Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Disconnecting from Catholic Social Media

After the latest brouhaha resultant from this post (and the convo before it I mentioned), I have been pushed over the edge. I'm done with Catholic social media.

It's not like this hasn't been long in coming. It seems what passes for the majority of Catholic blogging, and perhaps more so social media, is a sludge of conservative outrage inducing link regurgitating. The echo chamber is in full effect, and it has gotten worse since our new pope has been elected. Now it's not just the broader decadent Western culture that has the watchdogs frothing at the mouth, but apparently the Pope himself is not Catholic enough for them.

Enough already. It is downright embarrassing and, for me, infuriating. It's all just so much gossip.

We conservative Catholics need to stop conflating political ideals with Catholic doctrine, as if the Right has a corner on truth and goodness. We need to stop vilifying those on the other end of the political spectrum. We need to stop overreacting to everything homosexual and abortion-related. We need to stop setting ourselves up in our own personal popedoms. We need to relax about the liturgy. We need to relax about the world's sexual profligacy. We need to relax. Chill out a bit. Take a deep breath and stop wigging out every time something in the world doesn't align with the way we think it should be.

It goes without saying (for me) that I'm not suggesting keeping silent when we should speak. I'm not suggesting not being active in the political process how we should be. I'm not suggesting ignoring or suppressing Truth, Goodness, or Beauty. I am by no means suggesting we don't share the Gospel--exactly the contrary!

Look. Either God is in control or he isn't. If the world is going to hell in a handbasket, that ain't nothing new. The way things used to be ain't as great as we like to pretend it was in our whitewashed memories. Human nature is human nature. It always has been. Mass sinfulness has always been with us; it's just the predominate kinds of sin that change with the passage of time.

Thankfully, God doesn't judge us by the political order and culture we live in; he judges us individually by what we as individuals think, say, and do. If God intended to set up a perfect political party or government, we'd have that. But we don't, and it's not our job to try to set it up.

What we do have is the Truth. What we have are the Sacraments. What we have is each other. Real people whom we are called to truly love, even if we don't agree with them. 

And don't tell me about "speaking the truth in love." Hogwash. The Truth is easily abused and can be wielded as effectively to drive people away from God as it can to guide them to Him. The Truth is also understood incompletely, by us. It is often miscommunicated, by us. It is also often misunderstood, and we are responsible to minimize that--we must be sensitive to where people are and adjust when and how we share the Gospel with them. 

And this extends beyond social media (it just seems exacerbated by it, as are most things online, where it's so easy to reduce people in your head to mere ideas and words, stripping them of the dignity and love they deserve from us). My own dear lay Dominicans were recently discussing a situation where one of them found out that someone they have do some handyman work is gay--who was "married" recently. Apparently this was the source of great anguish--should she keep paying him to do a job? What if he brings up his gayness?? "You have to share the truth [in love] with him," says someone. 

Really?!? Have we become so oversensitized to this issue that it becomes a major personal crisis to find out that someone you have hired to do a job that has absolutely zero to do with their sexuality is gay? Are we really obligated to foist our opinion of their life choices on them uninvited? Must we all shake our heads and tut tut about it? Would we have the same crisis if, say, we found out that they were a terrible gossip or an inveterate liar? Somehow I doubt it, especially if their sin was also one we personally struggle with.

And that's the crux of it. If this behavior is not the very definition of what Jesus was counseling against in Matthew 7, I don't know what is. All this outrage-inducing "socializing" does is keep our focus on others' sins and errors rather than our own, much less does it help us to share the Good News. I'd say the Devil is pretty pleased with the state of Catholic social media right now. Pretending for a moment that this is "New Evangelization" is utter self-deception.

Sharing the Gospel is the key. It's not good enough to say something is a sin. That's sharing the Truth incompletely. That, at its best, is ethics. Being a "good person" doesn't get anyone to heaven. What we really need to share is not "you are living in sin" but "Christ can transform your life, give you joy and give you peace." That's the message. That's the focus. Sin is just an opportunity for us to receive God's grace. We need to share that the mercy and grace of God is greater than all our sins put together

We need to stand with our fellow sinners, not so as to condone sin but rather in recognition that we are all sinners, that we all fail, that we all utterly need the grace of God. If we are not truly with them, then we are not truly loving them. Compassion is the word. Suffering with others. Us versus them is not authentic love. Pointing out sin is not authentic love. It is pride masquerading as love.

And, so, for myself, all this outrage-rich social media is a very near occasion to sin (not to mention a waste of time and talent), because I am repeatedly tempted to hold these brothers and sisters in disdain, because I myself become preoccupied with their sins rather than my own, and so, give into pride. 

Therefore, I am cutting off that aspect of my life rather than continuing to fall into sin. I have deleted circles. I have unliked pages on FB. I will continue to cull these things from my life as they come up. As I slowly rebuild my Catholic social connections, I will use this as a bar: Does this person refrain from fostering outrage and indulging in judging and condemning others? Does this person share things that build people up? Does this person appear to be truly concerned with sharing the Gospel and will they help me to?