Dear Catholics on Instagram,
We are doing it wrong.
Let me explain...
This morning while perusing the search tab on Instagram I came across this t-shirt:
I did a double take. I wasn’t sure I was reading it right. Nope, I was definitely reading it right.
This shirt is called "feel good" Christianity, and Instagram is littered with such. It’s exactly what it sounds like-- being a Christian is all about feeling good. There are few rules to follow, sin is rarely called out, and the message is more akin to a self help seminar than sound biblical teaching. As such, it is hyper palatable to the masses and spreads like weeds on vanity-rich Instagram.
What concerns me though, is that when I scroll through my Instagram feed I have a REALLY hard time telling what is "feel-good" and what is Catholic.
You know what I'm talking about... the endless stream of filtered photographs of people on picturesque beaches, or waterfalls, or mountain tops with a cute quote on top... or a selfie, that probably took 100 takes to get right, that's clearly seeking attention to their looks, with a bible verse captioned coyly in the comments.
We are doing it wrong.
We as Catholics are called to stand apart, not blend in. How are we going to do that if much of what we are presenting is the same watered down Christianity or self aggrandizing posts pervasive in pop culture?
It's time to get REAL. It's time we step up to the call to set ourselves apart. Here are a few thoughts of how we as Catholics can do that...
First off, let’s get real about sin. There are REAL and ETERNAL consequences for sin, PERIOD.
Our God is a God of infinite love. But, there are two sides to that coin. He loves us so much that He gave us free will. We can separate ourselves from God as a result of our sin, and when we die God will judge us accordingly. We can't omit this. As much as we share the message of Jesus's love (as the T-shirt tries to do) we must also be aware of and present it’s counterpart-- His judgement and our need for redemption.
St. John Vianney says, "Sin is the assassin of the soul."
Talking about sin may be unpalatable for many people, but it's imperative, nonetheless.
Secondly, let's put the Eucharist front and center, not ourselves. Our belief in the Real Presence sets us apart from all other faith groups. If we want to differentiate ourselves, this is where we do it! We believe “the whole Christ is really, truly, and substantially present in the Holy Eucharist”. Our message should reflect that.
As St. John the Baptist says, "He must increase, while I must decrease."
Let's follow suit and tone down the attention seeking selfies, and turn up the attention we call to the Eucharist.
Lastly, can we please get honest about the Christian life? Despite what our beautifully curated pictures might portray, being a Christian isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. If we are doing it right being a Christian is actually hard! It requires suffering, self discipline, and self sacrifice. Just ask the martyrs. If we are doing it right we can expect to be rejected and ridiculed by the world, not heart emoji-ed.
I think that's what people outside the Church are looking for today-- a challenge, an epic quest, a call to be different. Let's give them what they want.
I think this quote from Venerable Fulton Sheen says it far better than I can...
“Perhaps many are giving up religion today because they cannot see any difference between it and the world. Once men ran from the sight of the cross, now it hangs from necks... once religion was not tried because it was too hard, now it is not tried because it is too easy”.
I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with selfies or social media. It's all in how we use it. Social media is an amazing tool in the New Evangelization that we must use in order to draw people to the faith. I'm simply issuing a challenge for us as Catholics to use it as a means to stand out, not blend in. Let's never forget souls are on the line, and eternity is at stake.
Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.
St. Josemaria Escriva, pray for us.
St. John Paul the Great, pray for us.