One of the ironies of the internet age is that of the supposed brilliance of those who concoct memes that allegedly destroy 2,000+ years of thinking based on scriptures, natural law, and tradition (with a capital “T”) in short and sweet snippets of thought, usually in formats of 10 succinct, “self-evident” pseudo-knowledge points or less. Most memes are shorter, and are comprised of a single photograph of a pop-cultural saavy, or iconic, scene that is superimposed with haiku length half-baked wisdom suitable to the internet wizard’s target market of folks willing to commit no more than 2 seconds of their time to “searching their feelings,” with nary a second to spare on searching their thoughts, on whatever subject the meme-meisters magnum opus is meant to destroy.
When these epic memes come under scrutiny with even a modicum of thought, they usually tend to fall apart. But when they are taken seriously, and examined under the lens of said 2000+ years of the aforementioned thoughts founded upon the rock of scripture, natural law and tradition, they tend to evaporate like the snowflakes of thought that they are. Everyone of them is unique (though not quite new and brilliant), and yet none of them can survive in an environment that rises above 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Meme’s are nothing new, and if you think about it for a second you will realize that the Catholic Church has been fighting the forces of shallow thought (upon which memes thrive) since shortly after Pentecost. It bothered a lot of officials no end that a bunch of simple fishermen, zealots, and tax-collectors could outsmart them, for so long, and without fear, that they did everything in their power to snuff out the upstarts by the only means they knew to be effective. By killing them off.
But unlike the memes of today, the gospel message of this ragtag group of unlikely upstarts didn’t die off when they were put to death, but instead the movement that became known as Christianity continued to thrive. As Christians we contend that the Holy Spirit, and truth, had everything to do with this coming to pass. And as time went on, the HS did his miraculous work and penetrated the fertile minds of more and more folks who were capable of turning their intellectual gifts to trying to make sense of the mysteries that Jesus had come to reveal to his creatures. To bring into the light all that it means to be human, and made in the image and likeness of God.
The foundation of all of this work began on the Rock, who is Jesus Christ himself, and really started rolling when St. Paul was prodded into putting pen to parchment so the body of Christian thought could build on the Old Testament wisdom that had come before. And if Paul was a tower of orthodoxy and gifted contemplative, so too were Sts. Peter and John, the latter who of the original apostles was the only one to die a natural death. The good news spread, and the compilations of the epistles, and the four gospels were absorbed by, and augmented by the works of great minds of men named Tertullian, Origen, Justin Martyr, Cyprian, Ignatius, Irenaeus, Ambrose, and Augustine.
And it didn’t stop there, of course, as council after council weighed what it meant not only to be a Christian, but what it meant to be a human being. These fellows named Christians delved into every mystery of our existence while illuminating the question of our reason for being created in the first place under the torch of truth that the incarnate Word brought into the world when he pitched his tent among us. And the corpus of this knowledge of the light grew, was sifted by reason, and measured against the yardstick of the ineffable I AM made incarnate. And in the most amazing and stupendous longshot ever recorded as striking pay dirt in history, despite persecutions, pogroms, and martyrdoms, the oral traditions of the Faith were safeguarded, and written down, and elaborated upon from the days when Peter was handed the keys right up until the present day when his successor in the Vatican continues to safeguard, interpret, and expand upon the truth that the Church has been given to share with the entire world.
This body of knowledge, when brought to bear on any number of silly, socially networked, memes is truly a spectacle to behold. And on Facebook, the memes can be fisked right before everyones’ eyes, and effectively dismembered under the harsh light of truth, unlike, say, Bill Maher’s movie Religelous, where any inconvenient arguments not fitting the meme of “religion is self-evidently ridiculous” were simply dispatched onto the cutting room floor.What it all means is this. Layman, rookie, Catholics, like me, with a wee bit of homework, and a moderate amount of intellectual horsepower, can easily dismantle memes meant to discredit the Churches’ teaching on marriage, for example, that Stephen Colberts bazillion fans miss completely when the “applause” light starts flashing manically to the in-studio audience, all with charity and tongue planted firmly in cheek.
The other day, Joanne McPortland fisked a “10 Points on Homosexual Marriage” meme with charity, alacrity, and full-bodied humanity that simply couldn’t have been done were it not for the breadth and depth of Catholic teaching on the subject, which she has been immersed in. And don’t even get me started on the amazing stuff that Marc Barnes can crank out. Laymen with better skills, higher profiles, and better resources can write entire books that provide the ammunition to effectively vaporize the sentimentality laced “thoughts” that Chesterton recognized made the unprepared “slaves of their age,” while instead helping them to become the children of God that they are destined to be.
Moving past us lay folk, deacons and priests are a force to be reckoned with in the digital age as well. With the tools of the Magisterium at their full disposal, they plow under mindless memes like farmers intent on preparing soil for the implantation of souls into the rich, fertile, ground that the Church, the instrument of the “crazy farmer” (God), has prepared for the many. From dismantling Chick Tracks to breaking down viral videos like “Loving Jesus but Hating Religion,” to Father Pontifex using his gifts of mountain top ranging rap and rhyme to separate the wheat from the chaff, the Holy Orders are in the phalanx, and memes exposed to them are at their peril.
Enough already Frank, you may be thinking to yourself, the meme’s are true because they are simple. But if that is the case then ask yourself one intsy-wensy little question. If meme’s are so good and so true, than why wasn’t God able to come up with a pithy 10 point meme to explain the mysteries of our existence himself? Why, instead, did he leave us a thick, earthy, library-like, collection of 73 books of history, prophecies, verse, gospels and epistles, combined with unwritten traditions, and then buttressed with everything from the Early Church Fathers, to Augustine, and Aquinas, the thoughts of which have been distilled down to the masses via the Catechism and the Social Doctrine of the Church, and brought to life by the Communion of Saints from the St. Stephen right up to the unnamed saint martyred for the faith 15 minutes ago in Nigeria?
Riddle me that, meme-meisters. Because if us impromptu layman cum Catholic bloggers can make short work of a meme, then those in the democracy of the dead, that happen to be in the ranks of the Communion of Saints, make them a laughing stock by their tangible witness to the truths contained in the Faith. And so I say again, what I said in the title of this post: Catholics make the best meme busters on the planet, because they know that life and all it’s mystery, complexity, and enormity, can’t be summed up with 10 points or less on a glossy poster featuring Doctor Feelgood.
*Image Credit: MemeCenter.com