Yesterday, Travis LaCouter of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute advocated for conservative and Christian engagement with social channels such as Buzzfeed:
Yet more than 25 million unique visitors consume its content each month, most of them coming via social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Buzzfeed is currently ranked as roughly the 70th most popular website in the U.S. and is disproportionately visited by college-educated young people. It would be fair to say, then, that Buzzfeed represents a snapshot of the popular zeitgeist among the plugged-in mainstream of middle- to upper middle-class American youth…
If engagement with culture is really our goal, then places like Buzzfeed—whether we like it or not—are bellwethers for our success. We are currently losing that battle, but there are small reasons for hope.
Generally, I agree with LaCouter. However, I have two additions.
First, it has become popular in Catholic and conservative spheres, First Things included, to call for creative engagement without advancing practical proposals. True, movements start with theories and ideas, but we need to start doing instead of writing. I realize the irony as I write this post.
I have a few recommendations for those interested. First, listen to the “Catholic Stuff I Should Know” podcast. A priest and a couple of deacons host the show wherein they discuss Catholic doctrine and theology by applying it to modern items of interest—everything from Batman to beer.
Some other interesting Catholic channels include the Facebook pages “The Catholic Gentleman” and “Catholic Memes.” They both spread humorous and instructive memes of saints and quotes throughout Facebook.
That is what we must do now; we know the disorder, now we must implement the prescription.
Second, as we do this, it has to be tactful. The demographics who use Buzzfeed and other sharing sites such as Reddit are suspicious of institutions in general. As we present ourselves, we probably shouldn’t lead by mentioning the Church and the resurrection of Christ. Rather, let’s first speak to others as friends and sympathizers, rather than evangelizers.
I’m not saying that we should omit the Gospels and the Church completely. However, as a knight of the Sigma Nu fraternity, I recall a lesson of college recruitment: Become their friend first, then discuss the idea of joining. That is how Catholics should do it.
Skepticism is certainly not a deal-breaker. An example presents itself in a certain sub-reddit, which is a topic forum within the Reddit website. The forum, labeled “nofap”, invites young people to sign a pledge to quit viewing pornography.
“R/nofap” is a two-year-old forum with over 70,000 subscribers. Started by an atheist, members sign up “to take the ‘ultimate challenge’ and conquer the urge to masturbate (“fap” in Internet slang) and/or use porn, whether it be for a certain, set period of time, or permanently.”
There are five definite rules:
read the disclaimer (participants take a noFap challenge “at their own risk”); be respectful; don’t post pornography or links to the same; be sensitive in describing the details of your sex life in deference to the more easily “triggered”; and finally, only mention religion when it directly relates to your motivation to take up the NoFap challenge.
Alexander Rhodes, the founder, wanted to create a “supportive community,” one without guilt, false promises, or any type of institutional pretense. Rhodes explained to LifeSiteNews that he’s “never seen anything like it. Regardless of who you are or what your goals are, the members of nofap will try to support you and genuinely care for you and try to push you to succeed.”
Genuine care. Support. Community. That’s one aspect of the Church in a nutshell, and the part that we conservatives need to display before we discuss the Trinity and the Incarnation.