Blessed John Paul II
The Internet causes billions of images to appear on millions of computer monitors around the planet. From this galaxy of sight and sound will the face of Christ emerge and the voice of Christ be heard? For it is only when his face is seen and his voice heard that the world will know the glad tidings of our redemption. This is the purpose of evangelization. And this is what will make the Internet a genuinely human space, for if there is no room for Christ, there is no room for man. -- Message for the 36th World Communications Day (2002)
Pope Benedict XVI
Without fear we must set sail on the digital sea facing into the deep with the same passion that has governed the ship of the Church for two thousand years. Rather than for, albeit necessary, technical resources, we want to qualify ourselves by living in the digital world with a believer’s heart, helping to give a soul to the Internet’s incessant flow of communication. (2010)Is that enough to keep you blogging? I thought so! And the wonderful Brandon Vogt has published a new book just for us, which will help us build upon what our beloved popes (and other great Catholics) have said:
The "New Media" is all the social networking stuff we use now, such as blogs, facebook, podcasts, YouTube, mobile media, Twitter, interactive websites, etc., and The Church and New Media features chapters by many New Media innovators, each tackling a different aspect of how best to proclaim Christ's truth across the digital continent.
Some of my favorite chapters in the book:
Fr. Robert Barron, priest and intellectual, discusses the "Digital Dialogue With the Unchurched". I need to watch his YouTube videos from beginning to end, to learn the basics from this master of reasoned debate. Among other things, Fr. Barron describes in his chapter what he calls "the four YouTube Heresies":
The Meaning of the Word "God"
Religion and Violence
As someone who has found all four "heresies" in the comment boxes of my own blog, I found myself nodding in agreement as he discussed each one, particularly Scientism. I'm flying by the seat of my pants most of the time, but Fr. Barron is a true and learned philosopher. Some have described the Bubble comboxes as a "battlefield", but what happens on this blog is nothing compared to the resistance, hostility and attack that Fr. Barron encounters. And yet, he responds in charity and truth, with logic and clarity, every time. I want to be like him when I grow up.
Jen Fulwiler's chapter was another favorite, a) because I adore her, and b) because her story is a the quintessential tale of conversion via the New Media.This influential woman of God would not be Catholic today if it were not for her encounter with Catholic blogs. Let's be honest: Catholic blogs and websites may be the only places most folks will encounter authentic Catholicism and not simply the "mainstream" media's caricature if it.
A personal anecdote which illustrates the point: One of our regular commenters, a high school senior named Chelsea, lives in what she has described as her "lovely little liberal bubble", where she has never encountered anyone in her real life who is pro-life or unashamedly Catholic. She came to my blog after seeing a small link on a liberal blog that intrigued her: A liberal person had become an orthodox Catholic. As she puts it: "And I clicked on it, then another, then another." She ultimately landed in the Little Catholic Bubble, where she encountered Catholic people engaging in reasonable discussions who were not "apologetic" about being Catholic.
In her words:
Through this, I have learned just about the last thing that you would expect a Quaker girl from Jersey to learn about and respect: The Catholic Church and its ideas. And you know what? I understand it more now, and I honestly do like some -- not quite all -- but some of the ideas.Non-Catholics need not worry, as Chelsea would be the first to tell you that she is not converting. ;) But how gratifying to know that by encountering faithful Catholics through some easy blog clicks, Chelsea has been able to get a clearer, more positive picture of the Catholic Church. Remember, bloggers: You never know who's reading and how they're being affected by your words.
Anyway, there is so much more to Vogt's book, and if I had room, I'd go through each chapter. (For example, I appreciated the frank discussion of a pet peeve of mine: all the horrible and ineffective parish websites out there! Parishes, get on board the New Media train! You don't want to lose people when they stumble across your ugly, cumbersome site! And on a high note, I was so impressed to read how Texas A&M's Catholic Center has used New Media to become the largest campus ministry in the nation! Lauren and Lisa, I know you are proud of your fellow Catholic Aggies!)
The complete list of the featured contributors and topics is as follows:
– Cardinal Sean O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap. with the book's Foreword
– Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan with the book's Afterword
– Brandon Vogt on “the digital continent” and New Media’s benefits and dangers
– Fr. Robert Barron on engaging the secular online world
– Jennifer Fulwiler on blogging her way from atheism to Catholicism
– Marcel LeJeune on using New Media to connect young adults with the Church
– Mark Shea on the benefits and perils of blogging
– Taylor Marshall on using New Media to unwrap ancient truths
– Fr. Dwight Longenecker on ecumenical dialogue through New Media
– Scot Landry on New Media in the diocese
– Matt Warner on New Media in the parish
– Lisa Hendey on growing online community
– Thomas Peters on faithful online activism
– Shawn Carney on how the world’s largest pro-life movement was built using New Media
Lest you think anyone is out to make a buck here, 100% of the royalties from the book will be used to establish school computer labs and computer literacy training throughout the Archdiocese of Mombasa, Kenya. So even in buying this excellent book, you are helping your brothers and sisters in Christ in the developing world.
And please, even if you don't buy the book, be sure to check out the amazing list of resources designed to help every Catholic (including priests and parishes) navigate the New Media, here. In fact, the entire website is worth your bookmark!
So, dear bloggers, when your family or friends gently tease you for the time you dedicate to your blog (what, that only happens to me?), please remember (and remind them!) that your efforts are fully supported and encouraged by Mother Church!
(Well, so long as your efforts are balanced, and so long as you are not addicted, which is another topic in the book… ha ha ha….)
*This happens to me, oh, about once a week!