As religion and internet become more closely related, the answer to the question of who has religious authority grows to be more complex. If someone has a religious blog with a lot of followers, are they considered to have authority in that specific religion? The blogger could have no formal education in religion, no seminary degree, and yet because of their catchy style of writing and interesting religious thoughts, do they become a leader in their religion?
To gain more knowledge on this rising new question in our religious environment, I decided to examine a Christian author, Donald Miller, and his success in the online and offline world.
Donald Miller is a New York Time's best seller author and public speaker. He focuses on Christian spirituality as an "explanation for beauty, meaning, and the human struggle. (Miller, Donald (2003). Blue Like Jazz.) Many Christian readers would consider him an authority in their spiritual walk simply because of his popularity and wisdom he offers in an offline context. However, his popularity did not originate offline. Miller, at a young age, began building his spiritual credibility as the editor of an online Christian magazine called roadsearching.com. Because of his success online, he was then able to publish well-known, award winning books. I think this is a clear example of how while it is common for religious authority to be established offline before online popularity, one can still launch themselves as a religious authority starting online. Miller also has a successful blog and on the top of blog Donald writes: "Before it becomes a book, it all gets tested here. Forgive the rough patches. Here is the writing process." (http://donmilleris.com/) This is an interesting view on the process of building credibility to become a relgious authority. Miller has taken the online world to strengthen his offline authority.
Donald Miller is just one example of how online religious interaction can be considered a legitimate process to build religious authority. Yes, I believe that offline authority is still a primary space to build credibility, however as our world interacts with the internet more and more, the opportunity to become an online religious authority increases.