Ultra-Orthodox Jews and the Internet

Today, some 40,000 ultra-Orthodox, male Jews (women not allowed) are packing out Mets Stadium to learn how to harness the internet for good rather than for evil. This was according to this Washington Post article which ran yesterday.

One can’t help but admire the collective concern for the real dangers of the internet and the ways in which it continues to alter

from Jewish Iphone Magazine

our lives, for good and for ill. All of us, evangelical Christians included, could use some intensive thought and guidance about navigating this pervasive (and invasive) element of contemporary life.

That an event dedicated to navigating the internet as a religious challenge could draw such a massive crowd reflects both the communal and the sectarian nature of ultra-Orthodox Judaism. But the threat of the internet, to ultra-conservative religious groups everywhere, is perhaps not just about dealing with pornography, gambling, and the challenge to uninterrupted prayer (challenges noted by the event’s spokesperson). The nature of the internet implicitly commends an egalitarian, de-centralized approach to knowledge and life. The accessibility of information and endless perspectives, bewildering though it might be, encourages critical appraisals of a religious community’s embedded identity and forms of life–for better or worse. As patriarchal religious groups continue to utilize the internet for their business, their information access, their commerce, their communication, etc, how long can they continue to sustain heretofore engrained assumptions–like patriarchy?

In any case, it would be fascinating to be an observer at Mets Stadium today.

About Kyle Roberts

(PhD) is Schilling Professor of Public Theology and Church and Economic Life at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. Roberts has published Emerging Prophet: Kierkegaard and the Postmodern People of God (Cascade, 2013) and is currently co-authoring a theological commentary on the Gospel of Matthew (Eerdmans) and A Complicated Pregnancy: Was Jesus Really Born of a Virgin? (Fortress Press, Theology for the People)