Rachel Held Evans
I've been reading this week about the Graham family's sale of The Washington Post to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for a generous $250 million. Good luck on that.
Heretofore, The Post had seemed to be one of the few independent survivors in a declining field dominated by chains that own and operate dozens of flailing newspapers rather than just one or two flailing newspapers.
Conventional, and most likely accurate, wisdom holds that the newspaper industry's clueless approach to the Internet has been and remains the principal reason for its decline.
The Post was in financial decline, too, but had been propped up for several years by income from its Kaplan University subsidiary --- now flailing itself.
A couple of weeks ago, I linked via Facebook to Rachel Held Evans' post to the CNN Belief blog entitled "Why millenials are leaving the church." So did everyone else --- at least everyone else interested in the perceived flight of younger people from the church --- mainline, conservative, evangelical, fundamentalist, orthodox, non-orthodox and progressive alike. It's known as "going viral."
And then everyone wrote blog posts commenting on Rachel's post --- some approvingly, some not. Progressives felt the church was not progressive enough; conservatives, that it was not conservative enough. There were all sorts of proposals from all sorts of perspectives for redeeming the old lady and drawing more youngsters (if you're 40 or younger, you're a youngster) to her.
What was lacking was much discussion of what to do about the Internet --- that great destroyer not only of newspapers, but also of churches.
Many churches --- and some newspapers --- have gotten better at using the Internet and its related social media as marketing tools.
But the central difficulty for both, which has not been addressed, is the issue of authority. Newspapers traditionally have expected to be read widely, respected and believed. The penalty for failing to attend to published reports was the hell of being uninformed. Churches have expected to be attended widely, respected and obeyed. Hell fire was the penalty for transgressors in this instance.
But the Internet is anti-authoritarian by nature --- go online in search of answers (nearly everyone does or will) and you discover dozens of competing "truths" and/or conflicting reports. Because of its interactive nature, truth-seekers form themselves into online communities and talk about stuff --- the ultimate threat to authority.
It's easy to not subscribe to or purchase copies of newspapers. Stop going to church? No problem. Stay away from the Internet? Impossible. And neither the print media nor the churches have a clue about what to do about that.