Last Tuesday, Fr. Jacques Hamel gave his life for Jesus Christ. Fr. Jacques was martyred by two jihadists in a Catholic church in Normandy during the sacred liturgy. Shockwaves flew through first world countries by this tragedy so uncommon in these areas.
Our surprise should not be so great. According to Christianity.com, more Christians have been martyred in the 20th century than all other centuries combined. While some argue that these stats may include genocide type killings, and most of these martyrdoms occur in Africa and specifically Nigeria, it does not change the reality that Christian persecution and martyrdom are more frequent than the isolated event that Fr. Hamel’s sacrifice in France seemed to be.
In the 2nd-century, Church Father Tertullian said that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.” While we are in an age of the New Evangelization and find ourselves in a time when the role of the laity has been elevated, Christian discipleship and service are compelling, Christianity, at least in the United States, shows a steady decline. How? Why?
The United States is at the top of technological advances. The USA is the leader in production of digital and media entertainment in the world. The USA is also the country that made the selfie famous.
I would argue that in the United States, narcissism has accomplished what ISIS has not. A culture focused on self cannot be a culture focused on God. Narcissism has infiltrated even the most noble of endeavors. Upon arrival at a recent mission trip site, the leadership let us know that a selfie station had been created. While creating buzz and awareness is good, vainglory was an active participant alongside the missionaries during the service that week.
The answers to these problems are complex and constantly changing. Facebook no longer carries the weight that Snapchat now holds. Teens in different parts of the country put more importance on different forms of social media and media in general. Aside from teen culture, adults find themselves identifying for or against political candidates as a primary form of self-identity. It is a mess.
As ministry leaders, where does this leave us? I would challenge each of us to reflect on the following questions as we plan our programming, our presentation and journey as God’s beloved.
- Is all that your ministry does Christ-centered?
- What role does guilt or shame having in the presentation of topics like sin and redemption?
- In what ways does your ministry foster healthy use of cell phones, social media and media consumption?
For You Personally
- How do you personally engage in media consumption? Is it done in a way that engages the culture without being consumed by it?
- When you post on social media, even when it is Godly content, do you find yourself consumed by likes, follows or shares?
- When was the last time you unplugged for a day or week?
In Romans 16:17-18, St. Paul warns us to “watch out for those who create dissensions and obstacles, in opposition to the teaching that you learned; avoid them. For such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites, and by fair and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the innocent.” While these types of people may not cross our path on a regular basis, everyone can grant them access to their life via their cell phones and social media sites. Yet, Christians find themselves in a unique situation as we are called not only to avoid the obstacles that proponents of narcissism create (whether intentionally or unintentionally), but Christians are also called to share the Good News with them. This challenge becomes an interior battle when narcissism enters the life of a Christian as consumption of self can eat away at one’s ability to consume the very Good News each person is called to proclaim.
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