It’s a Small World, After All

Blogosphere: A Map

Sometimes I worry that people may read this blog. Whenever I wander through other parts of the Catholic blogosphere, I become even more anxious. What happens, I wonder, when an average, decent, God-loving person stumbles into the Catholic blogosphere? What happens when a typical Catholic, who believes and serves in the fields of everyday life, gets a whiff of the rancor in the comment blocks of a typical Catholic blog? In a way, I hope they never find us blogging away in the dark forests of cyberland busy about our bloodsport.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of hearing David Brooks speak at Boston College. Brooks, as you may know, writes a bi-weekly column for the New York Times. And he may be, as one person in the audience called him, every liberal’s favorite conservative. For what it’s worth, I want to be just like Brooks when I grow up. I really appreciate Brook’s ability to hold contrasting ideas alongside on another while still making sense. For example, he told us that most politicians are reasonable and concerned people, in private. In public, however, we only see them ridiculously cling to the party talking points. Brooks was trying to keep in check our cynical attitudes towards Washington. However, a few moments later he suggested that no one in Washington, not even Obama, can rescue us from an impending economic crisis that could reduce our GDP by 25 percent. He blames a drastic change in American culture over the past quarter century.

During the time for questions, Brooks was asked about the effects of the 24-hour news cycle upon Washington. He suggested that this phenomenon makes more of an impact during campaigns when each side must monitor dozens of media outlets, listening for potential points of attack against the opponent’s campaign. Moreover, he said that market for the cable news programs is mercifully small and, therefore, has little impact on the voting population. For evidence he reminded the audience of Rush Limbaugh’s all-out assault against John McCain in the 2000 primaries in the days leading up to the election in South Carolina. McCain, in spite of Limbaugh, won the South Carolina primary. Brooks concluded that if Limbaugh could not sway voters in very conservative South Carolina, then he cannot sway voters anywhere. Most people do not attend to the constant drone of Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and MSNBC.

When we started this blog we knew the blogosphere, in particular the Catholic blogosphere, was a polarized world. We wanted to be different, and, perhaps a little naively on our part, we thought we might set the cyberworld on fire with the love of Christ. We chose as a guiding principle Ignatius’s admonition to “spin” the other’s words in the most charitable way. We write on a range of topics. We’ve struck a tone that, I hope, is more “for your consideration” than “the sky is falling.” Nonetheless, the blog has mirrored, at times, the polarization that has nearly crippled public discourse in America. At times the comments, my own included, have sunk to the level of the chatterers on the TV. However, on the whole I think we have managed mostly to remain civil. Nonetheless, I fear that some nice person might see Catholic bloggers and commenters at each other’s throats and wonder what’s up with those crazy people.

Brooks made me rest a little easier. I imagine that the audience who follows the Catholic blogs is even smaller than that of Rush Limbaugh. In other words, we cannot do too much damage. Nonetheless, that does not liberate us to whack away at one another with anger, venom, and curses. Indeed, the Catholic blogosphere is a very small world but still a world in need of grace.

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8 Responses to It’s a Small World, After All

  1. Could you point out where this negativity domiciles
    itself, here? I don’t see, any! I see mature
    adult discussion, which I find absent elsewhere,
    and everywhere but here!

    At least we aren’t like the Apostles were, arguing
    about who is going to be higher in heaven!
    And even that, didn’t upset the Master!

    You need the Kohlberg yardstick at core: most
    adults are immature! That’s to whom Limbau aims!
    But then again, he doesn’t “do” religion. You do!
    That’s a huge difference!

    Learn to discuss: God is doing that with us in
    every Age!

    (Hope that gives you more confidence to fight the
    good fight: of Faith!)

  2. Linda G says:

    Not to worry. You’re doing very well. And who do I think I am to pass that sort of judgement? Only a writer — which gives me the proofreading skills with which to sort wheat from chaff. Translated that means that the Catholic Catechism is the same for everyone universally. Every priest is representative of the one Christ ergo his replies and explanations centre on universal truth.

    Of course as humans we are unique and explain things according to our own manner of explication. It’s always great to see the same thing from a different angle.

    Laity on the other hand does not have the years and years of theological study and insight ergo our understanding may be well intended albeit slightly off. Or way out in space.

    It’s like your neighbour telling you she thinks you have a condition so you go to the doctor who notes your symptoms and does the proper testing. S/he says you have a condition and that is what ultimately you believe.

    You are doing well. Thank you!

  3. Father Joseph LeBlanc says:

    All of you are doing fine .. .if you start worrying about what people think, then, you are in trouble. I too am a fan of David Brooks and do recommend his piece in the New York Times to you: Democrats Rejoice. It is balanced and a good read. Write what is inside your heart and let it be and then say, Amen, Amen, Amen.

  4. Henry says:

    Jeff,

    I agree with Virgilijus, the majority of comments are balanced and moderate – especially compared to other sites I have visited. Moreover, unity does not mean uniformity!

    But let’s say, for arguments sake, that these sentences were true: “Nonetheless, the blog has mirrored, at times, the polarization that has nearly crippled public discourse in America. At times the comments, my own included, have sunk to the level of the chatterers on the TV. However, on the whole I think we have managed mostly to remain civil. Nonetheless, I fear that some nice person might see Catholic bloggers and commenters at each other’s throats and wonder what’s up with those crazy people.”

    So what? Is the primary goal of the followers of Christ to create a utopian ethical system based on niceness? Well, if that’s what a person thinks, then he/she, for example, should read the letters that St. Jerome wrote to St. Augustine.

    No, I think it’s a mistake to accept this as the measure of whether or not we are “good” Christians. As Virgilijus rightly hinted at in an earlier comment, we are called to be witnesses of an experience, the experience that it is worth it to give your life to Christ.

    I end by sharing with you a quote that has been of great value to me, because I, like you, am well aware of my incapacity, limits, etc.:

    We are not called to be successful; we are called to be faithful. Mother Theresa.

    Your “job” is to be a witness, all the other stuff is Christ’s problem. Don’t worry, Christ works through those he has possessed whether they realize it or not!

  5. Henry says:

    One point of clarification: I am not advocating that we now start to tear each other apart – respect and civil discourse is vital and is owed to each person who writes a comment simply because of the fact that the One who loves me also loves them!

    Pax,

    Henry

  6. crystal says:

    I appreciate the chance to comment here and also the courtesy of the posters in explaining concepts, especially since I usually don’t express the typical Catholic point of view.

  7. Henry:
    You add some needed further angles of vision,
    in these dispersed-intelligence times of white-water
    learning, sharing, and experiencing!
    Especially that the sign of a growing maturity
    mandates an interactive, non-homogenized, unsanitized
    approach to one’s reality, and especially religion
    which is at the core subconscious of everyone,
    believer and non-believer alike!

    What hopefully continues to distinguish this blog
    site is both informed content plus informed discussion.
    The checking-in of one’s ego at the door of the
    keyboard is preferred, and mandated when/if a topic
    ever goes off the rails of civil obedience (!)

    You reminded me, Henry, of a salient quote that
    haunts the human communications enterprise, though!
    Cute as it may be, profound in accuracy it is:
    “Most people think they are thinking when all
    they are doing is rearranging their prejudices!”
    -A.N. Whitehead
    Jung’s research on personality type theory fully
    supports that! And so as another philosopher has
    quipped, and that certainly applies to us all,
    ‘it is the sign of a reflective intelligence
    to ask a profound question!’
    Something to that effect! May they keep coming!
    Since when people stop believing in God,
    they believe in anything!!!

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