This week, Bianca Bosker puts the spotlight on Joel Osteen's efforts to spread God's word through social media.
Osteen is the pastor of the largest church in America. His "Night of Hope" gatherings draw tens of thousands of evangelical Christians to stadiums around the country. But it's Osteen's use of technology, and particularly social media, that underscores his reach: He has a presence on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, in addition to podcasts, an iPad magazine and two forthcoming iPhone apps. His dedicated site, "Pray Together," lets people post prayers and respond to the prayers of others. As Bianca puts it, "In life, prayers may or may not be realized. But in the social media realm of the Night of Hope, all prayers must be answered."
As she explains, the tools of "digi-vangelism" may be new, but the notion of using the latest technology to build religious communities has been the hallmark not only of televangelists like Jimmy Swaggart and Jerry Falwell, but earlier missionaries going all the way back to the beginning of organized religion itself. As Contagious author Jonah Berger puts it, "Religion is the original social media. Even that phrase, 'spreading the gospel.' Religion is one of the original things that people shared to a good degree."
Elsewhere in the issue, Ryan J. Reilly looks at the hunger strikes that have brought attention -- if only briefly -- back to Guantanamo, and the fact that President Obama still hasn't honored his pledge to close the prison camp down. Eleven years after prisoners first arrived, 166 remain at Guantanamo, and despite widespread calls for its closure, the facility continues to expand, from a recently built courthouse and refurbished sports center to a chapel under construction. Meanwhile, Guantanamo's prisoners and lawyers have been clamoring to make their voices heard. As one prisoner wrote, "I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantánamo before it is too late."
Finally, as part of our ongoing coverage of stress and its destructive effects on our lives, we're looking at our country's most-stressed cities and states, along with a stress-less recipe for a delicious summer dish.
This story appears in Issue 52 of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, in the iTunes App store, available Friday, June 7.