Last week’s Catholic New Media Conference in Dallas left me puzzled. Many of the speakers and other participants with whom I spoke were full of “spiritual direction, discerning, charisms,” etc. That’s what I call full-bore spiritual jargon. I felt as though I had dropped in from another planet.
Don’t get me wrong – they were lovely people. At the same time, they seemed to live in a parallel universe to the one I’ve been inhabiting for the last several decades. If you were into apologetics, arguing with militant atheists, defending doctrine, elucidating ethics – these were the folks for you. An online world of people who seem to live for talking about religion.
At the same time, this meeting was supposed to be about “the new evangelization” (a term that is making me increasingly nervous). At best, these blogs, podcasts, comment wars, and tweets seemed more about fine-tuning the already-evangelized and/or already-interested. Oddly enough, it reminded me of the original tract movements in England and the USA whose goal was to hang on to Protestants in the midst of the distractingly urban industrial revolution. Preaching to form a better choir. But new media or old, this presumes an interest in the topic. Make an atheist into a Christian. Clarify a Protestant into a Catholic. Etc.
Many, if not most, of the people I know don’t give a fig about religion. They’re doing just fine without it, thank you very much. Maybe they harbor prejudices from their childhood or the media. Maybe they never give it a thought at all. Whether it’s the Four Spiritual Laws or 2,000 years of the splendor of Catholicism or Orthodoxy, it’s “thanks but no thanks” (and that’s assuming you got their attention for a second anyway).
There’s nothing like going to a conference looking for answers and coming home with even more questions. But maybe that’s why I was there….