Those seeking to Internet users with religious messages are using a soft-sell approach that downplays powerful religious symbols and rhetoric, reports the New York Times (Jan. 31).
As Americans increasingly surf the net for religious purposes [see the new Pew study in the Current Research section], evangelists seeking converts through this medium are realizing that overtly Christian material is likely to reach people who are already Christian. The new Internet evangelists use a minimum if any religious references and symbols and instead their sites may offer information on fitness, diet, beauty, sex or celebrities.
The sites, which often don’t have church ties and may be founded by individuals, only indirectly direct visitors to churches or study groups or provide a link for donations or offer books, writes John Leland. Even what is considered “R-rated culture” is not off limits to the new kind of Internet evangelism, with some sites discussing gangsta rap and racy films in order to get people’s attention. One example of the soft-sell approach is http://www.mops.org, which is the site for Mothers of Preschoolers.
The site offerms mothers advice and chat rooms for discussing practical matters such as money, and medical needs and also organizes more than 3,000 groups that meet in churches. The group, which has 115,000 members, provides space on its site for Christian testimonies and outreach.