In this study more bloggers were male than female, χ2(df = 1, n = 96) = 42.6, p < .001. Overall 80% of bloggers were men, with the Christian Blogger Web Survey Sample (CB) being a slightly higher 88% and the Google Blog Search Sample (GB) being 72%. Of the 87 bloggers who stated a profession, most were pastors (34%). However, when combining professions across Christian ministries, including pastors, missionary/church planters, and teachers or students who taught or attended a theological school, a total of 62% could be identified with a Christian organization. The majority of bloggers (69%) came from the USA with the next largest group coming from Australasia, including Australia (3%), Malaysia (2%) and Singapore (1%). As in the pilot, men who worked in church-related organizations positions or held a Christian leadership position were the greatest percentage of the blogging sample. In summary, the majority of Christian bloggers were male, Christian professionals who lived in the USA.
RQ1: Religious authorities referred to in Christian blogs
A total of 4,280 references to different forms of religious authority (roles, structures, theology/beliefs and texts) were coded in the study. Religious roles were the most common category of reference (n = 2, 314, 54.2%), followed by religious texts (n = 1, 183, 27.6%), theological ideas (n = 584, 13.6%), and religious structures (n = 199, 4.6%), χ2(3) = 2, 403.91, p < .001. See Figure 1. What follows is the breakdown of the each of the four categories.
First, for religious roles, 16 different subcategories were identified and coded (see Table 1). The most frequently identified role or religious figure was God (n = 1, 369, 59.1%) followed by Biblical characters (n = 219, 9.5%), Pastors (n = 204, 8.8%), and Religious Authors (n = 138, 6.0%). All other categories represented less than 5% of the total. Table 1 provides a summary of the frequency in which all religious roles were coded including the breakdown of each category by affirmations, challenges, and blog source.
Table 1. Religious Authority Roles
|Roles||Google (GB)||Christian (CB)||Total (GB + CB )|
|Authors (Contemporary & Historical)|
|Catholic Saints (Historical)|
|Church Leader (Contemporary)|
|Historical Church Leaders|
|Missionaries (Contemporary & Historical)|
|Popes & Catholic Priests|
|Religious Professor (Contemporary)|
|Religious Teacher/Media Figure (Contemporary)|
|Theologians (Contemporary & Historical)|
For the second of the four major categories, religious texts, nine different subcategories were identified and coded (see Table 2). The most frequently identified text was the Bible (n = 910, 76.9%), which replicates the results from the pilot study. This was followed by Christian Teaching/Devotional Books (n = 167, 14.1%) and Theology Books (n = 47, 4%). Other texts that were identified represented less than 3% of all identified texts. Table 2 provides a summary of the frequency in which all religious texts were coded.
Table 2. Religious Authority Texts
|Text||Google (GB)||Christian (CB)||Total (GB + CB )|
|Christian Teaching/Devotional Books|
For the third category, theological ideas, 14 different subcategories were identified and coded (see Table 3). The subcategory of which was most frequently identified was theological debates/issues (n = 145, 24.8%), followed by the comments to the Character of God (n = 109. 18.7%), Christian Practice (n = 82, 14%), Salvation (n = 68, 11.6%), Doctrine related to the Sacrament (n = 31, 5.3%) and Character of the Church (n = 30, 5.1%). All other categories related to theology that were identified represented less than 5% of all identified theological ideas. Table 3 provides a summary of the frequency in which all religious theological ideas were coded.
Table 3. Religious Authority Theological Ideas
|Theology||Google (GB)||Christian (CB)||Total|
|Character of God|
|Character of Church|
|Gift of the Holy Spirit|
|Structure of Church|
For the fourth of four major categories, religious structures, 14 different subcategories were identified and coded (see Table 4). The most frequently identified structural category was that of Liturgy (n = 42, 21.1%) followed by the categories of Church structure (n = 27, 13.6%), Governing Church Bodies (n = 20, 10%), Leadership positions (n = 20, 10%), Church ministries (n = 17, 8.5%), Religious Festivals (n = 12, 6%) and Official Doctrines (6.5%). All other categories related to religious structures represented less than 5% of all identified structures. Table 4 provides a summary of the frequency in which all religious structures were coded.
Table 4. Religious Authority Structures
|Structure||Google (GB)||Christian (CB)||Total|
RQ2: How Christian bloggers frame religious authority
Overwhelmingly, most references to religious authority were coded as affirmations of authority (n = 3,952) whereas far fewer were coded as challenges to authority (n = 328). Thus, bloggers were 12 times more likely to affirm a category of religious authority in their blogs than they were to challenge or speak critically about them.
The affirmation of religious roles was the most common authority category for bloggers (n = 2134, 54% of all affirmative religious roles). “God” was the religious figure most commonly referred to in a positive light (n = 1361, 64% of all positive role references). This was followed by positive references to biblical characters such as Moses or the Apostle Paul (n = 215, 10%), pastors (n = 150, 7%), Christian authors (n = 111, 5 %) and then historical religious leaders (n = 54, 3%), such as John Calvin or Thomas Aquinas. All other religious role categories coded represented less than 3% of the total, see Table 1 for a full summary.
Religious texts were the second most common category of religious authority affirmed (n = 1147, 29% of all affirmative mentions). Bloggers primarily referenced “the Bible” or portions of scripture in order to support their arguments or to speak about positive sources of authority within the Christian faith (n = 899, 78% of all affirmative religious text mentions). This was followed by positive affirmations of Christian teaching or devotional books such as The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren (n = 153, 13%) and theology books such as St Augustine's Confessions (n = 39, 3%). All other references to religious text represented less than 3% of the total. Table 2 provides a full summary.
For theological ideas (n = 514, 13% of all affirmative mentions) theological debates/issues were the most commonly noted category (n = 120, 23% of all affirmative religious theology/belief mentions). This was followed by the character of God (n = 101, 20%), Christian practices (n = 69, 13.4%), Salvation (n = 66, 12.8%), and beliefs about the Sacraments (n = 29, 5.6%) such as baptism and communion and Character of the Church (n = 28, 5.4%). All other religious belief references were less than 5 % of the total, see Table 3 for a summary.
Religious structures was the least common category of affirmation (n = 157, 3.8%). Liturgy was the most common religious authority structure affirmed (n = 42, 26.8% of all affirmative religious structure mentions) or comments on order of service or components of Church worship services. This was followed by positive mentions of specific Church ministries (n = 17, 10.8%), Governing bodies (n = 16, 10.2%), Forms of Leadership (n = 14, 8.9%), Religious Festivals/holidays (n = 11, 7%), Local Church (n = 11, 7%), Church classes/trainings (n = 11, 7%), Official Doctrines (n = 8, 5%). All other religious structures categories coded represented less than 5% of the total, see Table 4 for a full summary.
Religious roles were also the most common category of religious authority challenged (n = 180, 54.9% of all challenging references). Pastors were the most challenged religious role (n = 54, 30% of all challenges to authority role), with pastors who were also authors or had national prominence being more frequently criticized than local pastors (46 of the 54 references). This was followed by Religious Authors (n = 27, 9.4%), Televangelist (n = 24, 13.3%), Religious Teacher/Media Figure (n = 21, 11.7%), Theologians (n = 15, 8.3%), Other Church Leaders (n = 13, 7.2%) and Popes and Priests (n = 10, 5.6%). All other references were less than 5%; see Table 1 for a full summary. Notably, only a very small number of women were identified with religious authority roles, about 1% of all affirmation (22 out of 2314 role affirmations) and about 3% (5 out of 180 role challenges) of all challenges.
Theological ideas were the second most common form of authority challenged (n = 72, 22% of all challenging references). Theological Debates/issues was the most common category mentioned (n = 25, 34.7%) such as criticism about Feminist and Fundamentalist based Theology or “heath and wealth” gospel teachings. This was followed by critiques of Christian Practices (n = 13, 18%) such as “contemplative prayer” or “showing compassion and forgiveness without repentance, the Character of God (n = 8, 11.1%) such as the “sovereignty of God”, Creation/Evolution debates (n = 8, 11.1%) and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit (n = 8, 11.1%) specifically “speaking in tongues”/glossolalia. All other references were less than 5%; see Table 2 for a full summary.
For religious structures (n = 42, 12.8% of all challenging references) it was challenges to the idea of the Local Church (n = 16, 38%) which were most common. This was followed by critiques of various institutional Leadership Positions (n = 14, 33.3%), Governing Church Bodies (n = 4, 9.5%), Church membership (n = 4, 9.5%) and Official Doctrines (n = 4, 9.5%). All other references were less than 5%; see Table 3 for a full summary.
Religious texts was the least common form of religious authority to be challenged (n = 36, 11% of all challenging references) with Christian teaching/devotional books (n = 14, 38.9%) to be the most critiqued category. This was followed by the Bible (n = 11, 30.6%) and Theology books (n = 8, 22.2%), with all other references were less than 5%. See Table 4 for a full summary.
The sample from this study includes a variety of different subgroups of bloggers who might warrant special attention, especially to consider whether they might uniquely respond and frame these categories of religious authority. For instance in looking specifically at pastors and those on church pastoral staffs who represent 46% of the total population, we see similarities with the general sample, but a few interesting variations. As in the general sample affirmations of authority (n = 993) overwhelmingly outweigh challenges to authority (n = 48). The rank order of these categories also corresponds to the larger study with affirmations of religious roles being the most common (n = 504, 50.7% of this sample), followed by religious texts (n = 281, 28.3%), theological ideas (n = 153, 15.4%) and religious structures (n = 55, 5.5%). Yet there is a variation in the types of authority being affirmed in that it is affirmations of theological ideas dealing with the Character of the Church (n = 34, 22.2%) that are most commonly noted, in contrast to Theological Perspective/Issues in the general population. Also within religious structures equal emphasis is placed on Church Governing Bodies (n = 12, 21.8%) and Ministries (n = 12, 21.8%) as the dominant categories verses Liturgy and Church Ministry in the general sample. Investigating the nuances and differences between subgroups is beyond the scope of this study, due to its sample size. Yet such initial observations suggests future studies could benefit from a fine-tuned analysis when seeking to make more detailed claims about how religious authority may mean different things for different groups of bloggers. It might also help elucidate the priorities and justifications used by specific groups of bloggers related to issues of authority online.
RQ3: The profile and practices of Christian bloggers
More individuals (54%) provided a personal photo on their blog than those who do not, although the number was not statistically significant. Significantly more individuals (73%) also provided a full name, χ2 (df = 1, n = 100) = 21.16, p < .001. Only 6 offered a handle or obvious alias inferring the self-disclosure and personal ownership may be important for religious bloggers. Significantly more individuals (62%) explicitly stated they were a Christian or a follower of Jesus Christ in the very first post made in their blog than those who did not reveal this information, χ2 (df = 1, n = 100) = 5.76, p < .05. Of the 62%, GB bloggers (n = 33) identified this information more frequently than CB bloggers (n = 29).
A total of 37% used blog titles or descriptions on the opening page of their blog which clearly link them to the Christian faith. Of the 37%, 16 stated that their blog was focused on a Christian topic such as “as for me and my blog we will serve the Lord” or written by follower of Christ, i.e. someone “becoming more like Jesus,” 11 used a verse from the Bible, 6 connected their blog to a particular Christian tradition such as Catholic or Methodist, and 4 used some part of a quote from a Christian theologian or author (4%). A total of 27% used Christian images or symbols on the front page of their blog. A cross was the most popular image (use by 11 blogs), but other pictures included popular Christian books, Bibles and Catholic saints.
In relation to affiliation, 45% of all bloggers noted their membership to a specific church although the number was not statistically significant. Significantly fewer bloggers (40%) linked themselves to a specific denomination χ2 (df = 1, n = 100) = 10.0, p < .001, with Baptist & Presbyterian being the most mentioned groupings). And 47% of the bloggers associated themselves with a Christian ministry (such as Cottonwood School of Ministry, emerging church), Christian network (such as Vineyard Movement, church planting summit) or religious organization (such as Navigators or Society of Biblical Literature) although nonsignificant from those who did not.
Finally, 55% of bloggers stated an explicit motivation for their blogging with 33% offering a religious connection or explanation for this motivation. The thematic analysis of these statements made by bloggers suggests these motivations fit into one of four categories: Descriptions of Christian Living, Theological Development, Proselytizing or Personal Networking. It is important to note that of the 33 bloggers who noted motivations 30 of these were pastors and church leaders, a finding that suggests religious leaders may bring distinctive strategies to their blogging that inform the content they produce, a claim to be explored later in a follow-up study. The most common motivation was sharing about one's Christian Living or Lifestyle (n = 13) where blogging is seen as an opportunity to make their spiritual journeys and lifestyle transparent. This was followed by Theological Development or the desire to use the internet as space to develop and refine their theology, with the hope of gaining feedback or interaction from this (n = 8). A few bloggers had proselytizing motivations (n = 4) or a desire to make public proclamations of their beliefs online in order to influence the unchurched or those of different religious persuasions. Finally, a few (n = 3) created their blogs as intentional networking spaces, using the blogosphere to address a specific church group of people.