Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Spamming for Jesus?

'If I had more time I Would have written a shorter post.'

This list of headings may help you find something interesting.
Or, not:

I ran into an annoying sort of automated evangelization Monday. A few hours later, I realized that I was still being annoyed. I had several options, including:
  1. Stay annoyed
  2. Try to forget the incident
  3. Think of a way to use what I'd experienced
Option #1 was the easiest, but not useful: to say the least. Option #2 probably wouldn't have worked. Option #3 meant a bit of work, but I already had some useful ideas. So I started writing this post.

This week's 'Bible and Catechism' post is mostly about evangelization and marketing: not original sin. Maybe I'll get to that next week. Or, not. (May 30, 2012)

' Oh, No: Not Evangelizing! '

I think the words "evangelization" and "evangelizing" have taken quite a beating. With my background, they remind me of:
  • Radio preachers with
    • Unyielding dedication to spreading the gospel of
      • Guilt
      • Shame
      • Commie Plots
    • The latest End Times Bible prophecy
  • Packs of 'born again' college students
    • Patrolling the campus
      • With a meeting coming up
      • A quota of new attendees to meet
  • A disheveled man at a bus stop
    • Holding a largish book
    • Screaming Bible verses
The fellow screaming at commuters didn't have much effect on me, beyond being an annoyance.

(Back to the list of headings)

From the Department of Unintended Consequences

Those radio preachers made a difference, but probably not the way they planned. Thanks in part to their routine rants, I:
  • Developed an appreciation of rock music
  • Took a long, hard look at major religions
  • Eventually become a Catholic
Some college professors, and their version of multiculturalism, helped too. Although, again, probably not the way they planned.

With experiences like mine, I'm sympathetic with folks who cringe or snarl when faced with - or threatened by - "evangelization."

A person would reasonably think that I'd avoid "evangelizing." That person would be right: sort of. I don't want to attack another person with the sort of abrasive, abusive, condescending, preaching that I've encountered.

Happily, I don't have to. Because telling folks that they're the scum of the earth, boosting the headcount at meetings, and yelling Bible verses is not, in my considered opinion, all there is to evangelization. I don't even think those are the best approaches.

(Back to the list of headings)

"Go Therefore...."

My Lord left standing orders, just before leaving:
"Christ sent his apostles so that 'repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations.' 41 'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.' 42 The mission to baptize, and so the sacramental mission, is implied in the mission to evangelize, because the sacrament is prepared for by the word of God and by the faith which is assent to this word:
"The People of God is formed into one in the first place by the Word of the living God. . . . The preaching of the Word is required for the sacramental ministry itself, since the sacraments are sacraments of faith, drawing their origin and nourishment from the Word.43"
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1122)
(Back to the list of headings)

"Teach Christ," But First - - -

I'm not an apostle. For starters, I'm about two thousand years too young to be part of the first set. Turns out, I'm still expected to do apostolic work:
"Since, like all the faithful, lay Christians are entrusted by God with the apostolate by virtue of their Baptism and Confirmation, they have the right and duty, individually or grouped in associations, to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all men throughout the earth...."
(Catechism, 900)
Oh, great. I've got to do what I can to help folks know "the divine message of salvation." First, though, I've got to know that message myself:
"Whoever is called 'to teach Christ' must first seek 'the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus'; he must suffer 'the loss of all things . . .' in order to 'gain Christ and be found in him,' and 'to know him and the power of his resurrection, and [to] share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible [he] may attain the resurrection from the dead.' 17

"From this loving knowledge of Christ springs the desire to proclaim him, to 'evangelize,' and to lead others to the 'yes' of faith in Jesus Christ. But at the same time the need to know this faith better makes itself felt. To this end, following the order of the Creed, Jesus' principal titles - 'Christ,' 'Son of God,' and 'Lord" (article 2) - will be presented. The Creed next confesses the chief mysteries of his life - those of his Incarnation (article 3), Paschal mystery (articles 4 and 5), and glorification (articles 6 and 7)."
(Catechism, 428-429)
(Back to the list of headings)

A Few Rough Patches, and Infinite Depths of Joy

I haven't suffered "the loss of all things." I am surrounded by a good family: four surviving children and a loving wife. Life has been, for me, pretty good. On the other hand, I've:
  • Been used as a sort of lab rat
    • Without my parents' knowledge
  • Lived for decades with
    • Undiagnosed
      • Major depression
      • ADHD-inattentive or
        • Asperger syndrome
        • Something else
    • Pain in my hip joints
      • Until getting them swapped out
        • In my '50s
  • Lost a dear friend to suicide
  • Lost two of six children
    • Nearly lost my wife when the second died
    (June 3, 2012)
Along the way, I've gotten a glimpse or two of an infinite ocean of joy: one which will overwhelm all the fleeting pains. (June 3, 2012)

I could try to describe that unending depth of joy: but it's, well, indescribable. Besides, there are plenty of folks online already who are much better at writing 'uplifting' posts.

(Back to the list of headings)

"A Desire ... to 'Evangelize'

Like the Catechism says:
"...From this loving knowledge of Christ springs the desire to proclaim him, to 'evangelize,' and to lead others to the 'yes' of faith in Jesus Christ. But at the same time the need to know this faith better makes itself felt...."
(Catechism, 429)
I want to 'proclaim Jesus.' That's why I write these posts, partly.

I've also found that the discipline of researching and writing these things helps me stay on-task as I learn about my faith. Quite a lot of wisdom has accumulated as the millennia rolled by: just trying to catch up would be a full-time job, one which would not be finished in a lifetime.

I try to share what I'm learning in these posts. Learning about my Lord, and what His Church has been teaching, and applying what I learn to my decisions and actions: that's what "following Catholic beliefs and practices" is like for me.

Some folks feel their faith intensely. I don't:
"...Truthfully, though, I don't think I've *ever* had that 'deep, keening longing that feels as if it can never be slaked except by an even more overwhelming Presence.' It's not that I don't 'really' believe: at least, I don't think so.

"But those intense 'mountain top' emotional experiences I've read about in 'lives of the Saints' books? Sure, I've 'felt the presence of God' when the Host is consecrated - no big surprise, considering that the Second Person of the Trinity had arrived. I've gotten homesick for the place I'm not at yet. But a sort of overwhelming emotional rush? No.

"On the other hand, I've got a sort of nerdy fascination with God's creation - and a sense of wonder at what the Creator's making...."
(August 12, 2011)
(Back to the list of headings)

Bible Verses and Getting a Grip

The last few verses from Matthew are among my favorites. If you follow this blog, thank you very much; and you've run into this fairly often:
"8The eleven 9 disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.

"10 When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.

"11 Then Jesus approached and said to them, 'All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

"Go, therefore, 12 and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,

"teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. 13 And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.' "
(Matthew 28:16-20)
Jesus says something along the same lines in Mark:
"He said to them, 'Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature....' "
(Mark 16:14)
I could take Mark 16:14, decide that the easiest way to "proclaim the gospel to every creature" would be to set up software to do most of the work. I'd get a 'best of' selection of the New Testament, and add some 'inspirational' slogans:

"...while we were still sinners Christ died for us."

Jesus saves!

"Your sins are forgiven."

I gave my life to Jesus!

The quotes are from Romans 5:8, Luke 7:48, by the way.

(Back to the list of headings)

Preacher Bots

Now, imagine that you're at a website where folks get together to play games and chat: and one of the (people?) doesn't do anything except 'stand there' and post pious slogans.

That's what I ran into on Monday.

There's nothing wrong with what was being posted. It was how the slogans and Bible verses were being presented that bothered me.

Maybe there was a human being somewhere, posting those slogans and Bible bits at regular intervals. I think it's more likely that someone had programmed a 'bot,' sort-of-intelligent software that performs tasks without supervision.

(Back to the list of headings)

Dubiously-Prudent Decisions

Relying on Christians to work out our own procedures has led to some odd behavior. For example, I've been told that some literal-minded folks read Mark 16 and started picking up snakes.

I think "preacher bot" are probably used by folks who sincerely think they've got a good idea. They're using software to drop slogans about Jesus into online conversations. That leaves them free to pursue other interests.

What could be the harm in that? After all, it says "proclaim the gospel," right there in the Bible!

(Back to the list of headings)

Spamming for Jesus?

Some of the folks whose conversations were getting interrupted by that "preacher bot" were clearly annoyed by the intrusion. Some vented their frustration and anger in terms that got edited out by the online service's software. For which I'm grateful. It's a 'family and kids' site.

Judging from the reactions, I'd say that what the bot was doing was creating a nuisance: not evangelizing.

I could be wrong about that. Maybe some of the folks who expressed annoyance at the '**** bot.' will eventually 'see the light,' get fired up, and start a bot of their own: or decide to 'evangelize the old fashioned way: screaming Bible verses to folks waiting at a bus stop.

My guess is that many or most folks would see the 'preacher bot' as a pious version of the bots promoting dubious get-rich-quick offers and improbably cheap pharmaceuticals. My hope is that nobody will associate spammy 'bots for Jesus' with my Lord, and assume that Jesus is just one more lure used by swindlers.

I think engaging others in a social context in order to 'proclaim Christ' is a good idea. I'm not particularly good at it: but others have the gift.

Using 'preacher bots,' or acting like an unusually stupid AI, doesn't seem to do much except annoy the targets. At least the shabby man screaming at commuters cared enough to show up 'in person.'

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Marian Apparition: Champion, Wisconsin

Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.