Monday, November 21, 2005

The Last article

The First Things article on God on the Internet, i.e. Check out Amy's review (Also check out the comments, particularly the ones by Mike Hayes, Old Zhou and Peter Nixon.)

While I tended to be sympathetic to the criticism that Last has of blogs that they tend to just reinforce the like-minded, and lead to a disembodied sense of community, Amy has some good points that counter that. And as one of the commenters on her blog remarked, First Things itself is a journal for the like-minded! ( I must admit, a lot of my blogsurfing tends to be among the somewhat like-minded. How's that for something for Advent: read more left-of-center blogs! :))

What's also interersting is that Mr. Last does not mention the whole phenomenon of podcasting at all, which has exploded in recent months. Heck, even the Vatican has its own podcast (and it's immensely popular too!).

My main beef with the article was its treatment of Busted Halo, the Paulist young adult ministry portal.

Busted Halo calls itself a site for “seekers,” meaning those interested in finding a spiritual home. But more often than not it is simply a clearinghouse for leftist discontent. After Ronald Reagan died, the site’s director emeritus, Father Brett Hoover, wrote,

I couldn’t help it. “Good riddance,” I mumbled, as the news came through that Ronald Wilson Reagan, 40th President of the United States, had died on Saturday, June 5, 2004.

In these days following his passing, it has seemed like nearly every other American was praising his achievements—the president-savior who gave us “morning in America,” the tough guy who felled the Berlin Wall, the grandfatherly “Great Communicator” who reassured us.

I scowl, feeling like the man in Bermuda shorts at the winter formal. By my accounting, President Reagan bequeathed our world one nightmare after another. How does someone like me honestly mourn his passing?

About the election of Benedict XVI, Busted Halo’s managing editor, Mike Hayes, wrote: “As the Papal conclave closed, fear crept into my heart. ‘Anybody but Ratzinger,’ I prayed. Moments before the announcement of who was to succeed Pope John Paul II, I even said to myself, ‘If it’s Ratzinger, I’m becoming an Episcopalian.’” Unlike the websites of Popes Michael and Pius XIII, Busted Halo carries the official seal of an actual Church-sanctioned society, which might leave some seekers confused. Blogger Amy Welborn says the Internet gives seekers the opportunity to “quietly observe the church or the faith; it’s like sneaking into the back pew of a church.” The problem is that in the virtual church of the web, the hymnal one finds in the back pew may be quite different from the hymnal in the front pew.

Now there's no denying that Busted Halo is left-of-center. But to focus on these two articles as indicating that it is "often no more than a clearinghouse of leftist discontent" is quite unfair, and its ludicrous to compare it to the likes of Popes Michael and Pius XIII! Halo tries to present stuff in a hip manner (I admit it sometimes feel forced) that will appeal to a certain set of today's young adults -- those on the margins of the Church. I don't think it's designed for the set that Colleen Carroll wrote about. Nor does it have to be. There's tons of useful information out there, and to the best of my knowledge, while the site tolerates a variety of viewpoints (they have their token conservatives on there too, you know) in its forums, they never present anything as being doctrine that is in fact not doctrine.

Is this confusing? Does a site with an "official seal" of a Church-sanctioned society (I'm quite impressed that Last seemingly understands that the Paulists are a Society of Apostolic Life and not a religious order in the strict sense of the term!) have to have ONLY doctrine on its site? Does it have to be nothing but a mouthpiece for the official teaching of the Church? Is this the only acceptable speech within the church? And don't get me wrong. I'm not talking about tolerating dissent, or presenting dissenting views as doctrine. However, how on earth is one supposed to dialogue with the broader culture if the only thing one can repeat is doctrine? Is the goal simply to have people memorize certain positions? Or is it to actually present them with the beauty of the Christian vision of things, in a way that invites them to discover this for themselves? In a way that actually leads to conversion of heart and mind (and not brainwashing into a party line? I often fear that this is indeed what some people desire, and expect that the Church's mission should be) And that this is something that people do in a variety of different ways, under the guidance of the Spirit, across the timespan of a life?

Now, it would be a valid question for discussion whether Busted Halo actually does this. But this, at least, seems to be the intention. It's part of the Paulist charism of reconciliation.


Mark Mossa, SJ said...

Gee . . . This sounds awfully like the discussion which followed events at another publication sponsored by a religious order some months back!

Now, as then, I agree with your sentiments that such publications are not meant to be merely mouthpieces of Church teaching.

There are those being reached by Busted Halo that--sorry--First Things will never reach, and vice-versa. Ours has never been a static, homogenous, like-minded community of faith and God preserve us from becoming so!

Gashwin said...

The thought had crossed my mind ... :)

Christine said...

I've come your way via Susan Rose. Having been connected with BustedHalo since it's beginning, I find that it's actually, often more conservative than I would have expected. :-) Rocco's recent article, for instance. Anyway, well said. And you're in my prayers as you venture into the deeper life of the novice! Blessings.

Anonymous said...

In other words - Catholics can politically be right OR left?