The Antidote to Apathy

I came across this talk by Dave Meslin when I downloaded the TED Air app on my tablet.  The title caught my attention:  The Antidote to Apathy.

If you have a few minutes, listen.  It’s not very long.  Click HERE to go to it on

Do people care about anything?

We hear this a lot these days.

Of course they do.  People care about NASCAR and football / Angry-Birds and big screen HDTV’s / cancer victims and Race-for-the-Cure / boats-snowmobiles-RV’s-jet ski’s / wrinkles-gray hair-suntan skin.  There are a lot of worthy causes and not so worthy causes that people care about.

But what about the things that are truly important in life?  Like love and family / world peace and justice for the poor / God and life-after-death.  Do people care about those as much?

I wonder.

Are we trying to turn people off?

Dave Meslin makes a good case for the idea that society is actively discouraging people from engaging in the world around them by putting obstacles and barriers in the way.

A few examples…

  • Would the general public read through the lengthy City Hall document in miniscule print to find out about a new rezoning ordinance in their neighborhood and voice an opinion?
  • Can any organization with a worthy message afford to advertise in a prime location or during prime time television, much less during something like the Super Bowl?
  • Are people inspired by the political campaigns of trash talking candidates that rely so heavily on market research and polls that they end up all saying the same thing… that regurgitate back to us what we want to hear at the expense of putting forth bold and creative ideas that might actually do something?

People smell this kind of discouragement and it feeds cynicism.  So of course they don’t engage.

Not enough energy in my world to deal with all the junk.

Is the Church doing the same?

I have to ask myself the question:  Does the Catholic Church actively discourage people from engaging?

Hmmm… should we go there?  Could be a painful answer.

Church Bulletins:  Still looked upon as the primary means of communication with people.  Even if the weekly bulletin and more are all on the parish website, is it more than a one-way conversation?  Is the bulletin or the website trying to increase engagement?  We built it, so surely they will come.  Right?

You’ll-Have-To-Come-To-The-Parish-Office:  We almost always operate in the gathered-ministry model.  There is an expectation that the people should come to the parish to meet their spiritual needs.  Why is that?  Sometimes shouldn’t we go to where they are?  Or maybe a lot of times?

The Intellectual Education Model:  The institution is pretty focused on instilling faith via IV injection into the brain instead of the heart.

Sacramental Hoops:  a slippery slope.  We perpetuate the consumer-provider model of faith distribution every time we say something like… Okay, you’ll need to attend these classes / fill out this paperwork / pay this registration fee / complete these assignments in order to receive Baptism / Eucharist / Confirmation or Marriage at this parish.  We provide and the people consume.  Not so different from Walmart.  It’s God’s grace to dispense, not ours.

Pastor-Makes-All-the-Decisions Model of Leadership:  We are just now starting to see some clergy being held accountable for their actions or non-actions in the abuse scandal cases.  But what about all the other smaller scale situations in parishes everywhere?  Where’s the accountability of the clergy to the people?

I think the answer is Yes.

The Church is actively discouraging engagement.  Subconsciously maybe… but still not giving people any good reasons to do more than show up and go through the motions.  And a lot of times, they’re not even showing up anymore.


We’ve got to make a change and move forward.  That’s the only way.


About Elaine Menardi

Heading off on a new adventure! I solve problems and make ideas happen.

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