The great God-googler, Mike Hayes over at BustedHalo.com, has put together a wonderful list of New Year’s Resolutions based on the teaching and example of Pope Francis. Do yourself a treat, if you haven’t already, and go read the whole list here. So, I hope that Mike won’t mind if I do a riff from his list, with particular emphasis on how we Catholics “live” on the internet these days. The National Catholic Reporter, for example, as well as many bloggers and others, have decided to disable comments on their websites because the language used in responses crosses the line of courteous, let alone CHRISTIAN, discourse. With a profound nod to Mike, therefore, I’d like to reflect on his seven resolutions as they might apply to internet courtesy. My friend and brother deacon, Greg Kandra, did something similar during Advent with an Internet Examination of Conscience; read it here.
But first, a bit of fun. As I have made clear here and elsewhere, I have a profound admiration for Pope St. John XXIII. Mike posted a picture of Pope Francis as part of his blog post; is it just me, or is there not a remarkable similarity between Francis and John (in more ways than one)?
Here’s Mike’s list of resolutions, based on the Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelium gaudium:
Resolution #1: Be Joyful
Joy, as I pointed out in an earlier reflection on the Exhortation, is “the infallible sign of God’s presence” (to quote Teilhard). If we truly believe the Truth of the Gospel, we should be filled with Joy and gratitude at the very core of our being! There should be no such thing as a “sourpuss” Christian. I resolve to reflect such joy in this blog. I also hope that in the words used and responses to other posts will always be characterized by that joy. I ask that visitors to this site try to do the same.
Resolution #2: Share Your Joy
The Pope is so right: We must not only BE joyful; we should all share that joy. We should be the kind of Christian who says, “I’m good; the rest of you are on you are on your own!” That’s one of the goals of this blog. I am proud of our great Tradition, and I become quite frustrated at attempts to restrict the Tradition to one or another theo-political point of view! I resolve to do my best to present the joy of the Gospel from the point of view of the whole of Scripture and Tradition. This will be guaranteed to arouse the ire of extremists on either side of the spectrum, but so be it. More about this later in the list.
Resolution #3: Exclude No One and Restore Dignity
The Pope has always stressed, as have his immediate predecessors, that God excludes no one from his love, and the salvation is open to all who come to God. Perhaps it’s simply our flawed human nature that leads us to want to choose sides, one over and against another. “We’re right and good; you’re wrong and bad.” Another way to think about this is the tendency to have an “us versus them” attitude. Some websites and blogs — even Catholic ones, even Catholic ones hosted by clergy! — seem to thrive on exclusionary language, mocking others who may disagree about things. I resolve not to do such things here and invite people who may feel I have crossed such a line to draw my attention to it so I can correct it.
While the Pope’s emphasis in this regard is largely economic, I think there’s a clear application to cyberspace as well. A famous Catholic priest-author was once said to have “never had an unpublished thought”! There’s simply no need to respond to every little thing (or big thing, for that matter). I resolve to post only on things that are of particular interest or concern. On the other hand, if folks would like to raise certain topics or suggest lines of inquiry, just let me know! The questions would be “do I want to post on this?” and “Do I need to post on that?”
Resolution #5: Serve, Don’t Rule
OK, as one of my own teachers once opined, “The job of a professor is to profess!” However, all such opining here is, I resolve, designed to serve the common good. Ii hope that this blog can be a service for others, not a platform for bloviating.
Resolution #6: Practice Non-Violent Communication
Words matter; they can heal, they can hurt, they can destroy. I resolve to attempt a level of discourse that reflects healing, peace and harmony. Again, should readers find the language here offensive, please let me know.
Resolution #7: Combat the Tendency Toward Extremes
Extremism is almost always problematic. As the old adage has it, “virtus in media stat”: Virtue stands in the middle. As before, I resolve to avoid extremes and promote balance in all things. There are so many sites in which extremes are promoted in language and attitude; I hope NOT to be one of them. It seems to me that culturally we have lost civility and balance in discourse. When we disagree with someone, there is a tendency to demonize them. I hope that here we can disagree with courtesy and respect.