Texting and Christian Practice

Texting and Christian Practice

Innocent Chiluwa, Emmanuel Uba
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 7
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8239-9.ch030
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This chapter examines the practice of texting in various Christian contexts and why this practice has become so important. It shows that the adoption of mobile technology to promote and disseminate religious thoughts and practices is a form of religious shaping of technology and vice versa (Campbell, 2007). The chapter further gives a general overview of the practice of texting from different geographical contexts where Christian adherents and their leaders embrace text messaging in a wide range of religious and spiritual activities, as well as helping to create new ones. The chapter also gives an up-to-date account of current literature in religion and ICT. Lastly, it suggests further research directions on the possible social and spiritual dangers of texting to Christian living and practices.
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Texting (or text messaging) refers to the sending of a short typed message between mobile phones using the Short Message Service (SMS). The practice of texting has become trendy and overwhelmingly popular not only for personal and commercial purposes but also as an essential feature of communication involving all spheres of human life. Ever since texting began in 1992, it has almost replaced other forms of communication and this is attributable to the decrease in costs of texting as compared to the more traditional forms of communication such as letter writing and telephoning. Also, there is the increasing number of offers by mobile telecommunication companies that contribute to the attraction of using texts as the main mode of communication. More importantly, texting encourages creativity in language use and affords the user the opportunity to explore and develop imaginative ways of making computer mediated communication (CMC) work best for them. It also allows texters experiment with language in an informal and playful manner. This belief is gradually leading to the adoption of a ‘language of CMC’ or ‘language of texting’ as a genre of language and style unique to CMC (see Crystal, 2006).

According to Gordon (2006), the cell phone (or texting), is a part of our popular culture as well as a tool of the public sphere, because ‘on occasions, the ability of the individual to have access to cell phone may have a significant influence not only on personal choices and actions but also on national and international event,’ (p.45). And for individuals and institutions around the world, the constellation of mobile phones, personal computers, the internet and other computing objects have supported a complex set of religious and spiritual needs (Bell, 2006). And given the ways in which religious practices are intimately woven into the fabric of daily life in most parts of the world, it is hardly farfetched to imagine that new information and communication technologies (ICTs) might support a range of existing religious and spiritual activities, as well as helping to create new ones (p.141). Hence, text messaging and Christian practice has been a topic of interest to scholars researching into religion and technology, and interestingly, studies have shown that texting (or SMS) has been utilized for quick religious worship and for enhancing the Christian lifestyle (see Bell, 2006; Campbell, 2006; Chiluwa, 2008).

‘Christian practice’ is defined here, as the totality of religious behaviour and attitude that conform to the beliefs, doctrines or faith of Christians. This will include worship, prayers, confessions, Bible studies etc. Scholarly studies have shown that religious practitioners have embraced CMC technologies to propagate religious values and practices (Ess, Kawabata & Kurosaki, 2007). Not only is mobile telephony and the Internet a trendy platform for Christian practices, it also provides an active and trusted medium for other religions like Islam, Hinduism and Judaism to disseminate their doctrines and enforce their beliefs (Fukamizu, 2007; Campbell, 2006). In their article: ‘how the iPhone became divine...’ Campbell and Pastina (2010), show that the mobile phone culture has become indispensable to religion. The study explores the significance of labeling of the iPhone as the ‘Jesus phone’ and demonstrates how religious metaphors and myth can be appropriated into popular discourse and help shape the reception of a technology.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Mobile Phone (Or Cell Phone): A device that can make and receive telephone calls over a radio link, while moving around a wide geographical area. This is possible by connecting to a cellular network provided by a mobile phone operator, allowing access to the public telephone network (see Wikipedia , 2013 AU40: The in-text citation "Wikipedia, 2013" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. ).

Religion: A set of beliefs about the cause of nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency (or God), usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often obtaining a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs (see online Dictionary.com ).

Practice: To live according to the customs and teachings of a religion (see Merriam-Webster Online ).

Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC): Communication that takes place through the use of electronic devices, usually by individuals who are connected either online or a network connection using social software and interact with each other via separate computers.

Christian: A person who practices the Christian religion, the latter being a religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The term ‘Christian’ was first used in the Bible to refer to the disciples of Jesus Christ at Antioch in Acts 11:26.

Texting: The act of composing and sending a short electronic message (maximum of 160 words) between two or more mobile phones. A sender of a text message is referred to as a texter .

Digital Religion: The practice of religion with the application of new media technologies.

Mobile Technology: Technology used for cellular communications.

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