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Baptizing the Web
by Katie Harris

Can the World Wide Web spread the kingdom of God? Eugene Gan thinks so and has developed a “seven secrets” plan of evangelization, based on the acronym BAPTISM (see below).

An associate professor in Communication Arts at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, Gan teaches classes such as Media and Society, Graphic Design, Internet Communication and Design, and Digital Compositing and Special Effects. Although some Catholics view the internet in negative terms, citing pornographic content and other temptations, Gan points out that in a number of official documents, the Vatican urges Catholics to seize the opportunities of the web to spread the faith.

Eugene and Cindy Gan and their three children.

Eugene and Cindy Gan and their three children.

Gan says that a Catholic perspective is needed on the web and in social media “so that we can all use media as gifts of God and reclaim it, because the media has been abused. There are proper ways to use it, and use it powerfully.”

Born to Catholic parents in Singapore, Gan came to the United States in 1991 to study computer technology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He majored in electrical and computer engineering and minored in art. “That was a God-send,” he says. “It was God working in me to use the talents and gifts he had given me in both fields.”

He explained, “In the media, it’s always about attraction and beauty, but the media has no tools or language to talk of beauty. Only the discipline of fine art does.”

He began to teach part-time at Franciscan University in 2000, while continuing to do media production and working on his master degree in Multimedia Technology at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. He became a full-time teacher in 2004 and received a doctorate in Instructional Technology in Education from Duquesne in 2006.

Fittingly, he met his wife online, through Ave Maria Singles. Although he found it difficult to meet Catholic singles amid his busy schedule, Gan initially had reservations about online dating. “But then it occurred to me very strongly that Jesus called Peter at his job while he was fishing,” Gan recalled. “My job was in media, and I was not trusting it. So, I took the plunge, and two weeks later I met her.”

He and Cindy were married in 2003, and they have three sons, 6-year-old John Paul, 3-year-old Maximilian Kolbe, and 2-month-old Benedict. A fourth child, Michael, was lost in a miscarriage. “We believe he is in heaven, praying for our family,” Gan said.

B-A-P-T-I-S-M: Seven Media Principles

Through study of Scripture and Church documents, Gan developed seven principles which Catholics can use to critique the media, and to view as a standard in developing media productions. He said that Catholics should not look at the media as a pagan realm that must be Christianized. “Media is a gift from God. It’s actually ours – but it’s been abused.”

 1. Balance. A story or a film must look at an issue from all angles, from different sides. To be truly catholic means to be without boundaries.

2. Attitude. What attitude, ideology, or agenda does the communication have?

3. Personalism. The dignity of the human person, from the unborn to the elderly, must be upheld.

4. Truth-filled. Media production must portray the truth and be not merely accurate. Gan says the film The Passion of the Christ may not be accurate – for instance, no music was playing during Christ’s walk to Calvary – but it is truth-filled.

5. Inspire. Media must inspire viewers to think, act or reflect and serve as a sign pointing others toward truth, toward Christ.

6. Skillful. Good intentions and pious sentiments are not enough. Catholic media must also be skillfully made.

7. Motivated. Media productions should be motivated by and relevant to the experience of the target audience.

These seven principles are the foundation for a book Gan has been working on the past six years, directed toward parents and catechists. Its working title is The Catholic Media Guide and it will be published soon by Emmaus Road.

Katie Harris is a recent graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville.