The digital church: urban Malaysian Christian experiences in cyberspace

2017-02-15T05:01:42Z (GMT) by Tan, Meng Yoe
Many facets of social life are now intrinsically linked to the Internet through increasing dependence of user-centric platforms like blogs, social-networking websites, online forums, and open source websites. The Malaysian Church is not exempt from having to negotiate with an increasingly tech-savvy and networked community of believers among its own. Based primarily on Internet ethnography and interviews with lay Christian bloggers and church pastors, this thesis looks at how the Internet is a component of “everyday religion” in the lives of Malaysian Christians at individual, institutional, and national levels. It examines the ways in which online Christian expressions are increasingly integrated into the everyday religious routines of Christians for the development of their personal identities. This thesis also shows how the spiritual authority of church pastors can be both challenged and reinforced through creative uses of online tools. Also discussed are some of the creative ways in which Christians utilize the Internet to engage with national socio-political issues within the context of restrictive and controlled mainstream media. This thesis essentially re-looks critically at the online/offline relationship, and argues that the binary of a blogger seen as being exclusively either “online” or “offline” is problematic. Instead, I suggest that both realms are lived and experienced simultaneously. Additionally, I also show that while the Internet may be “free”, the users of the Internet are not necessarily so. While the Internet has certainly provided Malaysian Christians with new tools to experience their faith in new ways, several aspects of “old” offline socio-cultural habits persist online.