Pope’s statements on social networking inspire Catholic student

Thane Himes

Pope Benedict XVI released a statement to Catholics regarding the benefits and drawbacks of the Internet on Jan. 24, focusing on social networking, blogs and YouTube.

Kevin Nennig, senior in computer engineering, is the president of the Catholic Student Community.

“I find it inspiring to listen to what [the pope] says,” Nennig said. “He, as well as the rest of the Vatican people, know all the philosophies of the church and have read the Bible and understand it a heck of a lot more than I do.”

The pope said the Internet is a great way to connect with others, but noted that Christians must be aware that their message should not derive its worth from the number of visits they receive. Nennig couldn’t agree more.

“I’m very personal when it comes to my faith,” Nennig said. “I feel like it’s a lot easier to spread [the message of God] face-to-face where people can see my emotions and see how I feel about it exactly.”

Nennig also recognizes the usefulness of the Internet for mass communication.

“For initial contact, I would definitely say that a more personal approach is the way to go,” Nennig said. “But for bringing out messages or Bible verses for people that are already hooked and want to read more or something like that, I would definitely say that the Internet is a 100 percent good place to [spread the message].”

Today, there are plenty of blogs, websites, YouTube channels and more devoted to arguments and debates. The pope said the proclamation of the Gospel requires a respectful and sensitive attitude.

“I think that with anything you believe in, in today’s society, if you truly 100 percent believe in something, you’ll probably be considered an extremist by somebody,” Nennig said. “In terms of God and salvation and all that, we, in all reality, don’t know what the right and wrong way is. There is a moderation, and it’s a hard line to find.”

Nennig finds it difficult to see Christian messages on the Internet delivered in an aggressive or insensitive manner.

“It’s hard, because they want to get the message across, but they’re not figuring out the correct way to do it,” Nennig said. “I think that’s a really important thing today, because we’re so judgmental and there’s so left-wing and so right-wing and whatever else in between.”

Nennig wishes these messages were worded with more kindness, though he agrees with the general statement.

“Some of the things that are said today in general are not said in the ways that it should be said to respect other people,” Nennig said. “I think that [respecting other people] is a really big thing today, especially when it comes to faith and religion.”

Nennig urges his fellow Christians to simply ignore extremist arguments on the Internet. Those types of debates can be handled much better in person, when a more authentic connection can be established, he said.

The pope stressed avoiding the temptation of constructing an artificial or dishonest personality for oneself on the Internet. This concern is focused primarily on young people like Nennig, who are far more technologically savvy and use the Internet more frequently than older generations.

“Be proud of who you are,” Nennig said. “Above all, stand by your beliefs, even if you’re going against the current.”