But I do like to connect my experiences to my observations... so here goes :)
I have one of those anonymous-ish profiles... because all I really wanted to do was have a place to share all the things I read and liked without harassing all my friends by flooding their inbox.
And I like the chance to connect with Catholics all over the world. And it's all fine and good, these digital relationships. Until there's conflict.
Like today... as I spent an hour debating an atheist on one thread and a traditionalist on another. Yeah... strange combination, go figure. Both exchanges, though mostly respectful, just left me saddened.
It started a couple days ago when the traditionalist (i.e. the chair of Peter is empty- sedevacantist sort) messaged me on twitter. For some reason, that's one group that I really don't understand. I understand that they are frustrated by some of the abuses they see in certain parishes, or the ignorance and opposition they see among Catholics to Church teachings. But I don't understand their reaction... to withdraw from the Church in anger and bitterness. Everything I read from their sites is so austere and terrifying, that I don't see how God is present in it. I suppose my biggest problem is that they claim to know so much that I don't understand how they miss what I see as the big picture.
It might be overdone and nearly trite in the saying, that God is Love. But the message doesn't get any easier to follow the more often we hear it. Loving is really, really hard. And loving in the online world is starting to seem to me to be nearly impossible.
But as I pondered that a bit, it led me to some interesting thoughts. Firstly, we're not made to just communicate with each other, so much as to have relationship with each other. When conversation and talk occurs with no relationship, when conflict arises, it's really easy not to see what we are reading on a screen as having come from the mouth of a person, who we are called to love. So we see angry comments and tirades that 15 years ago, few people would have ever said to anyone, let alone a perfect stranger! And worse, still, we are starting to see this sort of reaction slip into everyday life as well. It's not as common yet, but it's there. The selfishness of wanting only our own opinion to be heard. Of not caring for the person so much as our point.
The other thought I had is that this type of online interaction very much resembles our interactions with God when we check out for the relationship part. When we only turn to God in times of need- when we want to talk to Him, then the relationship isn't strong enough to withstand the conflict. When we start to think that reading about God, or talking about God, or even thinking about God somehow is a worthy substitute for having a relationship with Him, then the times we do border on that relationship are awkward and forced. It's not that reading and talking and thinking about God are in any way bad- they're very, very good. And if we are investing in a relationship with Him then those things will help that relationship to deepen and strengthen. But we have to get past the surface.
I'm starting to think I should add a disclaimer to my blog on its level of randomness. These are just my thoughts... unconnected and unedited as they may be. Read at your own risk :)