Social media in-and-of-itself is a good. Social media has given me the opportunity to become a writer and to grow in knowledge and skill in that area. I have been able to interact with people across the world who have written to me in response to articles that I have been blessed to publish. We can now keep up with friends and family worldwide and make new friends across the globe. This is a wonderful side of technology however, there is a dangerous trend in Catholic circles to respond to others in writing in a manner that is uncharitable at best, and sinful at worst. I know I am not the only person who has watched this trend with deep concern. I left Facebook for this very reason. I got tired of the fighting and yelling.
Of the Dead xkcd
Here are some suggestions that we need to keep in mind as we engage with others, Catholic and non-Catholic, in social media. Every Mass we attend ends with one of the following “Go forth, the Mass is ended, Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” or “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life. ” Do we glorify God when we scream and rant at other people who we disagree with on social media? Can we evangelize in this manner? No, in fact, chances are when we act in this manner we need to get to Confession when it is next available. Plus, the people we are engaging with will shut down immediately. Our Baptismal call is to bring the world into conformation with the Most Holy Trinity. This must be done in charity, truth, and also with respect of the free will of the other person. Admonishment of the sinner must be done in love and charity, not out of our own sinful anger and pride. And as hard as it is to understand, admonishment of the sinner is a call by God and we are not to go around admonishing everyone. Typically, when we “love” to admonish others, we are ignoring our own sins. “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye, ’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye. ”No one will be converted to Christ if they are browbeaten by the other party. Our admonishment, when it is called for, must be born of charity and prudence, not anger and pride. Admonishment is a holy endeavor. The advent of social media has given us a false sense of importance, which very often leads to pride. We are convinced that every thought in our head must be shared and that we have the right to tell everyone what we think. From the Catholic perspective, this is not true.
We have an obligation to live lives ordered to prudence. This means checking our tongue and discerning whether we are really called by God to engage another person in debate. It also means accepting in humility that our every thought is not necessarily correct. We often do not understand our own motives or how experiences and emotions can blind us in the face of certain topics. Prudence must be the order of the day, so that we can avoid sinning in social media. We must learn how to discern when to share our thoughts and when to keep them to ourselves. Here is the question we must ask ourselves when we seek to engage with others in social media: Do I desire to bring Christ to others or to be right all of the time? It is impossible to evangelize others, even cafeteria Catholics, when all we do is rant and rave at them. The assent to moral truths comes from an encounter with the Living God. When we love Christ, then we are able through the supernatural gift of faith, to love His teachings. A person who does not know Christ or love Christ cannot possibly fathom why we live as we do. This is precisely why our job is to show people Christ. It is not to tack on wins for our ego. Most of the time when we first encounter someone struggling with the Church or Christianity we need to listen. We have to come to them with an open heart to hear what their struggles are in accepting Christ and His teachings. Perhaps they have been hurt, are burdened by guilt, struggle with anger, or they are confused. We can’t possibly reach them and proclaim the Good News if all we do is talk, especially if all we do is yell at them. I can also tell you this is true as a writer. If you are going to yell at me, I am not going to listen to your point. I will either ignore it, delete it, try to write a short charitable response, or laugh at the absurdity of it. I have done all of these things.
When we engage with others, Catholic and non-Catholic, in social media, we are dealing with other human beings, not a computer screen. We need to stop dehumanizing others in social media. The Internet and social media are wonderful tools. They are goods in themselves as long as we use them in a properly ordered manner. They are not a chance for us to go carte blanche and sin in cyberspace to strangers, family, or friends. We can still sin sitting on our couch at home with a computer or phone in front of us. We have an obligation to be light and truth to others in charity. We do not have a right to be right all of them time, yell at people, or voice every word that goes through our heads. We must foster through habitual action the virtue of prudence. We need to be more willing to listen. We need to stop being presumptuous, which is another sin. It’s time to start approaching social media as Catholics and that is with an open heart that gives the benefit of the doubt, while sharing the Good News. We cannot possibly share the love of Christ if we are locked in sinful anger and pride. Let us go out and ‘glorify God by our lives’. Constance T. Hull is a wife, mother, homeschooler, and a graduate student theologian with an emphasis in philosophy. Her desire is to live the wonder so passionately preached in the works of G. K. Chesterton and to share that with her daughter and others. While you can frequently find her head inside of a great work of theology or philosophy, she considers her husband and daughter to be her greatest teachers. She is passionate about beauty, working towards holiness, the Sacraments, and all things Catholic. She is also published at The Federalist, Public Discourse, and blogs frequently at Swimming the Depths ( ).
Blessings while we are not called to judge we are to admonish. There are times when I have a temple moment. I m at the age of understanding walking away from an argument has its merits, however in writing the release valve is easier unplugged when you feel that temple moment. Is there justifiable verbal combat, a just war theory on paper? As a veteran my perspective may be different, my pen becomes my shoulder mount as I patrol the battleground of my faith wanting to protect it from any incursion from the enemy. And, as clergy I understand not every letter written on that battlefield is a letter home. So we live to fight another day. Thanks for the inspiration Constance. Yea a lot of people are really rude and mean on the internet. But Jesus said Don t call your brother Raqa or you fool I commented earlier this morning about this great article, but I do not see any comments? Weird Sorry about that, Bernadette. Our system flagged a bunch of comments (for some weird reason) and I just got to them all. Thanks for your comments and pardon the delay. Pamela, I agree with you about pointing out that in urgent times softness and niceness may not be what is helpful. Humanity is in crisis! I understand that the tone of a comment can be pride, but it may not necessarily be. John the Baptist didn t mince words for example. He would not have been deemed particularly soft and sweet in his time. I think that the concept of niceness may be a little too much in the realm of the cultural value of tolerance and political correctness. The Lord himself will judge the pure intention of a solid rebuke. And we need reprimand in our culture which can also be in the realm of love. Getting harsh is wrong, it s true, but I think correcting can seem to be a responsibility one might feel answerable to God for not doing (I hope it s not sinfu to write.
It could also be driven by anger at certain people that let you down or the compulsion could be separate from the anger that could set the sinful tone. I can t decide. Thank you for the article, which is very well done. This topic is very important and will continue to be so. Maybe a book or longer treatment as well. It relates to so many things such as balancing evangelization vs. Apologetics. Or Judging vs. Rebuking or correcting sin. So many in the Church get this wrong b/c their hearts are not focused on patience, love, docility, open hearts and minds, listening, suffering a true desire to be/share Christ with others. I do have only one other insight to share w/ you. Great article. Very needed. And yes, among Catholics on the net too. Well said, Laurie. In retrospect, I wish I hadn t used the word nicely since, as you infer, being nice simply facilitates today s political correct culture. You yourself use political labels that have no place within the Church theologically. There is no such thing as a conservative or a liberal Catholic. It is Catholic or not Catholic. I am afraid correction using the same error you accused me of isn t very effective. While I appreciate your thoughts, I am going to have to disagree with you. The first lesson my graduate theology professors taught me was that we do not use political language within the Church because it belongs in political philosophy, not theology.
Cafeteria Catholic is a much more PC term than heretic. Thanks! Correcting must be born of charity, not pride. Far often we get this wrong.