He’s also now officially an author, and his book is GREAT. He was gracious enough to answer some questions I tossed his way, and then patient enough to bear with me when I forgot to get my act together before my trip and post it. Enjoy!
Tell us a little about what inspired you to compile The Church and New Media: Blogging Converts, Online Activists, and Bishops Who Tweet.
Well, as I looked around the world of online Catholicism, I noticed a few things.First, the institutional Church–including parishes, dioceses, and the Vatican–was barely using new media. Second, plenty of individual Catholics were doing great things through blogs, social networks, podcasting, and interactive websites. Third, a number of Catholics understand the potential of new media, but don’t know where to begin. And if they do know the basics, they don’t know how to use new media faithfully and effectively.
So the book was written in response to that landscape. It familiarizes Catholics with the “digital continent” and provides examples, tips, and advice on how to engage it.
This project must have been a huge undertaking. How did it evolve–and even surprise you–from start to finish?
Putting the book together was fairly challenging. A book with one author is difficult enough, but one with twelve contributors, a Foreword author, an Afterword author, and a couple dozen sidebars–each including quotes from experts or Church documents–was a real logistical challenge. I really should’ve thanked GMail in the Acknowledgement section for without it I would have been swamped by the hundreds of emails pertaining to the book.
I think the most surprising thing, though, was that everyone I asked to participate gave me an enthusiastic “Yes!” The contributors are some of the best teachers, writers, and activists within the Church, and many of them are personal heroes of mine. So I was blown away by their willingness to take part.
It’s kind of like writing a letter to the Olympic Dream Team, inviting them to shoot hoops with you in your driveway, and then one day hearing them ring your doorbell asking if you’re ready.
What was your favorite part of the book?
Oh, this is a really difficult question–it’s like deciding which of your children is your favorite! I loved every chapter for different reasons and I think different audiences will each appreciate different chapters.
What part of your book do you think Mary and Jesus most enjoy or approve of?
Great question! Since Mary always points to the mission of her son–“do whatever he tells you”–and the mission of Jesus is the mission of the Church, I think the whole book would please both of them. For the whole book looks at how new media can serve this same mission: to evangelize, to form, to cultivate community, and to bring about justice.
Considering how surprising and startling both Jesus and Mary are, however, they would probably say their favorite part was the Acknowledgment section, for both are humble of heart.
What challenges do you see facing us as Catholics as New Media grows to be even more a part of how we communicate?
I think the two biggest challenges are actually opposites of each other. As in the rest of the spiritual life, the danger lies in embracing one of two extremes. For example, when it comes to sexuality, the two dangers are puritanism, a rejection of all things sexual or bodily, and indulgence, which is an overvaluing of sex and the body. Chastity is the healthy middle-ground.
With Catholics and new media, the two extremes are avoidance, which usually results from fear, and uncritical adoption, which considers new media to be God’s greatest gift to mankind. I think the wiser response is what I call “prudent engagement.” With caution and awareness of the new media’s danger, we can maximize its power while minimizing its problems.
In my Conclusion to the book I lay out twelve future trends in the Church and new media relationship–six positive and six negative– that help people approach new media with wisdom and prudence.
How do intend your book–and the accompanying website–to help readers as they use New Media?
The website, www.churchandnewmedia.com, will act as an organic extension of the book. It will enable individual Catholics, parishes, and dioceses to use new media effectively by providing extra content not found in the book. To that end we’ve got an active blog where we post relevant tips and articles, and a pretty robust Resources section that should help out a lot of people.
What projects are you working on next? Do you have anything coming as a result of this project?
In terms of new media, my big project is maintaining www.churchandnewmedia.com. The book is only the beginning of this Catholic new media conversation, one I hope we’ll see happening in more places and for many more years.
In terms of future book projects, I’m already working on another book dealing with one of the Church’s dirtiest topics:”social-justice”. Catholic social teaching was one of the most alluring things that drew me into the Church three years ago, yet I think the topic has been mostly ignored, misinterpreted, and hijacked. So I wanted to write a practical book that would illuminate Catholic social teaching through the lives of the saints. I want to show simple ways that we can live with justice and compassion by gazing on the blueprint laid out by the saints.