Statement of Opportunity

The magnitude of COVID-19 influence across the world will undoubtedly call on scholars to lead several post-mortems. At no time in history has information been more broadly and almost instantly available across the planet. Mass media’s explosion turns the attention of many catechists to the possibilities technology offers in supporting sacramental development. The Internet and social media seem destined to continue exerting a powerful influence on both secular and religious education. Parishioners and community members may no longer be sitting in the pews on Sunday, but no one should suppose they have spiritually disengaged. Could virtual religious education reach a normative place where sacramental experiences are cultivated and shared in cyberspace?

 

Advances in audiovisual equipment may enable new classrooms and liturgical spaces. Medical advances empower people to generally see and hear well into the later stages of life. However, will emerging technology be a vehicle or impediment as the church finds its way through a sea of hegemonic and counter-hegemonic encounters?   Marino (1997) stated, “In simple terms, hegemony can be defined as persuasion from above (by the dominant class) with consent from below (by the subordinate class).”[1] (p.105) Society’s fickle allegiances noticeably toggle back and forth in the tension this modern yet longstanding science versus faith debate exposes.    

Education holds the key to the church’s future relevance as globalization constantly churns new ideas into religious expression. A recent widespread rise in nationalism, emanating from Western democracies, suggests that a “pushing back” against globalization looms on the horizon. Spiritualists advocate against isolationism, given that these approaches ultimately breed civil unrest. Elias (2012) said,

            With much to learn and internalize in each phase of life, education in religion extends beyond                                    the early years of life. Achieving full religious meaning, appreciation, and participation is a lifetime task                  for which religions offer needed assistance through many means but principally through education. [2]                (p.7)

Religious educators critically position themselves to establish and maintain bridges between faith and modern science and technology. On the other hand, protective nationalism promotes mistrust and conspiracy plots eroding culture and diminishing the global family. Education and spirituality in collaboration map humankind towards a more harmonious and just society. Anderson (1999) believes, “Although fundamentalist movements and closed religious and spiritual movements abound, there is a global tendency of the major world religions toward becoming open systems.”[3] (p.461) Anderson is partly correct, but the trend they observe must now acknowledge that a current spike in distorted religious fundamentalism threatens social harmony.

Communities emerge from a dynamic and complex web of relationships shaped by the political, social, and environmental happenings. Circumstantial events dictate various responses individuals adopt as they experience life bonded by a shared system of values. For example, transformation advocates typically work towards prying open closed communities. Whereas, status quo agents experience similar tensions, but are determined to fortify and protect entrenched culture and practices. Churches, synagogues, and mosques cannot operate in a vacuum, but remain subject to the social, environmental, and economic activity perpetually molding creative thought into sacramental praxis. COVID-19 does not ask the individual’s nationality or religion, although economics suggests that contracting this disease and suffering fatal consequences certainly identifies inequalities. Given the political power of status- quo defenders, they and progressives often clash with intense force. In the struggles that ensue, transformation ultimately breathes new life into stale communities and extinguishes others. Dalton and Dalton (1975) said, “A community is a relatively homogeneous human population, within a defined area interacting and participating in a wide range of local affairs. ”[4] (p,2)