Mark Zuckerberg believes the covid pandemic has given a new opportunity for Facebook to expand its reach. His new plan involves incentivizing Christians — who have become accustomed to virtual services over the previous year because of lockdowns — to permanently switch their religious services to online.
The company is increasing its formal partnerships with faith groups across the country and changing the future of churchgoing as it attracts users to connect with God via Facebook, instead of going to a place of worship, according to a report by the NY Times.
For example, Facebook programers have met weekly with Hillsong Church in Atlanta to explore what the church wants if it were using Facebook instead, as well as what programs they might create for financial donations and livestreaming.
“Together, we are working on what the future of church services could be via Facebook,” said Sam Collier, the pastor of Hillsong.
Back in June, the church gave a news release revealing it was “partnering with Facebook,” and then starting streaming its services only on the social media website.
Facebook now wants to “become the virtual home of the religious community,” according to the Times, stressing that the pandemic triggered this strategy for bringing in more engaged users to the social media platform, as Christian groups have already been forced to explore new ways to operate during the lockdowns.
“The partnerships show how Big Tech and religion are combining far beyond simply moving their services to the internet. Facebook is changing the future of the religious experience itself, as it has for social and political life,” the report adds.
But not everyone believes this is a good idea — especially since Facebook has a reputation for censorship, and generally acting in an unscrupulous manner.
“Corporations are not concerned about moral codes,” says University of Edinburgh professor Sarah Ritchie. “I don’t believe we understand all the ways that this combination of Big Tech and churches will play out.”
Bob Pritchett, the founder of Faithlife Corporation, which creates electronic tools for Christian Bible study, warned about the dangers of having your community anchored “on a website that is susceptible to the whims of culture and politics.”
Author: Scott Dowdy