Thursday, October 27, 2016

Blog 3

This week, we'll be looking at how the memes relating to Trump and Christianity demonstrate the connection between the offline and online spaces, and how this informs and is affected by the current political environment.

To do this analyzing, we will be determining which of the three categories Dr. Campbell has defined as ways in which the online and offline communities and contexts combine (Campbell, 2016):

  1. Bridging: The online and offline are distinct, separate, and connected by some link (forming the bridge between the two). 
  2. Blending: The online and offline are interconnected, and the flow between the two is fluid.
  3. Blurring: The offline and online spheres are so integrated that they create a type of third, in between space.

BLENDING: This first meme is an example of Blending, because it takes a real life situation, and adds commentary to it in a digital realm. In this meme, Donald Trump's comments about being able to murder someone in the streets and not losing voters is taken from the offline context in which it was said and juxtaposed above a picture of "Buddy Jesus" making a sarcastic comment in response to Trump's own comment. This digital commentary is not creating some third place, but rather taking the situation from the offline context in which it originates and moving it through that seamless boundary to the online where the beliefs about the comment can be demonstrated. Thus, the offline realm bleeds into the online realm where the commentary takes place.

BLURRING: This second meme, while sharing some Blending properties of the previous meme, takes it one step further into the Blurring concept of offline and online community (also, it is interesting to note that this photo is a literal blurring of the two parts of the previous meme). This blurring takes place because it edits Trump's face onto "Buddy Jesus" in order to portray the ultimate idea of the meme. While the quote for the meme is a quote from Offline Trump, it uses the internet to create a blurred, third place to discuss the idea of the creator that Trump could be argued to view himself as a savior and Jesus-figure. His quote has come off to many Christians as prideful and arrogant, and a quick save that is not his true beliefs but rather pandering to the Christian audience he has been talking to during his campaign. By editing his face on the already well-known meme of "Buddy Jesus", it creates a third realm because it is not just the online discourse of what Trump has said, but creating something that is impossible to exist in the offline (Trump's face on Buddy Jesus's body) while allowing for commentary on the offline event.

BLENDING: This third meme is again using the Blending method of combining the online and offline cultural contexts in order to demonstrate the point of the creator. It takes two separate offline instances, which due to time differences between Trump's Playboy magazine cover and his recent talk at a Christian University cannot be juxtaposed as they are in the meme, and uses the online context to set them side by side in order to show the hypocrisy that the creator of the meme seems to think is present. The comment from the creator of the meme demonstrates this all the more, because in stating that Trump is "a new kind of Christian," it ironically points out the discrepancy between a traditional understanding of a "Christian lifestyle" and the character of the man who is being championed by the "Religious Right." This is made possible in the online space through use of a visual means that is only possible in the online context, and does so using the images from the offline contexts in the online sphere.

BLENDING: In a similar manner as the third meme, this fourth meme uses the Blending method, taking the offline image of Trump, and places it in an online context in order to generate the conversation about the offline. In doing so, the offline material is transferred though the seamless boundary to the online in order to generate the commentary that then is meant to drift back into an offline understanding. The author's point of the meme is to show that, similar to the previous memes, the character of Trump and his current business investments are contradictory to the character that the American Evangelicals have a history of promoting. This discussion of the conflicting personalities (the ideals presented by Christian tradition and the reality of Trump's personality) is meant to generate the conversation and result in a change of the offline stance and actions of voters planning to support Trump, because as shown they seem to be in contrast and incompatible with each other.

Having looked at all of these memes and analyzed to what extent they combine the online and the offline contexts and narratives, it appears that, at this point (though it is early in the study) that most memes dealing with Trump and Christianity use a form of Blending in order to convey their message. This process is used because it takes the offline content, moves it online in order to generate the conversation the people wish to create, and that conversation is meant to transfer back to the offline and the reality of how people's religious views and beliefs affect their religion in everyday life (aka lived religion).

Friday, October 21, 2016

Blog Post 2

This case study focuses explicitly on the Christian religion. While focusing more on the overarching Christian response to Donald Trump, most of the memes come from a more Protestant Evangelical Christian representation and understanding of Christianity. To demonstrate this, we will look at the two example memes from the first blog post:

This meme is a play and parody of the "Most interesting man in the world" memes. These memes come from the Dos Equis beer commercials, and are an exaggerated and characterized version of a man doing an absurd or extreme scenario. What this meme portrays is that same larger than life, boisterous personality that is associated with the "Most interesting man in the world" memes to point out the absurdity of Trump's comments at Liberty University. The focus of the meme is the way Trump said "Two Corinthians" as opposed to "Second Corinthians" when referring to a common book in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. Many people took this and ran with it, especially because Trump made this lexical mistake at a Christian college. What makes this significant when looking at the conflict between Donald Trump and Christianity is the fact that something as seemingly insignificant to outsiders as saying "Two" instead of "Second" can be so meaningful to the practicers of Christianity. All of this being said, this portrays the notion that Christianity values their religious text, the Bible, very highly -- to the point where pronunciations of certain parts of it (Second Corinthians) are innate for practitioners who read the Bible regularly. Furthermore, one can then deduce that the practice of reading the Bible is important to Christians, because a familiarity with the scriptures and discussing it with others would make establish at least a correct pronunciation of a standard reference. This progression of logical thinking explains why there was so much directed at Trump for saying "two" rather than "second." That is because if he professes a Christian faith yet does not know how to pronounce a very popular part of the text when there is an emphasis on reading it and knowing the text, this lexical mistake goes beyond simply that and appears as significant and even contrarian to his statement of being a Christian.

This meme is using the "Condescending Wonka" meme in order to portray the idea that, while asking "Please tell me more about how the two [being a Christian and supporting Donald Trump] aren't contradictory," the meme and creator of the meme believe the two are actually contradictory no matter the response. What this implies is paramount, because in spite of the "Religious Right" supporting Donald Trump and his claims to be a Christian, this meme takes the argument against Trump's being a Christian a step further and essentially asserts that a person can't even be a Christian and support Trump simultaneously. This simple, sweeping statement demonstrates the idea that the person's understanding of Christianity and its values are in most or every regard the opposite of Trump's policies and sayings, and further more, Trump's character. The idea that a Christian cannot support Trump without being contradictory tell two interesting and key ideas: 

  1. Character is important to Christian belief. Because Trump's character is and has been hotly disputed and very controversial throughout the entire campaign (and in memes that will be shown in later blog posts), the idea here is that Christianity is just as concerned with the character of the person they are supporting as with policies.  
  2. Character is, according the beliefs portrayed in the meme, more important than policy. This stems from the idea that supporting a candidate is an advocacy for the person and their policies; supporting a candidate is viewed as promotion of the person's character. In a Christian supporting Trump, the creator of the meme believes that then the extension of that support is that the Christian religion is intricately tied to the beliefs, sayings, and character of Trump. This shows a belief in Christianity that a person's profession and identification as a Christian influences every aspect of themselves -- political, social, economic, etc. aspects. 
The support of Trump by a Christian, being an advocacy for Trump's character, is in turn the Christian religion's advocacy for the character of Trump because of the religious belief that the faith of the Christian influences their vote, and therefore a person supporting Trump is Christianity voting for Trump, and this is what the creator of the meme ultimately views as contradictory. Their view is that all other tenants of Christianity make the support of a Christian for Trump contradictory and an impossible logical conclusion.

Overall, these two memes portray that Christianity is fairly strict in regard to maintaining orthodox beliefs (the importance of religious texts, character, etc.). When Gaddy talks about the use of religion in politics as a means of establishing the character of a candidate and credibility with the electorate, these memes attacking Donald Trump's connection to Christianity are in fact attempting to do the opposite - they are attempting to reject the character and credibility of the candidate as a Christian and get rid of the religious rhetoric from Trump, and in creating this distance between the two keeping the religion, in a sense, "pure". 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Blog 1: Christianity vs. Trump

The purpose of this blog is to serve as a research diary studying religious memes and politics. The topic of choice is “Donald Trump vs. Christianity.” There is a great divide in the 2016 election, and especially as the recent weeks have unfolded with Trump’s tapes with Billy Bush being leaked, there are an increasing number of Christians who do not agree with Trump. Some are even claiming that he is not Christian as he has claimed. While some Christians still support Donald Trump (such as Jerry Falwell Jr. of Liberty University) many are now issuing a call to leave Trump (Dr. Russell Moore, for example) and rally against his version of Christianity. As such, the blog will focus around memes that address Christian views on the things Trump has said and done in relation to his claims about being a Christian. In other words, this blog will discuss memes that either attack or reaffirm (though the latter seem much less common) Trump’s claims to being a Christian because of his actions and from that, supporting Donald Trump being anti-Christian. This will look at memes that see Donald Trump and Christianity/Christian values being incompatible. 

Below are two examples of the types of memes that will be discussed on this blog: