NPR: So in a way, you're using the new media to get back to the basics, to teach fundamental truths about God and faith.
BISHOP BARRON: Yes. And the most fundamental truth is that we belong to a power that’s beyond ourselves. We belong to God. Our lives are not about us, they’re about God and God’s purpose. And the more you realize that, the more joyful you become. That’s what all the saints witnessed to. So that’s what needs to be taught now, it seems to me, which is why I tend not to lead with the hot button issues. If we do that, we get immediately distracted. We become quickly involved in fire fights about those. Instead, I would rather say, "Let’s pause, let’s look at the really deep, abiding longing of the heart and what answers that, which is God."
One way to do that is to lead with beauty, which has been a main preoccupation of mine. Today, if you lead with the True or the Good, people get very defensive. If you say, "Oh, here’s a truth I want you to believe," or "Here’s the way I want you to behave," then people say, "Back off! Don't tell me what to think or what to do." But if you show something beautiful, you're much more effective. You say, "Hey look, look at that. I’m not telling you what to think or how to behave, just look at that."
A good example is the Namugongo gathering I mentioned earlier. Five hundred thousand people come to this site. Just look at them. I’m not telling you what to think or how to behave. We’ll get there, you know. But for the moment, just look: isn’t that beautiful or compelling?
Or look at Mother Teresa’s sisters. We filmed there in Calcutta. You visit this extraordinary place, which is the strangest, most disturbing city I’ve ever been in my life, and you go to the worst parts of it, and there you find the Mother Teresa sisters beaming with joy as they’re caring for the poorest of the poor. Look at that. I’m not telling you what to think, I’m not telling you how to behave. Just look at that.
Then there's beautiful architecture. Think of the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris or Notre Dame. I just recently saw the renovation of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. These are all examples of evangelizing through beauty. On Fifth Avenue, in the heart of Manhattan, in the capital of the world, there’s this gleaming monument filled with the saints and filled with the Gospel and filled with Jesus Christ. Again, I’m not telling you what to think. Just come in, look, look at it. Let me point things out to you. Let me show you. I think that’s a good evangelical strategy today. Start with the beautiful, and that’s a way in.
If you’re teaching someone music, you don’t start with the most intricate moves of the fingers. You might begin by saying, "Just listen, listen to this person play, listen to that violin." Or when it comes to baseball, you don’t begin with the infield fly rule. You begin with the beauty of the game. Watch the people play. Look at the rhythm. Look at that curveball, what a beautiful pitch that was. Look at that double play, how deftly it was turned. See how they did that! And then you gradually draw people into the beauty of the game. Only then are they going to want to know about it. They’re going to want to understand its history, its background, its dynamics. They’re going to want to play well. They'll say, "Teach me how to do that. I want to do a double play like that; I want to hit that well." So I use that strategy with religion - lead with beauty.
NPR: You're widely known for looking at pop culture and history and all these things that we look at all the time, but looking at them through a Catholic lens. Can you talk about that?
BISHOP BARRON: That’s another favorite strategy, which I call the "seeds of the Word." It's an old phrase from our tradition, semina verbi, the seeds of the Word, which suggests that elements of God’s revelation are everywhere. They might be in somewhat distorted form, but they’re everywhere in the culture, because everything’s touched by theLogos, by God’s reason. Therefore in a movie, in a book, in a song, in something in the popular culture you can find a seed and say, "Oh, look, there's an echo. That’s like what we hold, an icon of the True." To point that out is a more positive strategy for evangelization rather than shaking your finger at the culture.
Some of the best examples are the remake of True Grit, by the Coen brothers, and Gran Torino by Clint Eastwood. Both are filled with the Gospel motif. In fact, Gran Torino is one of the very best presentations of the Christ figure. So I love pointing that stuff out, to find and point out these elements within the culture, because they really are everywhere.
Go read the entire transcript of Bishop Barron's interview. It is sad that he said so much and the 3 minute interview only quoted maybe six sentences. And the first sentence they quote him saying included the words "sex abuse scandal". This should open your eyes to the media and their manipulation of our Church leaders and our faith.
Sidebar- in my first draft I typed "the Lord put it on my mind to remind me how wonderful it felt" but as Catholics we don't do things based on feelings. I backspaced the word "felt" and thought about what God was really showing me. I encourage you to do the same. Don't do things because they feel good. Pray and listen to God for what he's really showing you in your service to others.