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Leigh Stein Writes "Influencers are the New Televangelists"

On March 5, 2021 Leigh Stein, a "millenial" writer who characterized herself as "a writer interested in what the internet is doing to our identities, relationships, and politics," published an opinion article in The New York Times entitled Influencers are the New Televangelists. From that I quote selected paragraphs:

"Twenty-two percent of millennials are not affiliated with a specific religion. We are known as religious “nones.” The Pew Research Center found that the number of nones in the population as a whole increased nine percentage points from 2009 to 2019. The main reasons that nones are unaffiliated are that they question religious teachings, or they don’t like the church’s stance on social issues.

"But are we truly nonreligious, or are our belief systems too bespoke to appear on a list of major religions in a Pew phone survey?

"Many millennials who have turned their backs on religious tradition because it isn’t diverse, or inclusive enough, have found alternative scripture online. Our new belief system is a blend of left-wing political orthodoxy, intersectional feminism, self-optimization, therapy, wellness, astrology and Dolly Parton.

"And we’ve found a different kind of clergy: personal growth influencers. Women like Ms. Doyle, who offer nones like us permission, validation and community on-demand at a time when it’s nearly impossible to share communion in person. We don’t even have to put down our phones.

"In February Ms. Doyle posted a virtual sermon to her followers on Instagram, encouraging them to “embrace quitting as a spiritual practice.” More than 100,000 members of her congregation liked it. Followers responded with prayer hands emojis, “God bless yous,” and one “Hallelujah, sister.” "

"Ms. Doyle and other quasi-spiritual influencers are the latest iteration of an American institution that has been around since the second half of the 20th century: the televangelist.

"These women are Instavangelists. Our screens may have shrunk, but we’re still drawn to spiritual counsel, especially when it doubles as entertainment.

"The original televangelist, Oral Roberts, began television broadcasts of his services in 1954. Millions of Americans were captivated by his dramatic onscreen healings and his message that positive thinking (and donations to his ministry) would lead to prosperity. Instavangelists like Gabrielle Bernstein (916,000 followers on Instagram) have rebranded the prosperity gospel as manifesting abundance, and she, Ms. Doyle (1.5 million followers), Brené Brown (3.3 million followers), and Gwyneth Paltrow (7.5 million followers) have become the neo-religious leaders of our era.

"These women look and sound radically different from conservative evangelical male televangelists like Pat Robertson and Joel Osteen. And while they don’t brand themselves as faith leaders, this is the role they play in many of their secular fans’ lives. The size of their devoted, ecstatic, largely female following shows how many American women are desperate for good vibes, coping skills for modern life, and proactive steps to combat injustice and inequality."

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