Technology And Religion Can Go Hand-In-Hand
Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
“How can we draw people to faith when they are constantly preoccupied with modern technology, with cell phones, computers, and Angry Birds?” asked Matt Weber of CatholicTV, epitomizing key issues targeted on Tuesday at “Contagious Faith,” an event sponsored by the Church in the 21st Century Center (C21) at Boston College. Weber’s question characterized a night designed by C21 to be “a conversation about nurturing a contagious faith and the challenges and joys of living out that faith on a daily basis.”
Weber’s partner in the conversation, Tom Groome, is a professor at BC’s School of Theology and Ministry. Groome asserted that practicing religion and living in the modern world are not actually contradictory, as faith is meant to permeate all of life.
Weber’s organization is very much in sync with today’s world. Its 24/7 programming can be viewed for free on many mobile devices.
Not everything is about adapting to new technology. “In restaurants, I’ve been told many times how refreshing it was to see a family openly say grace before a meal,” Weber said. Groome recalled seeing a pregnant woman overcome with emotion after he vowed to add her to his prayer list. The trick is to evangelize, or at least to avoid being an “incognito Catholic,” without imposing.
No matter how the mechanics may evolve according to the times and the uniqueness of each individual, the principle behind nurturing faith remains the same: religious heritage is passed down most effectively through the community and the family.
“There were the monastic schools, the cathedral schools, which covered about 4-5 percent of the population,” Groome said, “but the Western world became Christian practically by osmosis. The school, while important, cannot replace the home.” To take advantage of social media is only to continue the ancient trend of evangelizing through communication.
Perhaps the only core aspect to have changed revolves around one key word: intention. Today, people have to take their own initiative to practice religion because it is only fashionable to be “spiritual” rather than “religious,” and also because things are no longer true only because the Church said so.
“I would like to raise my children as my parents raised me, but I was part of the last generation to grow up without the Internet,” Weber said. “So, why practice the rituals and honor the traditions if the process may be becoming more difficult?”
“There’s no excuse for a bad liturgy, but while attending Mass, one feels the presence of something so much bigger and more powerful, a greater good,” Groome said.
Besides going to Mass, other possibilities for religion can be “terribly simple,” according to Groome. “I asked a mother to tell her child, ‘I love you, God loves you, sleep well,’ each night before bed. The dogmas can come later, but now there is solid groundwork to build on.”
Questions raised by the audience after Weber and Groome’s presentation added new dynamics to the conversation. One man was indignant that Catholic educational institutions were “moving away from serving the poor and toward catering to the middle- and upper-classes.” A woman had travelled from New Hampshire to ask about techniques in raising awareness in her parish through media such as television and Twitter.
Then came the most provocative question: “How would you respond to claims by atheists who may see the passing down of religion in families in the same light as the passing down of racism?” In response, Groome said, “There is nothing more dangerous than bad religion,” citing specific statistics of extremism as warnings on how not to practice religion.
“Each family can find the rituals that most suit themselves,” Groome said, but it is crucial that they do find a way to practice and to live their faith.