I made passing mention the other week of Catholic (and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Orthodox) social media being haunted by professional grifters, that is, those who blend armchair theology and unctuous spirituality outrage porn. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, grifting became so out of control that the charlatans turned on each other. Traditional Catholics chided far-right conservative Catholics for being weak which, in turn, prompted the latter to accuse the former of being crypto-sedevacantists. QAnon-style conspiracy theories spilled the banks of national politics while far too many of my co-religionists set aside prayer, the Bible, and common sense to hang their souls on the words of an episcopus vagans. It does not look like the crazy train plans to slow down anytime in 2022.
Meanwhile, over in the (neo-)integralist universe, the march for authoritarianism-for-authoritarianism’s sake continues. Gone are the days when this “movement” (if it can be called that) possessed spiritual roots; now it is the equivalent of a warped role-playing game where sorcery is secondary to a rarely mitigated lust for the last dregs of power. Confused over what it is they even stand for these days, it is not hard to find integralists fawning over China; making plans to relocate to Hungary; and praising Vladimir Putin’s murderous intentions toward Ukraine because somehow that beleaguered land has become the battleground for a clash of civilizations. It is meet and right that the integralists are increasingly viewed as cosplay jokesters who have worn out their welcome at the discussion table. They cannot demand to be taken seriously when they flee from criticism and opt for personal smears over intellectual engagement.
As for the Orthodox, well…it is a mixed bag. With a radically smaller audience than their estranged Catholic brethren, grifting cannot pay the bills. Orthodox blog-dom, like Catholic blog-dom, is radically less interesting today than it was 10-20 years ago. The loudest Anglophone Orthodox voices that I have come across online lack theological sophistication. These folks learned their history from YouTube videos and their understanding of anything not culled from one-sided polemics is minimal at best. Some of these lads (and yes, they are almost exclusively lads) are well-meaning; they want to have something—anything—to say that draws clicks. Unfortunately, the markets for lamenting over the Fourth Crusade or talking nonsense about the oft invoked yet poorly understood energies/essence distinction collapsed long ago.
Some might say I am complaining and complaining needlessly at that. Perhaps my approach to Christian social media should be the same as my approach to professional wrestling: Watch what I like and shut up. I confess that I have no grand solution to any of this foolishness. The best proposal I can draw up is for everyone to sit down, be quiet, and watch Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. It is my current litmus test for the soul. I dare say that any person who spends approximately 90 minutes with this one-inch animated creature should renounce their professional guile while gaining a genuine appreciation for the wonders which surround us daily. Will it work? Doubtful…but I still have hope.