Cool and uncompromised

The need for validation is the strongest it has ever been now, more than at any other time in human history. Blame it on the explosion of social media, and media sharing networks like Tik Tok and Instagram.

Apr 08, 2023

The need for validation is the strongest it has ever been now, more than at any other time in human history. Blame it on the explosion of social media, and media sharing networks like Tik Tok and Instagram.

Public spaces these days are rife with people purportedly living their best lives, or learning how to live again after trauma. Everyone with a story to tell (as well as those with nothing much to say), is jockeying for space on media feeds.
Anyone with a social media account is a consumer, willing or not, and it is easy to feel bewildered or lost after protracted amounts of time trawling through Facebook and its affiliates. Like insidious sugar, social media has insinuated itself into our lives, and many times, not for the best.

Is it any surprise, then, that people have begun revisiting that age-old question: what am I here for? It’s ironic that in these days of excellent satellite navigation systems, and apps like Waze, that people appear to be more lost than ever.
In view of this, I take so much comfort in the assured security and infallibility of the Baltimore Catechism, which queries, “Why did God make me? and answers, “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.” Some may scoff at the infantile innocence of this question and answer, but I believe some things need to be simplified in order for their impact to be felt.

I turn to the Baltimore Catechism in times where the Catechism of the Catholic Church feels more apt as a cockroach killer than a beacon of faith. The Baltimore Catechism is what drew me, as a primary Convent schoolgirl, to the faith. It was so simple, but so sure. There is a profoundness in such a simple faith, and I find that, as life gets more complicated, it serves as a reminder of the simplest tenements of my faith.

My media training and work in mass communications has made me privy to how insidious the media can be at implanting suggestions of values and perceived worth. How else can one explain the explosion in whitening products which play on the belief that being darker complexioned is bad? The proliferation of body positivity media personalities who trumpet ‘big is beautiful’ is also something I look askance at, because as a plus-sized person, I know it isn’t fun or glamorous to live with aching knees. And should I ever be idiotic enough to buy some of the lingerie designed by larger-than-life Lizzo, I would be in grave danger of needing surgery to extract those bits of string she calls panties from my rather deep, personal crevices!

With so many voices saying so many contrary things (“thin is still in”, “fat is the new fit”, “it’s okay to be the gender you think you should be”), it is no wonder that people are confused. How far can self-expression go until it infringes on another person’s standard of morality, or freedom of choice? This is an argument which can go on ad infinitum, unless it is given a context.

And how grateful I am that I have the yardstick of my faith. It seems laughably archaic to pin my social orientations on to the Word of God, but I truly believe, as I tell my teenaged daughter, that if one does not stand for something, they will fall for anything.

I am so grateful for the profusion of Catholic priests who have undertaken to engage on social media, because they believe — rightly so — that this is the new battlefield. Faith is at war with the rest of the Internet, and thankfully, we have charismatic men of God like Frs Mike Schmitz, Cedric Pesigna, and David Michael Moses who fly the flag of cool good for Catholicism.

And yet, even their fun, upbeat, personal, God-driven sharing can pale in comparison to influencers who can be bought; whose opinions can vary, depending on who pays them to say what.

How does an unchanging faith like ours compete in a space like this? The simple answer is, it does not. Our faith is as unchanging as it is uncompromising. It does not suddenly decide that gender can be selected, nor chastity compromised.

In a world where the goal posts of some values seem to be moveable, the Catholic Church remains firm.

And it is in this that we find our security, our infallibility, and our worthiness. Just as “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8), the Church He founded remains unbending to societal pressure and the whims and fancies of trends and fads.

So, when we are tempted to wonder why we are here, perhaps it would do us good to remember John 10:10, “I came so that [you] might have life and have it more abundantly.”

(Karen-Michaela Tan is a poet, writer and editor who seeks out God’s presence in the human condition and looks for ways to put the Word of God into real action.)

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