Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Memes and Prosumption: Christian Memes

All memes from the Christian Meme Facebook page posted between August 30, 2013 and September 17th, 2013 were collected for this case study. Thirteen memes were collected by downloading the image file onto my computer and inserting it into a Word document. I also copied and pasted all comments  made as of September 17, 2013 on the Facebook posts into the same document. These documents were saved on a folder on my desktop to be accessed for analysis throughout the case study project.

Reflecting on the memes collected during this time period, I notice a mix of popular meme images (i.e. Scumbag Steve), pop culture images (i.e. video game characters, actors) and Christian culture images (i.e. Jesus and the miracle of feeding the multitude). Another interesting aspect is the Christian take on other popular memes, such as Overly Attached Girlfriend. It seems Christian memes have created its alter ego in Oversaved Oscar (see image).

The memes using popular meme images and pop culture images generally have text contextualizing it to the Christian faith. For instance, the iPhone Idol meme (see image) uses a picture of the new gold iPhone 5S. The text reads, “I heard the new iPhone comes in gold (sic) does it also come shaped like a calf?” The text references the story in the Bible about Moses when he climbed Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments from God. While he was on the mountaintop the first time, the Israelites decided to create a new god by melting down all their gold and forming an idol in the shape of a calf. Therefore, the meme creator is trying to point to idols in their world today, such as the iPhone, which some see as routinely worshiped for its amazing technology. On the other hand, memes using Christian culture images include text that connects it to Western culture today (see Jesus Miracle Meme).  This text implies that miracles back in Bible times may be impeded today by newer cultural issues, such as diet.

The Christian memes, as well as the comments about them, are definitely an interesting reflection of what Jenkins calls participatory culture. Christians, possibly from many different denominations, are able to take both secular and religious cultural images and references and (re)mix them to make sense of their lives and the religious principles that guide their daily beliefs and actions. This sense making process can, theoretically, continue indefinitely as people take meme images and references and reappropriate them with their own point of view or belief system.   

Digital culture and the production process of meme creation allows Christians, who may be uncomfortable with the profane and illicit meanings in secular memes, to participate in the cultural phenomenon while still maintaining and presenting their own world views and beliefs. It also allows for those not in positions of authority within the religion to interpret and contextualize ancient scripture in their modern lives. However, it should be noted that the staff of Christian Memes does reserve the right to take down or deny any memes that they feel violates their Christian standards.

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