If you were enjoying a great weekend with friends and told them you were thinking about building a nuclear fusion reactor in your backyard, like this kid did, chances are most of your friends wouldn’t have much advice to give you. “Um, be careful…” But if you told them you were thinking about building a shed in your backyard, if you have friends like mine, most of them would give you some advice. It probably wouldn’t all be good advice. Some of your friends might argue about trivial things like the materials you should use, or the location in your backyard, or the color you should paint the shed, for example.
I’ve been in situations where a group (staff meeting, team, ministry, friend group, family, etc) is discussing how best to do something. Interestingly, there are always far more people speaking who have never built a shed, than people who have. Most times the small trivial details become the focus of the hot debating in a room full of people who have never built a shed or at least don't build sheds very often.
Why won't anyone speak up when you talk about the difference between a slow carb, low carb, and paleo diet, but everyone, even the physically and obviously hypocrite, are willing to give you exercise and nutrition advice in general?
Its because things that are easy for us to get our minds around and visualize we take for granted we know how to do. Things that seem hard and complex that we obviously have no idea about, we just assume we wouldn’t know the first thing to comment on. If we think something is simple, (Calories in = calories out. Exercise more. Eat less crap.) it is easier to criticize and critique it. If something is difficult and complex, its much harder to constructively critique it as a whole, so we focus on the easy and trivial parts. And plus we've seen a lot more people try to build a shed than build a nuclear fusion reactor. (See Parkinson's Law of Triviality.)
Is evangelization turning into the shed of the Catholic world? Maybe. Maybe we've seen so many different attempts at evangelization we're tempted to think its not really that hard in practice. Maybe we feel like we know how it should be done, because we know how WE came to have whatever faith-life we currently have. Maybe its just in the circles of Church ministers I run in. Or maybe its just me.
Or maybe it is such a difficult and complex topic that we get caught up talking and arguing about the easy and trivial aspects we can easily get our minds around. Its way easier to debate the color of a shed than focus on the difficult endeavor of building a nuclear fusion reactor.
There is a type of Evangelization Porn that is being consumed in large quantities by people in the Church. Sometimes even good quality stuff can turn into Evangelization Porn. It really has more to do with the consumer than with the producer. You don’t know you’re making Evangelization Porn as you make it. But you know you’re making Evangelization Porn if the majority of the people who participate and listen and read and attend and watch and participate never go out and actually do it. They never go evangelize.
It feels good to consume Evangelization Porn. You feel like you’re doing your part and you get the adrenaline-pump that comes with thinking about doing anything really worth doing. But the truth is its way easier to attend a conference, or listen to a talk, or write a tweet, or read a book, or write an article, or share a picture on Facebook, than it is to evangelize. That's the lure of Evangelization Porn. It only involves you. Its safe. There is no other person involved.
Dealing with a person who desperately needs Jesus in their life is hard. Its draining. It often requires loving someone for a long time. It often requires hearing things that don’t make sense to you and that you don’t agree with. It is seldom easy or not messy. It always requires lots of prayer. It is always draining. It frequently is as un-glorious as changing diapers, or going to lunch with your sister, or being charitable to a stranger.
The tempting thing in arguing passionately about the methods and modes of evangelization is it feels rewarding. You feel like you are really working. Like you are really evangelizing. When really all you’re doing is getting caught up in butt-slapping and hanging out with the choir you’re preaching to. (Never, ever, using those two phrases in conjunction again.)
Evangelization porn doesn't bear fruit. Nothing gets accomplished. No one is being loved. No other person is involved. It is self-amusement. It is fantasizing about evangelization.
Evangelization always requires another person. You can tell you’re starting to make Evangelization Porn when you start talking about “people” instead of a person. You can tell you are starting to get addicted to Evangelization Porn when you are consuming more than you are doing.
Here’s some quick math to help diagnose Evangelization Porn Addiciton:
#1 How many pro-life articles have you read this month: #2 How many times did you do something about it this month:
#1 How many times this year did you consume news or media in general and get mad about the “gay agenda", or consume media arguing against same-sex marriage, homosexual relationships, etc?: #2 How many times this year did you talk to someone struggling with same sex attraction issues or living a gay lifestyle?:
#1 How many books this year did you read on the subject of evangelization? #2 How many times this year did you pray with someone you know?
#1 How many times this week did you use phrases or words like the culture, culture war, culture of death, relativism, feminism, intolerance, agenda, liberal, conservative, orthodoxy, or heresy? #2 How many minutes this week did you expose yourself to ideas you disagree with NOT being explained by people you agree with?
#1 How many times did you read apologetic materials? #2 How many people who don’t already attend a Catholic Church did you talk to this year about the way your faith has impacted your life?
#1 How many talks about Jesus did you give this month to a crowd? #2 How many hours did you intentionally spend with a person who really needs Jesus?
Instructions: Divide the first number by the second number: If the number is less than 3 than you are probably doing a pretty good job staying away from evangelization p0rn. If the number is 1 or less than you’re a hero. Or you don’t have internet. If the number is greater than 3 than you are probably addicted to Evangelization P0rn.
Full Disclosure: My numbers suck. I'm mildly addicted to evangelization porn. The first step is admitting you have a problem. The second step is prayer. The third step is to stop consuming and get out there and do something.
"Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams..."
"The devil frequently fills our thoughts with great schemes, so that instead of putting our hands to what work we can do to serve our Lord, we may rest satisfied with wishing to perform impossibilities.”
-St. Teresa of Avila