Once relegated to cheap newsletters distributed to a handful of like-minded readers, critics of prominent evangelicals are finding an inexpensive yet powerful platform on the Internet's World Wide Web.

Both Christian fundamentalists and secular liberals have created forums on the Web, reproaching individuals and organizations, and giving them electronic visibility rivaling their targets. The World Wide Web is the most popular incarnation of the Internet, meshing text, graphics, and sound.

"You have a potential audience of 40 million or 50 million people," says Mark A. Kellner, author of God on the Internet. There are official and unofficial Web "home pages," as the electronic displays are known, for dozens of top evangelicals. Internet search engines, which catalog the contents of the Web, make no distinction between official and unofficial sites, between those supporting and those opposing their subject, or between massive corporate sites and small sites created by a resourceful loner.

"What these groups are counting on is random action provided by search engines," Kellner says. "Once they get you there, they keep you with this dramatic sensationalism."

Observers say critics are drawn to the Web by the confrontational nature of the medium as well as its colossal potential audience at little cost.

"The cyberculture encourages people to be critical and sassy," says Quentin J. Schultze, communications professor at Calvin College and author of Internet for Christians. "It's all about saying whatever you like. Religion is just one aspect of this. It's true for every kind of institution you can imagine." There also are anti-corporate Web sites for every major corporation.

For organizations not accustomed to severe criticism, Schultze ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Tags:
Issue: