14 Religion Online Social media opens doors and opportunities to engage with people who rarely, if ever, step foot in a church building” (“Using social media,” 2014, para. 13). Social media also provides an outlet for users to express their own religious feelings, which can prove to be therapeutic and faith-building. One UK-based study found that a majority of Christians surveyed (84 percent) felt that online space is a “huge mission field,” with nearly two-thirds (65 percent) using sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to intentionally share tenets of their faith (Brubaker & Haigh, 2017 Christian Vision, 2012). As social media continues to be a popular medium for self-expression and socialization, the rest of this chapter examines how several social media plat- forms are being used to develop new religious rituals and support existing ones—and provides some examples of such rituals. Religious and Secular Rituals In an approach to understand and analyze religious rituals on social media comes a delineation of what defines a ritual. In their book on the subject of secular rituals, Moore and Myerhoff (1977) defined a religious ritual as simultaneously a declaration about religion and a demonstration of its oper- ation. In their definition, rituals are a combination of examining the doctrine of the religion and demonstrations of how it should be practiced. For example, a religious ceremony within the Navajo culture—a chant on behalf of a sick or afflicted person—is performed by the family in a community set- ting, and it “reorders one’s relationship with the powers of creation” (Spick- ard, 1991, p. 198). These chants declare the Navajo religion, as they are prayers about and toward the powers of creation as well as a demonstration of how to live the religion, with associated practices and procedures involv- ing priests, songs, and herbs and body paints. Spickard (1991) also notes that religious rituals are more than the message of the prayers or the doctrine of the religion rather, these rites are defined by the experience of them, espe- cially in their community setting. However, in this light, the idea that rituals can be divorced from religion— or secular life—rests on the premise that the content that these rituals are about is less important than the community experience of joining together for a ceremony. Describing the commonalities of religious and secular ritu- als, Moore and Myerhoff (1977) found that they both share an objective to influence the world, with communicative psychological effects on living persons. In this way, ceremonies performed within a community that are designed to shape individuals can be construed as secular rituals. Not only that, but the importance of rituals can be found in their meaning as well as their role within society. As sociologist Victor Turner (1995) described them: “Rituals reveal values at their deepest level . . . men express in ritual what moves them most, and since the form of expression is conventionalized
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