In my sojourn through Catholic media, I notice a lot of scorn for whosever is “doing it wrong.” People planning to shred a program or a workshop or a book series, people bashing the Pope or this newspaper or that one, or this media or that one, this group that holds to a tradition, or this one that wrestles with a modern sensibility.
It doesn’t seem to matter right or left, people have out the torches and feel justified in their ire, and in their conviction that those who are not in agreement, deserve scorn. Maybe some of them do…but I don’t remember the Beatitude, “Blessed are the scorning, they shall be congratulated for their rightness.” or “Blessed are the mocking, the mocked deserved it, and they should see the errors of their ways by said mockery, and change their minds.” I missed that part of the Gospel, “Declare those who hold beliefs you now recognize as wrong, but which you once held, as evil for clinging as you did.” and “Dismiss any who vote differently from you past or present or future.”
No one ever converted because of sarcasm, sneering, mocking, or rage poured out on them, and no one ever witnessed sarcasm, sneering, mocking and rage and thought, “That’s so Christ like.”
This will probably lose me friends on the internet, but then, as most of us have discovered, so can sneezing.
I want this place to be a reminder of what we’re supposed to be, not what we can sink to…and I see it all around me, and it’s very contagious –because writing about what someone else is doing wrong is easy…it requires nothing but a merciless eye for detail and a razor for a tongue. We feel clever, the internet that agrees with us, likewise feels clever. It’s not that there aren’t wrongs that need addressing –there is a business element to Catholic media that sometimes serves mammon more than man. There are dangers in being a celebrity in the faith, that often turns the message sour and appears hollow rather than holy. There are fools who do not reflect and I’m one of them, before hitting publish or send, and there are people who tweet something other than the Gospel as Gospel. There are armchair quarterbacks who scour the internet for confirmation of what they see as wrong, and there are those on the internet who by their own admissions and examples, show serious misunderstanding of the faith. We are messy smelly sheep going in a thousand directions just on the internet alone, and all just within the Catholic media subset of the internet.
So how do we address the wrongs and when should we, and how do we witness to the Gospel by our words and deeds in the presence of so many voices that seem to shout or crowd out the reality of faith?
1) We stop worrying about that last part. The Holy Spirit does not need a producer or a publicist. So trust the Holy Spirit to direct us to the ears that need to hear even if we don’t know it, and to give us the words even if we don’t know they’re the right ones.
2) Stop making it our job to tell everyone else how to love Christ and their neighbor…and get to the business of witnessing how to love Christ and our neighbor…we don’t get points by pointing out what others do wrong…we grow in grace by doing what is right with full charity, allowing the forbearance the world desperately needs that Christ generously offers, to flow from us.
3) When we find a brother or sister in error, online or in real life, we start with loving them. Very very few of us are completely irrational unless we’re two years old, and as such, we all have reasons for thinking what we think, and acting as we do. No one believes themselves in error, and very few deliberately so. I believe that all behavior is communication –what it conveys, versus what is intended, may be two different things entirely, but as Catholics, we’re called to listen to those we encounter, and respond to their needs, their thoughts, their reasoning, and through the process of relationship, the witness we present through persevering, will speak better to hearts than anything we prepare or plan.
As members of the Catholic internet, we need to trust that God will use us to reach souls, if we stop trying to make sure we get the credit.