Sunday, July 8, 2012

Spreading the Gospel, Social Media, a 10-Point List, and All That

Evangelization is a fancy word for spreading the Gospel: telling folks about my Lord.

Whatever it's called, spreading the Gospel sounds like a big responsibility: and a lot of work. I'm a Catholic layman, with no formal theological training. Can't I let someone else evangelize, 'spread the Gospel,' and just go to church once a week?

I've got free will, so I could decide to stop being a practicing Catholic: which would be a daft decision. Since I intend to stay with my Lord's church, I need to spread the Gospel. It's part of being Catholic:
"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 28:19-20)
The Church has more to say, like Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:14; and Catechism of the Catholic Church, 900, 1122.

Basically, as a practicing Catholic I have to do my share of 'making disciples of all nations.' Which isn't the same as forcing folks to say they agree with me. And that's yet another topic. Topics.

Maintaining this blog seemed like a good way to do my evangelizing. I'm always ready to improve my skills, so I was glad to read something on the USCCB Blog.

Social Media, Passing Notes, and Spreading the Gospel

Yesterday I noticed and 'reTweeted' a 'Tweet' by @bostoncatholic, the Archdiocese of Boston's Twitter account. In other words, I passed along a note written by someone else: acknowledging the original writer.

Since quite a few folks use Twitter, or know about the social media service, or have heard jokes about Twitter and 'Tweeting,' I figure that it's safe to use words like "reTweet." I could be wrong about that: which is why I explained what the words meant.

The Archdiocese of Boston was letting folks know about a post written by the Media Relations staff of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, or USCCB:
"The Gospel and Social Media"
USCCB Blog (July 5, 2012)

"Two caveats for evangelizers, that is, those who spread the Gospel today: 1. Use social media and 2. Follow its rules. It's a new day in church work: the computer has replaced the pen, 15 minutes seems like eternity, and if you don't get your message out fast, the audience disappears...."

Eschew Obfuscation, and Other Good Advice

The USCCB Blog post is a quick read. It's also one of the very few blog posts that I've printed out, re-read, and 'studied.' I've underlined, bracketed, and otherwise marked up the printout: and intend to use it as a sort of 'checklist' when I write.

The USCCB Blog post is mostly a 10-point list of good advice for folks using social media:

"...some rules for social media evangelization:"
  1. Translate church teaching
  2. Avoid church speak
  3. Use images, as Jesus did
  4. Understand that social media is social
  5. Social media sometimes calls for a suit of armor
  6. Use the delete button
  7. Spread Catholicism’s fun parts
  8. Remember rules are changing
  9. Remember web messages live forever
  10. Keep it short
    (USCCB Blog)
Those are just the headings. There's a short paragraph with each, explaining what terms like "church speak" mean: and, in that case, explaining why using it isn't effective evangelization. Again, I recommend reading "The Gospel and Social Media." It's good advice for anybody interested in communicating online.

Screen Names and Personal Safety

Something not in that 10-point list is "be yourself." Literally.

There's probably a controversy going on about whether or not it's 'right' to use screen names, pseudonyms for social media. I think it's a good idea, letting readers know who the writer is: usually.

Some folks live in countries where simply sharing an article you found on the Internet is punishable by death:
In tightly-managed countries like that, I think using a screen name makes sense.

Screen Names and Credibility

I live in America, a country with a pretty good track record for tolerating folks who aren't on the same page as the country's leadership. I've used screen names, but don't need to protect myself and my family from thought police. That's why I use my real name in online profiles: Brian Gill; or Brian H. Gill.

I don't think cloaking my identity is a good way to gain credibility. Since I share ideas that should be taken seriously, hiding behind a screen name doesn't seem prudent.

There's something to the idea of being 'transparent,' in the sense of being "free of deceit."
  • Transparent (adjective)
    • Transmitting light
      • Able to be seen through with clarity
    • So thin as to transmit light
    • Free of deceit
    • Easily understood or seen through
      • Because of a lack of subtlety
    (Princeton's WordNet)

'On Twitter, I'm Aluwir'

I've used several screen names: like Norski; Conan the Philosopher; and Aluwir. I like "Norski," since I'm half Norwegian: but found that quite a few other folks like it too: and something like "Norski347" wouldn't be all that memorable.

"Aluwir" is my favorite, since it's easy to 'say,' seems to be memorable: and is, to the best of my knowledge, unique. When someone else gets "Brian Gill" as a screen name, Aluwir is now my second choice:
"Brian Gill" is a surprisingly common name, by the way. For a while someone else with that name had the same sort of job I did: which could have been a little confusing. Anyway, it's my name, and I'm not 'hiding' behind my screen names. Anyone with Internet access and a few minutes could find out that Aluwir or Norski is really Brian H. Gill, some guy living in Sauk Centre, Minnesota.

Where was I? Names, screen names, social media. Not being anonymous. Right.

I want folks to find what I write, and take some of it seriously, so I make an effort to be 'findable' online:
Besides being 'findable,' there's having something worth finding, which is where this post started:

What About the Lemming?

One of my blogs, Narcissus-X, is "a blog entirely devoted to Narcissus-X." I'm pretty sure that nobody thinks the blog's fictional author, an angsty and dubiously-sane artist, is a real person. I enjoy writing posts for Narcissus-X, since it allows me to have fun with language - and indirectly opine about the sort of self-centeredness that's been fashionable lately. I think it's funny, but your experience may vary.

Another blog, Apathetic Lemming of the North, is presumably written by an unusually large lemming who wears flannel shirts. The blog's "About the Lemming" page explains who I am, and why I chose that name for the blog.

From "Friday the Lemming Slept Late," Apathetic Lemming of the North. June 29, 2012.

I'm fairly confident that folks who read Apathetic Lemming of the North realize that a human being is really writing the posts: not a big flannel-wearing Lemming. And that's yet again more topics.

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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.