I propose to analyze Christian Memes, a Facebook page dedicated to “providing Christians and non-Christians alike with memes that contain no crude humor and are centered around learning and living by the words found in the Bible,” (https://www.facebook.com/MemesForJesus/info). According to the site’s information page, Michael Schaffer of Macon Georgia started the site in 2012. His goal is to provide an alternative to the “profanity and vulgarity” that is rampant on other meme sites and the internet at large. While the site does allow others to submit memes to the Facebook page, Schaffer says he reserves the right to refuse any posts that use foul language, rude comments, and/or arguing, as well as the right to revoke user’s posting privileges. In addition to the Facebook page, Christian Memes has content sites under the name “Memes for Jesus” on Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.
During this case study, I propose to focus on the way Christian users combine pop culture images and references with religious ones. Analyzing what cultural artifacts Christians choose to relay some insight – humorous or otherwise – about themselves and their faith gives researchers insight into how they make sense of religion in their contemporary lives. While this may have taken place in the past in various forms, internet memes are uniquely situated to create and recreate religious meaning and knowledge through what Jenkins (2006) calls participatory culture.
I will collect all of the memes posted between September 9-16 on the Christian Memes Facebook page as well as the posted comments. The actual memes can be downloaded directly from the Facebook page. The comments will be collected by copying and pasting them into a word document. I will then create a word document with both the meme and the comments for analysis. During the data collection phase, I will act as a participant observer on the Christian Memes Facebook page by visiting the site daily and asking questions about certain memes if I need clarification of the meaning or context. After the collection phase, I will analyze the sample for cultural and religious meanings, if and how the sample represents a form of participatory culture, how the memes fit into or differ from Shifman’s (2011) humor categories, how the memes may have conflicting or alternative messages or readings, and the memes’ communication effectiveness.
A few examples of memes from this site are listed below: