgical life of the Church change actively on the internet. Now, a
religious ritual can be celebrated at any time of the day, regardless of
the timetables and the location of other members of the community. The
Religion and Media 51
system is responsible for mediating this interaction. The logic of absolute
speed is now replacing the slow and vague processes of spiritual
asceticism (the “centuries of the centuries,” “until death do them part”).
We thus move to live faith in the expectation of omnitemporality and
immediacy (everything must be available now, already).
On the other hand, there is a spatial deviation of the religious experience:
the believers can assist a celebration held on the other side of
the world, led by someone who decides when to start, with a click on a
digital play button. Thus, a new form of presence is established: a
“telepresence,” made possible by the production of a co-presence embodied
in the representations of the sacred available in the online
system and the interactions with other users. But the essence of this new
form of presence is non-presence, the “anti-presence”: it is not necessary
for the faithful to be physically there, together with the other users,
to be there, along with them digitally. 16 In this way, a logic of spatial
condensation has been established.
In addition, the digital faith brings with it a totally own materiality:
numerical, of digits that can be altered, switched off, recombined according
to the will of the system and/or of the user, albeit with remnants
of a pre-mediatic religiosity (such as the use of “candles,” for example).
Thus, new layers of mediators between the faithful and God, now
techno-communicators, are growing. But all that can go unnoticed by
the users to reinforce the transparency of the technique: the sense of the
sacred constructed by the system promotes (or reinforces) the belief that
the users are in front of (and only in front of) God, without threatening
against all the protocols and logic of the communication technique. Instead
of a logic of substitution, faith is presented with a logic of
complexity. The Internet does not substitute the material supports of
traditional faith practices, but it generates new modes of perception, expression,
practice, experience and faith. 17
Discursively, the users build a sacred sense in the online systems
through fluid and hypertext narratives marked by a constant transformation.
This process opens religious imaginaries and symbolic
universes to innumerable interpretations, to an endless hermeneutic
dance of reading, tweaking, and producing new meanings. Thus, a theopolitical
dimension of online religious experience is manifested: in it,
the common believer also has the “power” to name and narrate the
Cf. Lev Manovich, The Language of New Media, London 2000.
Cf. Colleen McDannell, Material Christianity: Religion and Popular Culture in America,
New Haven, CT 1995.
52 Miguel M. Algranti
divine. In addition, the relationships and bonds created by the discourse
in that environment are also fragmentary, since the faithful selects and
chooses their discursive alterity (earthly or divine). The deviation, in
short, is in the direction of a logic of access in which belonging-participating
is not structured by geographical location, but by a fluid
ambiance. And they are communities established communicationally:
without digital interaction, the links are undone.
Ritually, sacred acts and practices of faith developed by the faithful
through actions and operations of meaning construction in interaction
with the system now occur in digital media. This manifest itself not only
as a liturgy assisted by the media, but also a liturgy centered, lived and
practiced by the media, in which they also offer models for gestures,
space or the liturgical imaginary. Online rituals, therefore, are marked
by a logic of selection, in which the faithful are invited to co-construct
their religious experience from a sacred pre-molded, pre-configured by
the system; and, on the other hand, by a database logic in which the
sacred is symbolically transformed into a collection of data and contents
that can be searched and found by the system in an instant, with the
click of buttons. Thus, an algorithmic religiosity is explicit, in which
the faithful make the system do what is already programmed from a
sequence of liturgical gestures followed by the faithful and performed
by the system.
In this context, the devotees are not only co-constructors of their
faith but also perform a creative work on their own religion as a whole,
stressing the “ecclesial interface.” This makes possible the perception
of the imbalance between how the religious macro-system is thought in
terms of the Church and how it is understood and practiced by the faithful.
In this sense, the “interface” of the religious macro-system is
energized by these users. The turbulence, instability, and deviation
caused by the faithful connected in online spaces also encourage and
instigate the evolution of discourse and religious structures – in this
case, in relation to the reality of the religious pluralism of the macrosocial
system. Therefore, the apparent religious homogeneity of Church
authorities (marked by creeds, laws, precise liturgical practices) is resignified
in these much more plural, fragmented and porous
The networks establish a new form of communication, activating a
“secular discourse advertising device” on the religious. “Thanks to the
‘collective intelligence’ provided by the network, a simple lover [profane/laic]
can mobilize knowledge identical to those of the [religious]
specialist.” It manifests in those cases the “reconstruction of the
Religion and Media 53
religious” by the common Internet user that acts on the knowledge and
develops original practices, social inventions from the reconnections.
The activities of the common user “do not depend on the construction
of a work or an institution, but on a choice.” He is guided by curiosity,
by emotion, by passion, by adherence to practices often shared with
This is in addition to the “transformations of modern society – pluralism
of world conceptions, privatization and subjectification of the
religious phenomenon – [which] force everyone to be ‘heretics’, that is,
to make a ‘free choice’ (in Greek: hairesis) between the religions and
the existing world conceptions in a given society.” That is what Berger
calls “heretical imperative.” 18 If, in pre-modernity, heresy was a possibility,
in contemporary society it becomes a necessity since it is
necessary to choose and decide in front of multiple possibilities (not
only religious in general, but also “Spiritual”) in which definitions and
filiations are no longer given a priori. “In pre-modern situations, there
is a world of religious certainty, occasionally broken by heretical detours,
on the contrary, the modern situation is a world of religious
uncertainty, occasionally avoided by more or less precarious constructions
of religious affirmation.” 19 Therefore, marginal, “heresy”
becomes universal and general.
This process becomes more complex on the Internet when we see,
through reconnections in connected devices, not only a religious experience
but also a religiosity in experimentation. A religiosity marked by
little institutional and doctrinal fidelity, by the fluidity of the symbols
in religious transit and by the subjectification of beliefs: from the traditional
heresy, we turn to the e-rejía, that is, “digital bricolages of the
faith” in which “the individual produces, autonomously, the device of
meaning that allows him to orient his life and respond to the ultimate
questions of his existence” establishing “a link between his personal
believing solution and a believing tradition instituted to which he reports
freely.” 20 In this way, the faithful cuts out the symbolic universes
– the ones of their group and the others, all equally virtual and multiplies
the collages, the taste of an idiosyncratic creativity, radically
individual, even if it is articulated in tribes of free choice.
Peter L. Berger, Heretical Imperative: Contemporary Possibilities of Religious Affirmation,
New York 1980, 28.
Daniele Hervieu-Léger, O peregrino e o convertido: A religião em movimento, Petrópolis
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