Why do we need New Media?
What do blogs, podcasts, web sites, viral videos and other virtual expressions of faith have to add to the mission of the Church? After all, we went almost 2,000 years without access to these means of communication and the Church has done pretty well for herself, hasn’t she?
There is a part of me that asks these questions seriously and another part of me that asks them in jest. As a Catholic, it’s hard not to look at our faith and think it’s pretty incredible. After all, we offer people the opportunity to stand in the ACTUAL presence of Christ every day, and to directly follow his commandment by receiving his body and blood in the Eucharist. What can all of the bells and whistles of the modern age offer that could even come close to that?
The answer, if we’re honest, is nothing. New media, in the Catholic sense, has nothing new to add to Catholicism. That is not to say, however, that it isn’t vitally important to the future of the Church.
A recent article in the National Catholic Reporter cited that there are now more than 22 million ex-Catholics in America. By that calculation, the article said, one in three Americans raised Catholic have left the church.
Looking at these startling numbers, we have to ask, “Why?” and “How can this be true?” If our church has so much to offer and holds the full truth of God and his incarnation in Jesus, why is it that so many are walking away? We cannot and should not blame God for the decline in the number of faithful Catholics. Rather, we have to look inward and ask: how did we let them slip through our fingers?
Ever since John Paul II called for a New Evangelization, the Church has discussed just what this charge entails. Is it a renewed effort in sending out missionaries? Is it a new way of understanding the overall mission of the church? Or, is the New Evangelization a determination to reclaim the truth of the church and take back the message from a world that has, for too long, sought to undermine her message of love and peace?
In one way or another, we have failed to share the good news, not just with the world outside, but with those who fill our pews. Expressions of the Catholic faith through new media are an opportunity to put authentic Catholic perspectives into formats that are accessible and familiar in the digital age. As more and more American’s flee traditional media, which has long taken an antagonistic position towards the church, New Media might be just the opportunity we’ve been looking for to put the Church back where it belongs in the cultural conversation.
“The harvest is abundant, but the laborers are few…” (Luke 10:2).
So let’s get to work!