Calling All Catholics….Can You Please Stand Up?

Starting with a Disclaimer:

Before I dive in, I feel like I have to be very clear. I know I have readers from many different faith backgrounds, from aethiest to non-catholic Christians BUT as the title suggests, the intended audience for this particular post is my fellow Catholics. Therefore, I have not gone into apologetics surrounding various claims about the Catholic faith. I will also go ahead and call myself out about a couple things. First, I am aware that I speak in generalizations and there are always exceptions to every rule. Second, I am acutely aware I am speaking from my own personal viewpoint, which, yes, is shaped by my personal background including my social class, race, cultural upbringing, and past experiences. I do my best to try and take that into account before formulating an opinion but I also recognize I will never be 100% free of my background. With that being said, anyone and everyone is welcome to come along for my little spiel!

A Little Experiment

Let’s start with a little experiment (just an experiment, not dissertation-worthy evidence). Go to Instagram and search the hashtag #christianblogger. Likely, about 300,000 posts will appear. Next, search the hashtag #catholicblogger. Chances are less than 5,000 posts will appear.  Interesting right? Now, let’s try a different one.  Go search the hashtag #christian and about 6.4 million posts will show up.  Now go search the hashtag #catholic. Roughly, 2.4 million posts appear.  Those are some big gaps.  Now you might say, “Well, Leah, Catholics are Christians.” 100% agreed! There may be a good portion of those #christian posts that are indeed from Catholics.  If that is the case, I pose the question, is there a reason they are not identifying themselves as such? (not meant to be a criticism, just posing the question).  Let’s say for arguments sake, since Catholics are Christians, that all #catholicbloggers are also #christianbloggers.  If that is the case, then

Catholic bloggers make up less than 2% of the Christian blogger group.

Less. than. 2. percent. Let that sink in for a moment. Okay, stay with me here.  Now go look at #catholic again, don’t just look at the number but look at the posts themselves.  Now go look at #christian and do the same thing.  Chances are, when looking at the #catholic photos, you will see a lot of paintings or statues of Mary.  When you look at #christian photos, what do you see? You will likely see some really well-crafted, well-edited, creative, inspirational photos about prayer and personal relationships with Christ.  Yikes. Are we starting to see a problem?

Okay… But why?

So what gives? Clearly there is a discrepancy.  There are millions of Catholics across the globe, but why can’t we readily find them on social media?  While I would like to speak from a more global perspective, I do not want to venture too far out of my wheel-house as I am going to be speaking from an American middle-class perspective. We live in an internet-based society.  That is a fact.  It’s undeniable and it isn’t changing.  Our youth are growing up ON THE INTERNET.  Yes, you can shelter them from it to some extent but it’s there.  It exists and it is EXTREMELY influential.  I am going to say that again for the people in the back… IT IS EXTREMELY INFLUENTIAL.  The non-catholic Christian churches have picked up on that, clearly, and they are doing a great job at it.  Heck, they offer online church services for those who can’t make it in on Sundays.  They have a copious amount of vloggers, webinars, bloggers, websites, viral videos, etc.  Youth pastors engage teens through their own personal social media accounts with their own well-crafted graphic design themes and professional looking photos.

Non-catholic Christian churches honestly have mastered the art of marketing, particularly to their youth.  They have successfully made Christianity convenient. That may be a controversial statement and you can easily view it as a positive or a negative, simply depends on your theological standpoint. While I personally disagree with a lot of the theological justification for it, there are some things that I feel we, as Catholics, could learn from the non-catholic Christian churches.  Mainly, they are going where the people are.  Let’s go back to my original point, people are on the internet (the fact that you are reading this is proof of that).  One of the amazing things about the Catholic Church is that it is constant.  The sacraments have been around and unchanged for 2,000 years! The message of the Church does not, and will never change BUT how do we even get people to start to listen? Not only does our lack of speaking out fail to reach our youth, but it also fails to support and encourage other Catholics to speak about their faith.

Why aren’t we speaking out more?

I have no data to back this up, so feel free to take this with a grain of salt (I mean this is a blog after all, not a book report), but after speaking with multiple Catholic women bloggers, there is one common theme… everyone is nervous about telling the internet world that they are Catholic and even more nervous about talking about it.  Why?  For fear of creating controversy.  I will tell you that after posting my very first Catholic post on my blog I lost about 30+ Instagram followers overnight. My first few days blogging, I also received a message from a fellow Catholic blogger who literally wrote me and said, “Another catholic blogger, ahh!” Clearly, we are far and few between.  Since becoming Catholic I have always been cautious about what I say about my faith or who I say it around because I never know who I may have to jump into “defense mode” with (let’s be honest, I don’t always feel like getting into a deep theological battle with someone) so I normally say nothing.

Why is it that being Catholic creates so much controversy? My personal opinion? 99% of the accusations I get for being Catholic revolve around misinformation.   The general public doesn’t really understand Catholicism or what the Church teaches. They know bits and pieces and then come to conclusions on their own (Of course, I am not speaking about everyone.  I have talked to many non-Catholics who really do want to understand better).  Then we, as Catholics, for fear of creating controversy, don’t say anything to correct them or just let their assumptions sit in silence without bringing it up.  Then those who do speak up don’t get the support they need from other Catholics, which discourages them from speaking up again and then it becomes a vicious cycle of silence, assumptions, and fear. 

What’s your point?

Let me try and bring this full-circle.  We, as Catholics, need to speak up. Not just in person, but on the Internet and social media. We need to educate (correctly, I might add). We need to support one another.  My goal with this post is simply to bring some awareness to it and maybe start the conversation. I will be 100% honest here, I am NERVOUS about putting this out there for the world to see. Once this is out there, there is no taking it back.  This may tank my blog following for those who follow me for other reasons. However, this is something I am passionate about. I am passionate about my relationship with Christ, the Catholic Church, and advocating for my faith. With all of this being said, I am in no way promoting the idea that people should be on social media, pushing Catholicism in everyone’s faces or getting in heated arguments with anyone who has a difference of opinion. That is not my intent with this AT. ALL. and do not believe there is any effectiveness to that approach (again, no data-just my belief). My intent is to encourage others to not be afraid to be honest about their faith, support others who do, and to recognize the need for an increased presence in the world we live in today- cyber-centered.

As the extremely profound Bishop Robert Barron stated,

“Christianity is not a set of private convictions that we cultivate inwardly or whisper among ourselves.  It is the message that the whole world needs to hear.  We who have heard it must become agents of subversion and transformation.”