Bible Geek Speaks to Teens

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Author: Carol Schaal '91M.A.

Mark Hart ’95 calls the Trinity “the ultimate Three-for-One deal,” notes that “Catholic Christianity is not for wimps” and believes that the platypus is a sure sign that “God has an incredible sense of humor.”

Obviously, Hart also has a sense of humor. And while he says he is not “theologically brilliant,” hundreds of teenage website users clamor for his answer to their scripture questions. They know him as “the Bible Geek” and find his columns online at www.lifeteen.org. The site is a service of LIFE TEEN International, a parish-based Catholic youth ministry.

The questions the Bible Geek tackles are eclectic, from “what does the Bible say about tattoos?” to “where in the Bible does it say abortion is wrong?” The hundreds of messages he receives weekly arrive from around the world, says Hart, and adults also make extensive use of the youth-oriented column.

As the Bible Geek, Hart also prepares a devotional called “Spread the Word.” Those short, twice weekly e-mail messages offer Hart’s explanation of various Biblical passages. More than 20,000 people subscribe to the free service, he says.

The Scottsdale, Arizona, resident is a vice president of LIFE TEEN International. In 2000, about three years after he began working for the organization, Hart started the online Bible Geek columns. The name, he said, is part of “an effort to put people at ease.”

“His big thing is to help people get into scripture,” says Thaddeus Ruszkowski, youth minister of Notre Dame’s Sacred Heart parish, who met Hart at a LIFE TEEN conference. “He’s a humorous individual who knows his stuff.”

To make sure his “stuff” is correct, the Bible Geek’s answers are reviewed by several priests. “It’s a system of checks and balances,” says Hart.

A collection of his columns is available in the paperback Ask the Bible Geek, published by Servant Publications. Archives of scriptural questions and “Spread the Word” devotionals also are available at the LIFE TEEN website.

Along with making the Bible more accessible to young people, Hart’s work at LIFE TEEN involves updating the audio and video resources used by Catholic churches to educate teens. On MTV, Hart notes, teens today see 3,000 to 4,000 images per minute. Anything less looks old-fashioned to them. But “too many church videos are cheesy or lame,” he says. “That sends a message that the church is stuck in the mud.”

In Hart’s view, “It is a sin to bore kids with the Gospel.” Gospel messages are anything but boring, he notes, and those teens who are “very hungry” for information deserve to have it presented in a way that speaks to them. “The Catholic faith is a beautiful faith,” he says. “We need to rediscover the joy and laughter.”

Although he travels extensively for LIFE TEEN, Hart also oversees his From the Hart Productions business. Along with producing, writing and directing secular projects, he is executive producer of JumboTron video operations for the Arizona Cardinals football team.

Hart’s summer schedule included two events at Notre Dame— as host and speaker at a LIFE TEEN/Notre Dame Leadership conference June 30-July 4, and as speaker for each of the four kick-off sessions NDVision, a special program for high school students sponsored by the Notre Dame Vocation Initiative. “Notre Dame is really reaching out to the Catholic youth around the country,” he says.

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