The Virtual Body of Christ in a Suffering World

By Deanna A. Thompson Published
Paperback image ISBN: 9781501815188 $21.99 Buy
eBook image ISBN: 9781501815195 $21.99 Buy
Focuses on the current digital revolution and its potential for helping us better care for one another in the worst times of our lives.We live in a wired world where 24/7 digital connectivity is increasingly the norm. Christian megachurch communities often embrace this reality wholeheartedly while more traditional churches often seem hesitant and overwhelmed by the need for an interactive website, a Facebook page and a twitter feed. This book accepts digital connectivity as our reality, but presents a vision of how faith communities can utilize technology to better be the body of Christ to those who are hurting while also helping followers of Christ think critically about the limits of our digital attachments.    

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

About the Author

Deanna A. Thompson

Dr. Deanna A. Thompson is professor of Religion at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota. She teaches classes in African American Studies, Women's Studies, and Social Justice. During her almost twenty years at Hamline, in addition to being awarded Faculty of the year by faculty and students, she has also received awards for her advising. She is a respected scholar in the study of Martin Luther and feminist theology. Thompson is also an active member of the American Academy of Religion, where she served for eight years on the Board of Directors, six years as Director of the Upper Midwest Region, and six years as co-chair of the Martin Luther and Global Lutheran Traditions Program Unit.