The (Wearable) Gospel Of John

​I have a bit of shameless electronic nepotism for you today, gentle reader, which I hope you will choose to participate in.

If you watch “The Journey Home” on EWTN, you may have seen the recent episode featuring new media producer Seth Paine, or that featuring his wife, artist Michelle Paine. I first met Seth at the Catholic New Media Conference in Atlanta last year, and at first I was quite astounded by his very High Victorian mustache. I later came to appreciate his good humor in singing karaoke in what turned out to be a rather sketchy part of town, with some rather loud people whom he had never met before. (Well okay, the Barrons, Jennifer Willits, and I were rather loud – others were quieter.

As I’ve come to know Seth better, his humor, his love for his family (and for music), his creativity, and his faith have all impressed me a great deal. Seth understands, and is very good at, using new media as a tool for evangelization. So it’s not surprising that his site is called nuCatholic Media.

Unlike in secular media, I can tell you from first-hand experience that there is often very little in the way of financial support out there for creative Catholics in new media who come up with faith-based outreach projects. That being the case, it’s important to help out content producers like Seth with their efforts. To that end, I’m going to quote him here regarding a t-shirt campaign that he’s come up with, where he shares his inspiration from St. John’s Gospel in a wearable way:  

For his master’s thesis, Seth created the beginning of an interactive documentary called Food for the Journey which is focused on the beauty of the sacraments and their role in the Christian life.  As you know, film equipment isn’t cheap, and Seth’s working to not only finish the Food for the Journey project but also do more video shorts with the kind of production quality that reflects his love of the subject matter.

To raise money and do something creative at the same time, he’s designed the shirts you see featured on this page.  The theme of the design is the Gospel of John, with a word cloud of the terms that most commonly occur in that book of the Bible arranged in the shape of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  So when someone looks at your shirt and wonders why some words are bigger than others, that’s your handy explanation.  We think it looks pretty cool and makes for an awesome conversation starter.

The shirt is available for a limited time only, so be sure to grab one now!  John’s Gospel serves as the inspiration for Seth’s Food for the Journey project, as well as some of the other projects he’s planning to tackle if this campaign goes well.  We’d love your support, and your help getting the message of Christ’s love to a world flooded with counterfeit versions of love- please share this page with anyone you know who might be interested in either this shirt or Seth’s projects!

If you’re interested, head on over to the Gospel of John page on Teespring, where the limited edition Gospel of John shirt is available until October 13th. The shirt comes in several styles and colors, for both men and women. There are also a mug and tote bag featuring the same design, and as Christmas approaches, these would make unique gifts that you can’t just order on Amazon or pick up at Walmart.

Thanks in advance for your support, gentle reader, and please be sure to share this with anyone whom you think may be willing to lend a hand!

Stupid Times, Stupid Media

Stupid Times, Stupid Media

On a somewhat regular basis, I see friends and followers on social media commenting on news stories with the observation, “What a stupid time to be alive.” Generally speaking, they are referring to policies or statements which they dislike. However what I find more disconcerting about the present state of media is not so much the promotion of views with which I strongly disagree – every dog must have its day – but rather the almost cavalier attitude that we have taken toward the media that we consume. For not only are we failing to question the basic newsworthiness of what we read, but we also seem not to question the way in which that news is being presented to us.   

Whether or not something is newsworthy has traditionally been a topic for editors and reporters to fight over, but of late the standards for what deserves both publication and promotion seem to have been largely abandoned. For example, recently an individual made a video mocking former London Mayor Boris Johnson, in the wake of the Brexit campaign, and then uploaded it to a website of ill repute. This is not newsworthy, or at least, it is a news item of such miniscule importance that it is hardly worth sharing with the entire planet. Nevertheless this story was not only reported, it was actively promoted as a leading headline on Facebook for hours.

This morning, to provide another example, the Drudge Report tells us – in that appalling approximation of English which we have come to expect from that site – that “Women more s*x with robots than men 2025…’Robophilia’ revolution…” This headline, if one can call it that without a verb, points the reader to an article in The Daily Mirror which is so outrageous that I will not link to it here. As it happens, there is no news here, only a spinning out of one individual’s bizarre theories, or more likely fantasies. Nevertheless, its presence on the Drudge site gives it a false veneer of being an actual news story.

While many news stories we read today are about utterly stupid topics, there is also a predilection for covering subjects which, heretofore, were considered too unseemly for general publication. Try to imagine your grandmother opening the newspaper in 1940 and reading, “American women groom their p*bic hair, for diverse reasons”, as Fox News reported this morning, and you will see what I mean. However the way in which many otherwise legitimate news stories are presented to us, in the same prurient style as the foregoing, ought to give us pause. Are these news outlets actually giving us the real story when they resort to clickbait headlines?

Yesterday, for example, Mashable declared that “31 scientific societies just told Congress to take their climate denial and shove it” – an occurrence which would be rather surprising news indeed, but for the fact that this headline is untrue. The signatories to a letter, which you can read here, presented their concerns to Congress regarding climate change, and urged action by U.S. legislators on this subject. The document does not contain an imperative demanding that Congress “shove it,” and in fact presents quite the reverse, i.e., an offer of assistance, rather than a statement of dismissal. “We, in the scientific community,” the letter concludes, “are prepared to work with you on the scientific issues important to your deliberations as you seek to address the challenges of our changing climate.” Whatever your views on climate change, we can agree that the letter and the news headline do not match up.

At this point, no doubt my readers will present reasons as to why one must make allowances for such things. Surely, they will argue, there are significant benefits in having a more loose, diverse way of reporting on issues of interest, particularly in areas that might otherwise remain relatively unknown to the world at large. Far be it from me to invoke the sorites paradox in this context when, arguably, I myself am taking away a few more grains of sand by simply writing and publishing this very piece.

Yet I do wonder about the net effect of such lowered standards in our news media, on both our society and ourselves. If I choose to behave like a 14-year-old schoolyard bully when I am online, I would imagine that there is a greater risk that I will start to behave like one in the real world. Perhaps the behavior pattern will start with people I do not know, such as a stranger on a train or in the supermarket to whom I choose to be rude or unhelpful. Over time, perhaps it will come to affect the attitudes that I take toward work, social obligations, or familial responsibilities.

Never let it be said that I am unaware of my own tendency to overanalyze everything, a flaw to which I freely admit. However in this instance, I do think there is something to be said for better awareness in the media choices we make, rather than absent-mindedly allowing messages of questionable merit to seep into our collective consciousness. Poor scrutiny of the stupidity now routinely trumpeted by our media, it seems to me, leaves us but one step away from making rather stupid life choices ourselves. And while all of us, myself included, have made and will continue to make some rather stupid choices throughout our lives, we certainly do not need to be increasing the frequency with which we make them.


Detail, The Ship of Fools (c. 1490) by Hieronymus Bosch

A Special Voice for the Special Needs Community

If you’ll allow me, I want to make a shameless plug for one of the people I most admire in the world of new media.

Daniel Smrokowski is the founder and host of Special Chronicles, a podcast focusing on those with special needs, and those who care about them. Daniel – or @PodmanDan as he known to those in the media community – has been an online friend for many years now, since back before I was co-hosting the Catholic Weekend show. However we never had the opportunity to meet in person until last weekend, when Dan happened to be in DC for a few days, and invited me to attend a Special Olympics Exhibition Basketball Game.

Having never attended a Special Olympics event before, I was unsure what to expect, but the chance of finally getting to meet Dan in person, even if it was completely on the other side of town, involving an early Saturday morning wake-up and having to attend a sporting event besides, meant that I needed to make the effort.  

Two things struck me about the event, which I was not expecting. The first was the overwhelming amount of enthusiasm of both those with special needs – the cheerleaders, the players, etc. – and those who came to support them. It is hard to describe the enormous amount of love and encouragement that one felt in the school gym that day, at least for someone who has never attended an event like this before. It was probably the most positive sporting event that I have ever attended, one in which there were no egos, no posturings, only people completely enjoying themselves and each other. The sense of community that one could almost palpably feel, even as an outsider, was truly something.

The second thing that I did not expect was the audience reaction to Dan himself. Much as I suspect he would love the opportunity to do so, Dan does not work in media full-time. Like many talented people who express their creativity in new media, Dan has a day job, and spends his free time giving Special Chronicles and Special Olympics as much of his energy as he can. His is truly a labor of love, so that when I got to see him he was deep at work, uploading images to social media, recording interviews for use in future podcasts, coordinating assistants to help him capture video, and so on.

So when anchor Greta Cruz of our local ABC station introduced Dan at the beginning of the game, along with other notables in attendance, noting that he had come all the way from Chicago to cover it, the audience cheered lustily and long. It was a surreal yet humbling experience, to be seated there on the bleachers with hundreds of other people, and hear everyone cheering for Dan and Special Chronicles. One realizes in these moments that the petty things in life – making snide, if totally valid, comments about Lena Dunham on social media, for example – do not really count for much.

The good that Dan is doing, in speaking up for people who are so often marginalized, ignored, hidden away, or directly targeted by our increasingly selfish society, accomplishes far greater good than any wit or acerbity I may endeavor to bring to your inbox with my scribblings. So even though he did not ask me to do so, I encourage you to check out Dan’s work, and if you or someone you know are so inclined as to give this aspiring journalist a break, please seriously consider my recommendation that you do so. He has achieved and will continue to achieve many great things in his career, I have no doubt.


Podman Dan and The Courtier