Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The YouTube Heresies Pt 1.

Spring boarding off of Fr.Roberts Barons work of Evanga-blogging with Word On Fire, and his contribution to The Church and New Media, I blog today about the first “chapter” of this series; Dialogue with the unchurched.

I can see where Fr.Baron is coming from. Social media is today a place where even though one of the faithful may find many handfuls of the faithful, still more massive bodies of the un-churched, are in lying. Now I don’t want to burn bridges, and so on my side of commentary I know a good amount of people who aren’t religious, i.e. go to Church regularly but who are really good moral people, of high caliber and who know the contribution that religion make son society. But I also know the opposite, people who are “rationalist”, that agree with the Richard Dawkins of the world, and who are waiting for a hair trigger to do explosive battles of the brain with those who defend the Faith.  The former can be seen in their  natural habitat of YouTube.

Heresy 1: The Meaning of the word “God”-

In his Seven Storey mountain Thomas Merton recalled after reading a book about Medieval Philosophy, encountering the meaning of God as Ipsum esse or the sheer act of being itself. He was taken aback because he thought that God was a “noisy and dramatic” mythological being.
Again and again the characterization of God on YouTube is said to be things like the” fairy in the sky”, “invisible friend”. Or “the flying spaghetti monster”, which comes from the militant Atheist Richard Dawkins.

Almost no one with whom you would dialogue with would consider the possibility that God is one being among many and the biggest thing around, not something that can be categorized with relation to other things.

We can learn from Thomas Aquinas that God cannot be placed in any genus for he is ipsum esse the subsistent act of being itself, this distinction which lies at the very core of Christianity and Christian theology is lost on almost everyone on YouTube.  Fr.Baron staes one of the best indicator of this confusion is the repetitive demand for “evidence” of God’s existence.  Or scientifically viable evidence.

When said that the creator of the entire universe cannot be by definition an object within the universe is  met with incomprehension.

The best methodical argument Fr.Baron says is the argument of Contingency. It runs something like this; We humans are contingent beings, by measure we had parents, we eat we drink we breathe, but those elements are themselves conditioned, caused. We cannot go on endlessly appealing to similarly conditioned thing without inevitably, coming to a reality that exist not dependently but unconditionally, through the power of its own existence.

This demonstration although clear and a pithy proof that God is ipsum esse, but is identified with matter or energy here the big bang theory comes in handy, since it indicates how time and matter themselves are radically contingent and therefore further in need of causal explanation.  

Heresy 2: Biblical Interpretation-

This heresy has to do with reading the bible. Most people you are lily to have a conversation with in regards to the bible think Catholics approach it the same way Muslims approach the Koran. Namely as a text directly dictated by God, and should be interpreted in a literal manner. However this is not restricted to the fundamentalist camp.
An example is Bill Mayer film Religulous, is a good example. He spends much of the movie interrogating pretty simple people about the Genesis account of Adam ad Eve, and the story of Jonah and the whale wondering why anyone in the 21st century could possibly believe such nonsense.
To put it the way I usually put it. We have more than one way to read the bible as Catholics, we don’t just look at it and say oh he did this so do this. We do a lot of deeper things, Fr.Baron explains that the bible is not so much a book  as a library, a collection of text from a wide variety of literary genres. Genesis is a religious saga, Song of Songs a  love poem (the greatest ever written I might add). So if God is constitutes as one being out of many then his causality competes with ours, so the bible is His book and not ours. But the Catholic sense is Dei Verbum “The words of God expressed in human form”.

To counter we can point out that the Aneid, the Divine Comedy by Dante, Gulliver’s Travels, and Moby Dick, are bearers of profound truth indeed, though they convey it in a distinctively nonscientific or non-historical way.
We should also note that those who have seized the mass media most effectively are evangelical protestants not that I’m trying to decry them for doing so they did get on the band wagon of media sooner than Catholics did. Thus their version of Christianity is best known.

For the benefit of my readers I am going to split this topic into two parts. One reason being so I have something extra to blog about on this series, and among other reasons because I do not like a lot of words and mind numbing concepts in my blogs. I do this so you readers will not be turned off by my writing. I hope this enough to whet your truth pallet, and keep you tuned into my blog.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The New Mission Fields

In the beginning, there was no internet. I know it’s hard to believe isn’t it. Now days to some that’s all there is, the work wide web. This blog and the blogs that follow are all about the rise of New Media. We have reached new age, and a new landscape for evangelization. For young adults, teens, and pre-teens, and now increasingly young adolescence, the internet is how we are plugged in. From the comfort of our home we bring the world to our computer screens.A New Mission Field looms.

Consider this the average American spends 66 hours per month on a computer outside of work . YouTube visitors watch over two billion videos every day. Seventy-two percent of Americans- including 87 percent of teens communicate through text messaging.

We live in a world that has dramatically embraced new media. It’s the new home for the majority of Christians. There is a new space where if we hit the ground running we have a new and better way to reach people than ever before. But more over we also have a way we can reach young people.
I know it may seem like a daunting task. Especially with the speed that life travels today. But the way to get people in the pews now a days in more and more often to reach them at their computer seats.
I would like to start with starting a dialogue with the un-churched. If we look we can see that Religion in the U.S at least is rather falling down the not so wonderful rabbit hole. Especially with people my age. Of college age. The God-Man that was sent to save us is now just a cool guy. It’s funny I thought people followed “cool guys”. With the help of Father Robert Baron from Word on Fire; I hope I can get this blog series a good start. To read more on the subject of the church and Media, I’ll point you to Brandon Vogt’s book The Church and New Media.

The Church in the U.S is in a bad state of affairs. A pew forum study showed that in 2008 the fastest growing religious group in America is the “nones”. Or people with no religious affiliation. Another Pew Statistic is that 27% of Americans don’t expect to have a religious funeral, and numbers in regard to attendance is not very pretty, somewhere between 20 -30% of Catholics attend the liturgy on a regular basis, and if you want to remove immigrants, like Hispanics and Vietnamese, the numbers would sink to European lows.

In the words of Fr.Baron. “ We have become largely inept at telling our distinctive story, and so the world found it exceptionally easy either to co-opt our story or simply dismiss it out of hand”.
We can become toothless in the face of attacks, of hostile questions, especially with the rise of “New Atheism”. There have been a slew of new attacks on anything religious but mostly when it comes to Christians. But with this universe that is the internet we can now have a pretty fair shot at refuting, (in a hospitable way) the claims. Fr.Baron has noticed four trends being on you-tube and face book and through his Word on Fire Ministries. These he calls the “ YouTube Heresies”. These are basically confusion about interpreting the bible, the relationship between science and religion, the meaning of the word “God”, and finally the confusion about the rapport between religion and violence.
In my future blogs I will go into more detail about these. 

I just wanted to give a proper introduction to this blog series. But most importantly is the why I’m doing this. It isn’t just because we need to fill the pews with kids from 18-25, it’s not about feeling “beat” by Atheist, or especially now with the holidays feeling the urge to speak up about keeping Christ in Christmas. It is really about love. I can’t tell you how much sadness I am filled with when I see what is going on with my generation. The sex, the disappointment, the hate, the drugs, it makes me wince at all the utter fallacies I hear said online about the dangers of religion, how bigotry is in the Church, the list goes on and on. We have a generation that is so disconnected from each other, any relationship that isn’t short and fast is an inconvenience. Not to mention our complete disregard for the dignity for human life.

I don’t know if I should be asking for a miracle. But I’m trying to take a stab at it. If I stand alone that’s ok for I stand with God. I know I’m not perfect; I am outrageously far from it. But if it’s a crime to care, to love than I’m a criminal. But this road we are on leads to ruin, so I’m using this great resource to try and stand on the digital soap-box. I want to cry at what is happening to my Country. We as Catholics know the greatest love there is. That love that is Jesus, for there has never been a greater death. Please take up the cup, don’t be afraid, I am tired of being afraid, and as much as it may hurt, the sting doesn’t last, but now is our time to act. With love. After 2000 years… well I’ll let Morpheus finish this. After 2000 years…