Reflecting on media literacy for Catholics

Edward Sri, the author of “Into His Likeness,” says there is a battle going on for our minds.

It’s his way of saying that we live in a marketplace of ideas, opinions, and philosophies or ideologies, all of which are competing to shape how we think, what we value, and in turn, how we act.

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“Unfortunately,” Sri writes, “many Christians who go to Mass each Sunday, pray often, and sincerely want to follow Christ are the same people who fill their minds the rest of the week with conversations, books, shows, movies, songs, images, blogs and videos that undermine their faith.”

This includes Catholic media which have the ability to distract us and only limited value in forming our minds well.

“Just because the media they’re consum­ing is often Catholic … doesn’t mean it’s all good for their souls,” Sri warns.  The sheer amount of time people spend on such media, and the influence of the ideas they hear there, hinder them from thinking clearly, perceiving truth and hearing the voice of God.

I’m sure this applies to media on the left and on the right, but I have been particularly aware lately of how many sincere Catholics seem to depend on an organization called “Church Militant” for their understanding of the Catholic faith, the church, and people in the church, including Pope Francis.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia has called this an organization that is “sincere but destructive,” one which “sow[s] division wherever it treads.” A statement released by his archdiocese warned that “the sole desire of … Church Militant is to create division, confusion, and conflict within the Church.”

Too many Catholic media sources operate much like Fox News — and at the other end of the ideological spectrum, MSNBC; they frame reality in such a way that their consumers become closed-minded, judgmental and self-righteous.

Dr. Sri offers some practical suggestions about how to ensure we are not misled by secular or religious media that would distract us from deeper and more challenging truths. He mentions reading the Bible, the catechism, good spiritual books, and participating in Bible study or small faith formation groups and adult formation opportunities.

I would offer one more suggestion: listening more carefully to the Sunday Gospel.

Here, after all, is the source of our faith and the heart of our faith.

Even when the homily is not helpful, each of us is capable of reflecting on the Gospel and discerning how it challenges what we think, what we value and how we act.

I think many of us are reluctant to do this, not because we are lazy, but because we know, intuitively, that what we hear from the Gospel will be much more challenging than any doctrine or devotion.

What do you think?

Pray and Reflect

Use one or more of the following questions for personal reflection, group discussion or private journaling:

  • On a scale of 1 (low) to 5 (high) rate how much you depend on social media to shape your opinions, interpretations and actions. How would you have rated yourself five years ago?
  • In what ways are you aware of the “battle for our minds” that Dr. Sri refers to? How does this battle affect your under­standing or practice of the faith? What steps have you taken (or could you take) to avoid being misled? How can we prepare our children, grandchildren and students to understand this environment?
  • In today’s media environment, I think it’s important to …

Learn More

Read this perspective on the battle for the minds of American Catholics: http://bit.do/surprising-ecumenism.

Read the pope’s comments about social media: http://bit.do/popes-message.

Join the Conversation

Add your comments to this week’s discussion at http://bit.do/disciples-corner.

Dave Cushing is director of adult faith formation for the Catholic parishes in Waterloo. The Disciple’s Corner is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Dubuque’s Faith Formation Division and The Witness. It is funded through the Archdiocesan Educational Development Board. It is designed to help catechists, teachers, parents, grandparents, guardians and other adults grow in their appreciation of their role as disciples of Jesus Christ.

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