Exploring LGBT Issues in Strategic Communication with Theory and Research
Edited By Natalie T.J. Tindall and Richard D. Waters
Chapter 8: Neither Cold Nor Hot: Assessing Christian World Wide Web Sites That Target LGBT Publics
Douglas J. Swanson
Although significant literature addresses how the Internet is used to create organizational identity and build relationships with online users, little attention has been paid to how religious groups use the Web to build relationships with audiences. This is particularly true in regard to the strategies Christian organizations use to target lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) publics.
Intense debate continues within Christianity about acceptance of LGBT worshippers and affirmation of same-sex relationships (Higgins, 2002). Some Christian organizations view homosexuality as unpardonable sin, while others reach out to LGBT followers. As the 21st century began, Davis called the acceptance and affirmation of LGBT people in the Christian community “the most controversial issue facing the church” (D. Davis, 2001, p. E1), and the controversy continues today.
To learn how Christian organizations espousing LGBT advocacy have used online technology to build relationships with followers, this chapter describes research conducted in 2003 and updated in 2012 on websites operated by prominent, gay-friendly Christian organizations. Websites of a dozen such organizations were subjected to a content analysis to identify the type and extent of enhancements contained on sites and how enhancements contributed to relationship building. The findings of the initial assessment in 2003 suggested that Christian websites targeting LGBT followers were mostly amalgamations of electronically accessible resources, as opposed to structures to allow legitimate personal relationships. A follow-up study was conducted in 2012 to determine if the organizations’ websites took a different approach. ← 122 | 123 →
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