These days, actual community is out, virtual togetherness is in. So, we have the LGBTQ+ community which lives everywhere and no place, at least no place like home, where the members can go to socialize. O.K., I know bars and cafes are notable for being just such places for gatherings of like-minded individuals. But, is that all there is? Community should involve a sense of belonging, an actual diversity of age, for example. From youth to adults, from kids to the ancients, where does the LGBTQ+ community exist? Mostly, on-line. Is that real?
What about the young adults who stand or sit with eyes glued to their cell phones? The screens are lit-up with twitters and faces and instant telegrams full of digital info. Mental health workers tell us that our kids and young people are starving out there. They are consuming info that does nothing to nourish their inner lives. Its not more info that we need, we need recognition, companionship, encounter.
The psychologist Erica Komisar in a piece written for the Wall-Street Journal (12/1/19) tells parents to lie to their children if they themselves have no belief in God. Tell them, she says, that there is a God and that when we die our remains do not simply decompose into dust. Go ahead, Lie, if you have to, because our kids’ mental health is deteriorating. Our virtual communities do not fill deeper hungers for closeness and personal recognition. Church does.
People used to get a sense of importance and closeness from attending Church and participating in works of service. Now, with a 20% drop in attendance in the last twenty-years, we are seeing anxiety and depression rapidly increase among our children.
Digital counts pointing to scores of “friends” is not the same thing as sharing a camping experience or lunch with someone who you can see and touch. With people who seem to have an interest in you, people who you like, too — and not just digitally. People who you want to see in person.
Our Catholic faith teaches us to love God and one another, not just virtually, or kind-of. Isn’t it amazing that we can find the living presence of God, the “Real Presence” in the eucharist? I confess that a bright hand-held image will not take the place of the people who when I see them in person warm my heart like a sacrament. People are sacred, as God is sacred and we should not forget that reality itself has immense power to sustain the human spirit, something that no virtual reality can match.