In my case study on user-generated religion, I am looking at the ways in which Christianity is spreading through the use of Twitter, via religious leaders and their tweets. What started off as a broad topic has now been narrowed as I have chosen to look more specifically at Christian authors on Twitter and how their Twitter followers are responding to their daily religious tweets.
This past week, I chose to look at three different authors—Gary Chapman, John Piper and Kay Arthur. Each of these authors are unique in that Chapman gears his writings toward couples and Christian marriage counseling, Piper is an evangelical theologian who writes about a variety of Christian topics from how to pursue God to how to love your enemies, and Arthur is a female Bible study leader who aims her books toward the Christian walk of a woman.
Beginning with Chapman, I looked at a week’s worth of tweets and found the following:
1) “A sincere apology and genuine forgiveness work together to obtain the best outcome to a broken relationship.” 43 re-tweets; 26 favorites
2) “You can't change the past and you can't predict the future, so you might as well do all you can with the present.” 75 re-tweets; 22 favorites
3) “What you and I are afraid of can easily become our idol—it controls us. Unconditional love gives us the confidence to break free.” 41 re-tweets; 18 favorites
Next, I looked at Piper and a week’s worth of his tweets:
1) “’I die every day!’ -- Paul. (1 Corinthians 15:31)” 191 re-tweets; 110 favorites
2) "’He will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body.’ Phil. 3:21. Bear your body for now. It will be glorious.” 180 re-tweets; 112 favorites
3) “Is It Sinful to Date a Non-Christian? — Today's
67 re-tweets; 113 favorites
And finally, here are a few of Arthur’s tweets from this past week:
1) “Stop and pray for those in your family who are lost.” 47 re-tweets; 17 favorites
2) “Pray for your pastor that he would continue to grow in the character qualities of a man of God http://fb.me/3k9YxJt0Q” 47 re-tweets; 13 favorites
3) “Father, as I face a new week, order my steps. Keep me sensitive to your Holy Spirit’s leading and give me the courage to walk in your way. Amen” 40 re-tweets; 28 favorites
What I find interesting is that of each of these author’s tweets, they all seem to have at least 40 re-tweets on several of their posts. Why is this? I hope to uncover this phenomenon throughout further research. However, what I have gathered now is that Twitter is an interesting form of communication in that it allows people to post thoughts, leaving those thoughts to be passed on once again (and maybe multiple times) to other people in the world (Twitter followers of followers). These impactful tweets that the religious leaders are posting are being transmitted to more people than what their “follower list” says. It is different than Facebook in that with Facebook, someone posts a status and that status is merely “liked” by one click (it is not passed on to other Facebook friends of friends). Does this make sense? Twitter is like the classic game of “telephone” whereas Facebook is just a phone call.
Through my research this week, I was able to draw on what the public finds most interesting based on the highest re-tweets of my chosen Christian authors. Twitter followers seemed to have liked the encouraging tweets the most—tweets that focused on the self and how to become a better person to the world (in a Christ-like way). All of their posts were backed up with Biblical truth and some were even Bible verses themselves. Most of their tweets even had extended links that had more information and support of the tweet itself (for instance, Gary Chapman tended to post his 140-characters and then provide a link for more information on what he meant). Overall, I have only begun an exciting and hopeful process of discovering how Christianity is spreading through the tweets and re-tweets of Christian authors. Just based off of these three authors, I have seen how receptive the Twitter-world is to the feeding of Christian ideas and messages. I can only remain ecstatic to see what more is to unfold through my continued research.
Side note: BOTH Gary Chapman AND John Piper have Twitter pages for Brazilians as well (translated in Portuguese)!
Christianity via Twitter is not only reaching people in the US, but other countries as well!