During the return leg of a power weekend roadtrip from DC to Massachusetts for my brother’s wedding, I caught an episode of Speaking of Faith while stuck in Connecticut traffic. Good timing because my patience, if not my faith, was being tested. The featured guest was Manuel Vásquez who discussed globalization and faith, based on his book “Globalizing the Sacred.” The associate professor of religion at the University of Florida (Gainesville) described how the Internet elevates rather than overwhelms local religious events in a way that transforms both major and minor religions.
Here are a few excerpts from the show’s transcript. Vásquez described the 1996 apparition of the Virgin Mary in Florida that inspired the book. “…the Virgin appears in a bank building in Clearwater in the middle of a strip mall, this very beautiful image…soon this event becomes an event that, although started locally, it becomes globalized. … And you have the media right away sending crews to document it…it make[s] the rounds on the Internet.
“…Pretty soon you have tourists heading to Orlando to come and see the famous apparition of the Virgin. A makeshift altar is set up there for the Virgin. And you have immigrants who are working in the nearby fields coming in to celebrate in December, thinking that this is the Virgin of Guadalupe that has appeared there because the apparition who appeared and, you know, happened in December. And so you had this polyglot group of people coming together, and for us it was a fascinating microcosm of how religion is acting today in the world. Religion is entering these very fast and very widespread means of communication….
“…At the same time, [it’s] very much localized. So the global does not erase the local, but rather it is as if the local has been taken in through global media and beamed globally in such a way that now it becomes a shared space throughout the world…this is not just a unique event…this is indicative of the reality of religion today with globalization.”
Check out the transcript or podcast if you’re looking for inspiration for your church web team. Let ’em know how your local activities can extend and transform across the globe.