Saturday, February 13, 2016

It's All About the Meme, Baby...or Not.

Do you meme?

Maybe that's not a verb. (I should check that, no?) But you know what I'm getting at. Taking the multitude of instantly-recognizable images (such as from The Princess Bride) and adding your own words to them to convey some message is all over various places online, and has been for some time. 

Some of them are funny.
Some of them are offensive. That's to be expected: the online world is electronic graffiti, with all the accompanying lack of verisimilitude, restraint, decency, common sense, or even grade-school grammar.
Some of them, however, are troubling.

I'm not talking about the political ones outlining various leaders' faults, either. 

I'm talking about many of the so-called Christian memes.
Some of them appear on Catholic sites, some of them just "appear" from circuitous routes...
...but many, many of them are troubling.
Not because they espouse false doctrine, heresy, modernism, or the like. 
But because, in their attempt to satirize those things, they go way overboard.

You've seen them.
They're the ones that say things like, "Give up Facebook for Lent? Oh, yeah, that's just like being nailed to a cross."
Funny? Yeah, on one level.
But has anyone noticed how vicious that sentiment is? Or how snotty it comes across?
If we said something like that out loud, in the old days, our mother (or our priest) would have given us a "whop upside the head" for it. And they'd have been right to do so.
Because, boys and girls, plain and simple...talking to each other like that isn't spiritual.
It's nasty.

Some of these memes wax particularly nasty during times when people give gifts, such as now, at Valentine's Day, or Christmas.
Which makes you wonder what, in fact, their purpose really is.

Is it to wake up the faithful? I'm sure that's the claim. I'd like to think that that motive inspired the first few. And, yeah, a little "dig" now and then does jolt us out of our complacency and get us to think bigger.

But repeated "digs" don't do that job well at all. They're more like the image of poor St. Sebastian, tied to the tree with all those arrows sticking out of him. Repeated snipes like that may not kill us, but they're certainly not going to help us grow. They take what little mustard seed some of us have and trample it until it hasn't a chance.

And I think it's time we stopped doing that to each other.

We're told in Scripture to concentrate on the good. Whatever is good, wholesome, worthy of think on it. And focus on it. And find it. Philippians. Look it up.

Instead, we have a little self-appointed group of monitors out there who, under the pretense of "making us think," are actually tearing apart every positive effort some of us make--clearly, from the point of view of a person much more enlightened and much further along the spiritual path.

There's a Scriptural story about that, too. It's the one where the Pharisee is praying in the temple and starts out, "Lord, I thank you that I'm not like other men."

Yeah. That one.

I hate to tell you this. But if you're putting up one of those sarcastic religious memes...that's how you're coming across.
Not as humbly admonishing a sinner.
Certainly not as encouraging fellow believers.
Not when you're so gleefully throwing water on small flames of effort. 

For some of us, Lent is still about "giving up stuff." And that's not wrong.
For some of us, St. Valentine's feast is still about buying chocolate or nice cards for people we treasure. And that's not wrong, either.
Neither is celebrating Easter with bunnies and lilies or Christmas with Santa Claus or St. Nicholas's Day.

It is the pinnacle of spirituality?
No, it's not.
No one says it is.
But does that mean that anyone claiming to be spiritual has no business doing those things?
And it's the height of arrogance to set yourself up as a judge qualified to reprimand all the rest of us for daring to enjoy and/or derive some benefit out of secular "trappings," just because they're not sprinkled with holy water or catalogued by the Church fathers.

None of us is going to be at any spiritual  pinnacle until we reach heaven.
We're all on the way.
Sometimes, our efforts are feeble. But Scripture also says that the Messiah will not quench a small flame or extinguish a smoldering wick.

So those of you out there who are doing these smart-ass memes...
...denigrating your brothers' and sisters' efforts...
...making fun of them...
...taunting them...
...because you know better...?

Think again.
Starting a spiritual conversation by slapping me across the face, kicking my cat, and telling me I don't know anything about sacrifice isn't going to get me interested in anything else you have to say.
And neither is it going to even remotely tempt a nonbeliever to want to join us.

I can't wait to see these go away.
I hope that day comes soon.