Conversations That Matter | Virtual Apocalypse: Renewing Christian Culture in a Digital World

Virtual Apocalypse: Renewing Christian Culture in a Digital World

Brett Robinson
Brett Robinson, Ph.D.

In this series of webinars produced and moderated by Brett Robinson as part of the Church Communications Ecology Program, leading thinkers in art, media studies and theology discuss the transformative effects of technology on the culture and what that means for the Church. Rather than viewing technologies like social media, AI and ChatGPT as purely neutral tools, this series proposes an “environmental” understanding that takes into account the power of these technologies to transform the way we think about nature, art, education, politics, and religion.

Episode 2: The Virtue of Art
Tuesday, April 11, 2023 at 12:00 p.m. EDT

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Featured panelists:


Nick Ripatrazone - Author, editor, writer, and teacher

Ripatrazone is the author of seven books of literary criticism, poetry, short stories and a novella. He also serves as culture editor for Image Journal, a quarterly magazine specializing in art, poetry and prose with faith and spiritual themes. In addition, he contributes to the U.K.-based Catholic Herald with a monthly column on American Catholic culture.

Ripatrazone also teaches English at Lenape Valley Regional High School in Stanhope, New Jersey. From 2004 to 2015, he taught at Bridgewater-Raritan Regional High School in Somerset County, New Jersey. Concurrent with his high school teaching, Ripatrazone lectured part-time at Rutgers University and The College of New Jersey.


Renée Roden - Writer

Renée D. Roden is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame's Master of Theological Studies and the Columbia School of Journalism. She is a writer reporting on religion and social issues. Her work has appeared in the Associated Press, Washington Post, Religion News Service, the revealer, Christianity Today, and America Magazine. Renée was a member of the 2022 Cohort of the Church Communications Ecology Program at the McGrath Institute for Church Life. Her recent work includes an original play entitled, “Is the Internet in Color?” which artfully explores the interplay of memory, encounter, and humanity in the digital world. She lives at St. Francis House Catholic Worker in Chicago.

Stephen Barany - Artist, professor at Holy Cross College


Stephen Barany, M.Div., M.F.A., teaches at Holy Cross College as an adjunct professor in the Visual Arts Program. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and industrial design from Notre Dame, a Master of Divinity from Notre Dame, and a Master of Fine Arts in Illustration and Visual Culture from the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis.

Stephen recently illustrated a book on The Chronicles of Narnia for Ignatius Press and is currently working on his first illustrated picture book, Alphabet Mobile. While at WashU, he was awarded the Catherine M. & Stanley R. Miller Scholarship, was named a Young Catholic Scholar by the Washington University Catholic Student Center, and was awarded a thesis production grant for his work, The Wizard's Alphabet Book: Illustration as Counter-Environment to the Digital Age.

The McGrath Institute offers professional development certificates upon request. Those who attended the entirety of the live event, and would like a certificate, can email Lesley Kirzeder at


Episode 1: The Art of Virtue
Tuesday, March 21 2021 at 12:00pm EDT

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Featured panelists:


L.M. Sacasas - Executive Director, Christian Study Center of Gainesville

Michael Sacasas earned his MA in Theological Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary in 2002. He was later a doctoral candidate at the University of Central Florida studying the relationship between technology and society with a focus on the work of Hannah Arendt. Along the way he has taught in a variety of settings, served as a school administrator, and written extensively on technology and society. He is an Associate Fellow in Ethics and Culture at the Greystone Theological Institute.

Michael has written for The New Atlantis, Comment, Plough, The New Inquiry, Real Life Magazine, Mere Orthodoxy, The American, and Second Nature Journal. His work has also been featured in The Atlantic, Vox, and the New York Times. He writes The Convivial Society, a popular newsletter on technology, culture, and the moral life.  Michael and Sarah have been married since 2008 and are currently delighted and exhausted by the task of raising their two young daughters. 


Felicia Wu Song - Professor of sociology, Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA

Felicia Song is a sociologist who studies the social and cultural effects of digital technologies on community and identity in contemporary life. Trained in history, communication studies, and sociology from Yale, Northwestern and University of Virginia, she is professor of sociology at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA.

She is author of a new book, Restless Devices: Recovering Personhood, Presence, and Place in the Digital Age (Intervarsity Press Academic). This book explores how our contemporary digital habits fundamentally form us in ways that shape loves and imaginations of what it means to be human. This book binds sociology and theology together, arguing that both are needed for understanding how to live wisely in a digitally saturated society Her prior research includes her first book, Virtual Communities: Bowling Alone, Online Together (2009) which explored the democratic efficacy of online communities, and other studies on expectant women’s online information-seeking habits and the evolution of “mommy bloggers”. When she is not working, she enjoys tending the garden, learning to bake bread, and daydreaming about becoming proficient with the bass guitar.


Fr. Paul A. Soukup, SJ - Professor, Santa Clara University College of Arts and Science

Paul Soukup, S.J., teaches courses in technology and communication, and does research on religious communication. He has authored or edited a number of books and works with both the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the American Bible Society on communication issues.

Paul A. Soukup, S.J., has explored the connections between communication and theology since 1982. His publications include Communication and Theology (1983); Christian Communication: A Bibliographical Survey (1989), Media, Culture, and Catholicism (1996), Mass Media and the Moral Imagination with Philip J. Rossi (1994), and Fidelity and Translation: Communicating the Bible in New Media with Robert Hodgson (1999). In addition, he and Thomas J. Farrell have edited four volumes of the collected works of Walter J. Ong, S.J., Faith and Contexts (1992-1999). These volumes have led him to examine more closely how orality-literacy studies can contribute to an understanding of theological expression. Most recently, he has published a book of Biblical meditations on communication, Out of Eden: 7 Ways God Restores Blocked Communication (2006) and edited a collection of essays applying Ong’s thought, Of Ong & Media Ecology: Essays in Communication, Composition, and Literary Studies (2012). Fr. Soukup currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the American Bible Society and recently served on the Board of Trustees at Loyola University of New Orleans.


Missed our previous series? Check our archived recordings here.

The Conversations That Matter series begin in 2020 under the direction of Jessica Keating Floyd with the Notre Dame Office of Life and Human Dignity. These initial sessions covered a variety of timely topics including: Racial Justice and Life Issues, The Crossroads of Science and Human Dignity, and The Intersection of Justice and Pregnancy.