Saturday, January 19, 2019

Signal to Noise Ratio and the Catholic Social Media

In science and engineering, the Signal:Noise ratio is described as “the level of a desired signal to the level of background noise. SNR is defined as the ratio of signal power to the noise power. A ratio higher than 1:1 (greater than 0 dB) indicates more signal than noise.”

It strikes me as a good analogy for the situation of Catholics on social media. As part of our Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), the Catholic witness should be a strong signal, clear to all. But if you scroll through the self-righteous posts and partisan comments, we see the noise of the worldly views held by Catholics drown it out.

This is understandable. All of us are afflicted by original sin and are tempted to embrace views that suit us. But while it is understandable, it is not justifiable. We are called to be the light of the world, the city on a hill, where our witness should be clear to all. But instead it’s drowned out by political and social opinions. Pro- or anti-Trump; Pro- or anti-Democrat; pro- or anti-Republican... these views are the noise that drown out the legitimate message.

I see bloggers [§] of pro- and anti- positions who angrily point out the hypocrisy of their opponents positions, rightly pointing out that their opponents support things incompatible with the Catholic Faith. But, tragically, they are blind to where they too compromise and ignore the moral faults in their own politics. The beams of Matthew 7:3-4 are equally distributed across the Catholic Social Media... probably I have one as well, mea culpa.

The problem is not only the danger to our own souls. When we play the hypocrite, the people we are pointing to recognize that hypocrisy and reject any part of the signal that gets through as part of the noise. Thus we see some Catholics downplay or even reject the Catholic teaching on sex and abortion, calling it “right wing.” Other Catholics downplay or even reject the Catholic teaching on social justice, calling it “left wing.”

Yes, some of that rejection is the fault of the listener who refuses to listen to truth. But some of it is because of our own bad behavior and self-righteousness. We’re more interested in condemning than converting, using insults and rash judgments. (And before invoking St. Paul against St. Peter, consider the words of St. Francis de Sales that I’ve reprinted HERE). If God will punish the listener for ignoring the truth, what will He do to the speaker who buries the signal of Christian truth with the noise of personal partisanship?

We should consider our behavior and the words we write... how will God view them? Perhaps we should be more concerned than we are.


[§] If you’re thinking, “I know who he’s talking about,” you should be aware that I have in mind many people across the political spectrum who do this.

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