Pope Benedict famously spoke of the internet as having moved from being a tool which people use to an environment in which they live, envisaging what he called the “digital continent” as a key front in the New Evangelisation.
Among the more colourful attempts at online evangelisation is churchPOP.com, founded by Brantley Milligan in the summer of 2014 in an attempt to do a website in the style of the social news and entertainment phenomenon buzzfeed.com, but focusing on Christian culture.
The site aims to publish Buzzfeed-style content that people will want to share, while at the same time learning more about Christianity – and Catholicism in particular. “I want the types of things where people can easily digest it, enjoy it, and share it on Facebook,” Milligan explained last year, saying that if ChurchPOP succeeds in promoting Christian culture in a way that fits with the modern web, it can have a genuine evangelising effect.
The range and style of articles and posts on the sites can be almost dizzying, with one classic post, shared over 25,000 times on Facebook, being a simple diagram detailing how the apostles are believed to have died and which Christian communities claim their remains today.
Some recent posts could hardly be more like classic Buzzfeed, notably “16 Old-Time Anti-Catholic Political Cartoons to Put Things in Perspective” which shows just how brazenly anti-Catholic sentiment used to be expressed in America’s newspapers, and “A Priest’s Warning Against the Devil’s 10 Deadliest Tricks”, republishing from Fr Dwight Longenecker’s blog a clear and simple list of traps we can too easily fall prey to nowadays.
Share the message
“A Tour of the Hauntingly Beautiful Christian Monastery in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’” is a fine clear introduction to the reality of Skellig Michael, while other recent posts home in on quirky but fascinating nuggets, such as “How Pope Benedict XVI Converted Newt Gingrich to Catholicism”, how “The Greatest Latin Mass Musical Setting Was Composed by… a Protestant?”, or how the outspoken atheist magician Penn Jillette described a touching encounter with a Christian who spoke to him warmly and gave him a copy of the New Testament with the Psalms.
“I’ve always said,” Jillette explained, “I don’t respect people who don’t proselytise. I don’t respect that at all. If you believe there is a Heaven and Hell, and people could be going to Hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward. How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytise? How much do you have to hate someone to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”
With Buzzfeed published in 10 languages, and coming from aleteia.com, which is published in six, it was probably only ever going to be a matter of time before churchPOP branched out, and January 25 is scheduled to see the launch of its Spanish sister site at es.churchpop.com.
Living off our Christian capital
Brantley Milligan’s efforts to have millennials share slices of Christian culture seem desperately needed, if Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry is to be believed at theweek.com. In an article entitled “The great forgetting of the West’s cultural heritage” he laments an ignorance of our civilizational roots that afflicts even those blessed with influence and expensive educations.
Living off our capital is a dangerous game he warns, cautioning that “if we expect these institutions to keep delivering the bounties they have delivered us even if we don’t understand how they work and how to work them, we are engaging in little more than a cargo cult”.