It sure seems that YouTube is in the news a lot recently. Google buys it for .65 billion. Telivision personalities like Steven Colbert develop larger followings by their regular clips on YouTube. Interestingly a not so new trend has also developed in the world of online video clips -- Evangelism. The first prominent example that I recall seeing was a stunning video titled Why am I Catholic. This video, of course, prompted responses from non-Catholics about all that was wrong with it but the message remains there for all to see. The Catholic Church presented in its full glory.
The movement seems to have begun as a grass roots movement. Excited lay Catholics are eager to get out the message about their fantastic faith. Several months back an atheist poster on YouTube posted a video titled "Blasphemy Challenge" which ventured to get folks to deny God and more specifically the Holy Spirit because, as the Bible says in Mark 3:29 (NAB) "But whoever blasphemes against the holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an everlasting sin." This prompted a host of denial responses. Lo and behold Protestants and Catholics alike responded to the challenge but rather than deny their faith, they affirmed it.
The even more wonderful news is that this movement is not limited to the laity. Deacon Chris Decker from catholicunderground.com offered a Confessional Challenge which simply affirms our faith and challenges others to do the same. Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia made a splash in the media when he started posting Lenten reflections to YouTube and The Bishop's Conference in the Philippines has launched a video log "in answer to the call of the Holy Father 'to make the internet as a new forum for proclaiming the Gospel'". The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal helped begin an independent film company to respond to John Paul II's proclamation:
The film industry has become a universal medium exercising a profound influence on the development of people’s attitudes and choices, and possessing a remarkable ability to influence public opinion and culture across all social and political frontiers.
The company is responsible for the video Fishers of Men which is considered by
some to be the best vocational video of our time.
YouTube quite simply has become a scratchpad for our culture. It isn't limited to just videos that people make in their homes and post on the web. Often times, incidents that occur in the news end up on YouTube for easy reference and reflection by others. A prime example of this in recent weeks was the appearance of Fr. Euteneur on the Sean Hannity show. His appearance on the show made a splash on the Internet and gave voice to the Church on the topic of contraception. To most of society the topic has been closed for years but here we had an avenue on a major news network and a topic that frayed nerves in our culture. Those who took the time to look into the incident further found commentary from Catholic blogs and others on the web eloquently expounding the teaching of the Church on openness to life.
Sometimes though, YouTube moments are not so public. They are not about famous people or to be directly confronting legions in organized movements. A touching example of this was seen by a YouTube poster who was curious about the Catholic faith. He posted a request on YouTube expressing interest in the teachings of the Catholic Church. Catholics responded by suggesting books that attended to his interests in the faith. The story is ongoing and as is true with many people seeking to convert to Catholicism, his family is offering much in the way of friction. Currently he is seeking to attend a good Catholic university.
YouTube is an open dialog and an opportunity in our diolog free society to engage in proclaiming the Truth. Whether it is priests and bishops shepherding their flock, lay Catholics responding to challenges against the faith or personal dialog with a curious youth, YouTube is changing the face of Evangelism by bringing the mission field even closer to your home. But where the tools change the mission is still the same. Evangelize.