Here at Austin Catholic New Media, we strive to harness the most popular social technologies of the day to aid in the New Evangelization. In other words, since everyone and his grandma is on Facebook, can we share our Catholic lives in photos and status updates? Can we use YouTube to teach people about Catholicism? And what is all that stuff, if you don’t already know? Brandon Vogt, blogger at The Thin Veil, brings together various authors writing on this very topic in his book The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists, and Bishop who Tweet.
Recognizing that New Media is not entirely new anymore, Vogt begins the book with an introductory chapter connecting previous media revolutions to this “new” one. He rightly points out that the Church got into printing, radio, and even web sites early on. (For all its awkward design and navigation, Vatican.va has been around since 1995.) She has been a bit slower to dive into the waters of New Media, but the efforts thus far have been remarkable.
Vogt gathers contributors on a variety of New Media topics. Austin’s own Jennifer Fulwiler offers a summary of the influence of online forums, blogging, and blog comments on her conversion from atheism to Catholicism. Fr. Robert Barron explains that people are drawn to his preaching style via YouTube sermons, particularly people who might never go anywhere near a church or priest otherwise. Marcel LeJeune, a campus ministry colleague of mine who blogs at Mary’s Aggies, rightly insists that the only way to hold onto the youth of the Church is to meet them where they live now—and that is behind a computer or cell phone screen. Matt Warner of flockNote and Lisa Hendey of CatholicMom.com emphasize the crucial role of New Media in forming and enriching face-to-face community. Thomas Peters (the American Papist) and Shawn Carney (of the original 40 Days for Life right here in Texas) share the real effects of New Media in bringing people together around godly causes. The opinions, ideas, and effects of New Media on the Church are many.
Having been a blogger for nearly ten years, a Facebook user since 2004, and working with college students now, I am fairly well-versed in New Media. The Church and New Media is the kind of book that is great for beginners and is perfectly set in its historical moment. Unfortunately, that means that it will quickly be outdated, and it won’t be as useful for New Media users who know what they’re doing. It also reminded me that “popular” has changed meaning in recent years. The people whom I consider popular may be nobodies to others, and their Catholic New Media “experts” could be someone I’ve never heard of.
Perhaps the most captivating aspect of New Media is its evanescence: now, you can be famous in a matter of hours and forgotten within days. Rumors spread must faster than wildfire, but the Truth can be broadcast just as quickly. Our task as New Media evangelists is to spread the message of a two-thousand-year-old religion through conduits that may fade with the goal of supporting neverending faith and the joy it brings.
Up next: after a year writing book reviews for ACNM, I offer some tips on media discernment
This review was written as part of the Tiber River Reviewer Program. I received a free copy of the book in exchange for this honest review of it. For more reviews of Catholic books, visit Tiber River. To purchase Catholic products of all kinds (not just books), visit Aquinas and More Catholic Goods.