This book begins with a conversion story of a non-cell phone owning, non-Facebook using religion professor judgmental of the ability of digital tools to enhance relationships. A stage IV cancer diagnosis later, in the midst of being held up by virtual communities of support, a conversion occurs: this religion professor benefits in embodied ways from virtual sources and wants to convert others to the reality that the body of Christ can and does exist virtually and makes embodied difference in the lives of those who are hurting.
The book neither uncritically embraces nor rejects the constant digital connectivity present in our lives. Rather it calls on the church to a) recognize ways in which digital social networks already enact the virtual body of Christ; b) tap into and expand how Christ is being experienced virtually; c) embrace thoughtfully the material effects of our new augmented reality, and c) influence utilization of technology that minimizes distraction and maximizes attentiveness toward God and the world God loves.
“For anyone curious about—or, for that matter, skeptical of—the potential of the Internet to shape and extend the ministry of the church, Deanna Thompson’s The Virtual Body of Christ in a Suffering World is an essential read. This wise, elegant, and, most importantly, honest book weaves together Thompson’s own experiences as someone struggling through stage IV breast cancer, lucid biblical and theological inquiry, and cutting-edge research on technology to offer readers an insightful and practical guide to the digital revolution with their eyes—and hearts—wide open. Simply put, it is a gift to the church.”
—David J. Lose, President, The Lutheran Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, PA
“In Deanna Thompson's lyrical and moving exploration of virtual connectivity, we finally move beyond apocalyptic fears of digital dystopia or eschatological hopes of techno-salvation. Instead, we get a beautiful exploration of how digital technologies enable the oldest work of the church—building the body of Christ. This book is filled with the wisdom of personal experience, theological acumen, and pastoral insight. I trust that Thompson's book will be the beginning of a much needed conversation—in seminaries, churches, and around dinner tables—about why and how we are present to each other in our digitally-mediated age.”
—Kathryn Reklis, Assistant Professor of Modern Protestant Theology, Fordham University, Bronx, NY; Principal Investigator, New Media Project Research Program at Fordham
“Nothing happens online that doesn't happen offline. Yet we are prone to moral complaint and despair—especially in religious circles—about how the digital age is changing us. In this beautiful, engaging, and original work of twenty-first-century public theology, Deanna Thompson names and explores our digital lives as new spheres that also call us more deeply into community and care and illuminate the very meaning of incarnation. This is a much-needed book for all of us on the new frontier—and for our children, whom we are following and accompanying there as much as guiding.”
—Krista Tippett, Executive Producer and Host, On Being and The Civil Conversations Project; President, Krista Tippett Public Productions
“We have authors aplenty warning us that the web is making us stupider. But Deanna Thompson shows unmistakably that there are possibilities in the digital revolution for being the church in ways that the faithful cannot ignore. She shows that the virtual body of Christ can, surprisingly, make us more incarnational. The book is a delight and a model for how theology should be done.”
—Jason Byassee, Butler Chair in Homiletics and Biblical Interpretation, Vancouver School of Theology, Vancouver, BC