Friday, October 14, 2011

Communion and Community Online?

"At the heart of any consideration of religious ritual practice online is the extent to which a ritual in its online manifestation has undergone an alteration from the corresponding ritual carried out in its traditional context"(Scheifinger, pg 1) This excerpt was taken from the case study, performed by Heinz Scheifinger, seeking to specifically study the the online ritual of Puja, a hindu religious ritual, and it's validity among traditionally performed rituals. His findings yielded that while the online ritual is highly scrutinized, it should be respected more as an actual, efficient religious ritual. His main reason being that ritual at hand is primarily performed in the heart and in the mind. So, the medium that the ritual is performed through should not matter. I agree with this belief, however my question of the online ritual pertains to that of limitations. While you are still able to perform the individual act of the ritual within your soul, what should be said of the rituals that take place between you and other fellow believers? Does performing social aspects of religious rituals limit what can be experienced with each other?

Considering my focus is on the Christian religion, I wanted to view a online ritual that takes place in the Christian practice. I researched popular online rituals, one being the taking of communion. Communion is a ritual performed by Christians that reenacts the Last Supper that Jesus spent with his disciples before He was put to death. It involves drinking of wine, or grape juice, and the eating of unleavened bread is to represent Jesus Christ's blood and body that was sacrificed for man's sins. It serves as remembrance of His sacrifice, and a cleansing act of the soul. Along with this ritual is the reading of scripture and taking the juice and the bread at the same time as everyone else in the congregation. Taking it with others represents the unity of the body of Christian believers. So, how is this performed online? is a popular website for attending an online Christian church. However, there is no video involved. All one has to do to attend the service is click certain links and read the hymns of worship and the sermon that is posted on the website. Then, I found myself on a website that directed me through the steps of taking communion. Not only does this assume that I am drinking the right juice and eating the right bread, but because it is so easy to scroll through the directions, there is a possibility that one would not even read what each act is supposed to represent. However, when you are in an actual service, the preacher walks you through the steps by reading the scripture aloud and announcing the time to take of the juice and bread. While it is not completely necessary to take communion with a group to remember Christ's death, it takes away the one aspect of doing it with the congregation at the same time. Also, having someone physically lead you through it ensures the validity and correctness of the ritual. EholyCom.Com is very casual and although it supposed to be a "step by step" process, it is very easy to just scroll through the entire service. 

I believe, like Scheifinger, that there can still be a spiritual interaction that can take place within one's mind during an online ritual, however when it comes to the social aspect of religious rituals and affirming the correctness of the ritual being performed, online rituals are limited. 

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