June 22: ‘Public Theology or Private Bewitchment’ Summer Institute of Languages colloquium

The UND Summer Institute of Languages colloquia series continues with”Public Theology or Private Bewitchment? East African Christian Diaspora Views on the Opportunities and Dangers of Social Media” by Grant Miller and Reuben Lang at 8 p.m. June 22 in Room 3, Gamble Hall.

Introduction

Grant Miller and Reuben Lang at (2016) in Working Paper of the ASM First Fruits Press: Asbury Theological Seminary

In the popular song and video “Facebook,” Rose Huhando, Tanzania’s most famous Christian revival singer, warns of the potential dangers of social media as a threat to Christian faith and community. The video comically and tragically depicts pastors and lay Christians alike distracted by phone and computers as they reject and ignore spouses, friends, and loved ones who desperately vie for their attention. For the past eighty years the East African Revival has promoted and nurtured Christian community and accountability in Tanzania. Now, many Tanzanian Christians see social media as a tool with the potential to destroy families and communities. In this song, Muhando (2014) laments the overuse of Facebook, Twitters and Whatsapp Messenger as she repeatedly sings the question, “Hwi nani allyewaloga?” (Who bewitched you?”) The answer is emphatic and clear. “Ni utandawazi” (It was globalization) . Muhando’s warning illustrates how many Christians in Tanzania and through East Africa emphasize that faith must be lived out in community in ways that simultaneously critique and shape public life.

In this age of intensified globalization, increasing numbers of Tanzanians and Kenyans are also using the internet and social media to explore and seek academic and professional opportunities outside of East Africa, often in the United States. Many join transnational, diaspora communities that use social media as a lifeline to stay connected with family and friends scattered across the globe. For those living transnational lives, social media provides a borderless and virtually instant mode of communication. While Christians from East Africa are well aware of the potential dangers of the misuse of social media, many in diaspora contexts have a more positive view of social media as they appreciate its power to help them maintain a sense of belonging in transnational communities scattered across continents. Social media is also a powerful tool that allows Kenyans and Tanzanians to share their faith in ways that engage with and critique public life both at home and in diaspora.