How Should Religious Groups Use Social Media?

By Scott Sams & Cari Hensley, CBS 11 News

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Many religious groups are using social media to help spread their beliefs in cyberspace, but Pope Benedict XVI recently warned Catholics that a new iPhone app used for confession should not act as a substitute for a real priest. So, just how far should religious groups go with social media?

CBS 11 News spoke about the issue with two tech-savvy religious leaders from North Texas.

John Dyer is the director of web development at the Dallas Theological Seminary. He writes a blog called “Don’t Eat the Fruit” that discusses mixing religion with new forms of technology. “Every technology brings a pro and a con with it,” Dyer said. “So, there is always something good that it will give us, but there will be a tradeoff at the same time.”

Dyer continued, “Where you want to be is to be interacting with people, to be seeing what they are saying and commenting with them, and to have more of a dialogue style. And that’s a lot harder to do, because it requires someone to be online a lot.”

Zvi Drizin is the director at The Intown Chabad, but he has also been referred to as the YouTube Rabbi. “It makes myself, as a religious figure, so much more accessible to other people,” Drizin said. “Because they know, hey, if 100 people are friends in common with this person, hey, he can’t be that bad.”

But both Dyer and Drizin said that technology is only as strong as the people who run it. “Make sure there is a person behind the technology that people know,” Drizin explained. “When they become a friend of some organization, it’s not just an organization, but a person who they can turn to for their own personal needs. That is very important.”

“That’s where the younger audience is,” Dyer added. “You kind of have to go where they are. It would be a mistake not to go where they are. But I still think the primary purpose of things is to draw them in to meeting face-to-face.”

Dyer said that religious organization should hold group discussions to get feedback from their members about how social media is being used, and what the organization could do to improve in their online efforts.

Drizin noted that the key benefit to technology is the open door for everyone to enter. “You can sit today on your laptop, God knows where, and access the greatest secrets of Judaism and religion that ever existed. I think, at the end of the day, it’s all about access. Giving people access to information and education empowers people.”

More from Scott Sams

One Comment

  1. darrell says:

    i guess you can use one app to sin with then use another to be forgiven with. why not.

  2. Lou says:

    “Pope Benedict XVI recently warned Catholics that a new iPhone app used for confession should not act as a substitute for a real priest”

    LOL! As if a confession to a “real priest” is anymore relevant or meaningful than is one to an electronic device. At least the iPhone won’t molest your children.

    Isn’t it ironic that the delusional believers of a religion that historically persecuted scientists are using the inventions of said scientists to spread their delusional belief that would prevent such devices from existing?

    If you people are going to use modern electronic devices, then at least pull your heads out the dark ages when you do.

    1. shadeofafreeway says:

      Oh cool….so the whole “confessing my sins” thing becomes a computer game. Let’s see who can score the most Hail Marys and Our Fathers. (I do not want to meet the winner!)

    2. shadeofafreeway says:

      Oh – and kudos on your paradox notation. Well percieved.

  3. A says:

    Go away religion, you’re getting in the way of reality.


    The ap is a few decades late. See the confession booth in THX 1138

  5. Rick McDaniel says:

    They shouldn’t. Religion is going to become the scourge of modern man.

    It already is, in the middle east.

  6. Carol Boyd says:

    Has anyone thought about sending one’s deepest, darkest secrets into cyberspace? What goes out there can never be retrieved and who knows who could access those secrets. The real problem is not religion but the consequences of trusting technology.

  7. Rick McDaniel says:

    Religion should stay in the church. They should stop pushing their lies and falsehoods, on the public at large. organized religion is dangerous to the existence of this planet.

    Right now, the Catholic Church is teaching their followers to continue to overpopulate the planet, with children they can’t even support. It doesn’t get any stupider than that.

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