#1 The Bad Timer
The Scenario: You’re watching a football game with a group of family and friends. The chips and beer are out and everyone is enjoying the game. The referees make a horrible call and everyone bursts out yelling at the television. That’s when you decide it’s a great time for a little religious conversation and you make the smooth transition with a comment like, “So, anyone read the latest encyclical from pope about the evils of abortion?”
Religion and apologetics is a lot of like comedy — it’s all in the timing. And if you pick the wrong time to bring out theology, you not only bring resentment and annoyance about the Church’s teaching at that moment, but you may also burn bridges to discuss religion earnestly in the future. You have to be able to know your audience and the situation. Are the people around you already talking about politics or religion and does your insight add to the conversation? Are people expressing and receiving different opinions in a calm and respectful way? If not, it might be best to tuck away your spiritual, theological, and political insights for another day.
#2 Clueless About Context
The Scenario: You’re eating dinner with a group of family or friends. Your relative, who isn’t always aware of the political and religious leanings of the people around him (or just doesn’t care) starts attacking Catholicism or a teaching of the Catholic Church.
Maybe it’s because I live in a very liberal area of this planet, but it seems like a lot of people I know start topics of conversation assuming everyone else around them sees the world the same way they do. They will just start blasting the Church on some issue whether it be gay marriage, abortion, or the male-only priesthood without even considering that someone listening to them dares to have a different opinion. So what are you as a Catholic supposed to do? Sit silently? Nod in fake agreement? That’s not exactly being an annoying Catholic now is it? Perhaps you can politely remind the person that others may have different opinions on particular issues and maybe not everyone shares his particular opinion. Depending on the context, it may not be the best time to go head to head with that person and dive into a debate. But just letting people know that others might have different and valid opinions on an issue is a good start for possible future encounters. If anything, maybe that person will think twice about his audience before going off on the Church in the future.
#3 The Debater
The Scenario: You’re enjoying a conversation with some family or friends. Someone in the group just finished reading an article about the evils of the Catholic Church on their favorite internet site. With that article fresh in their mind, they look for the nearest Catholic to start a debate. You are now placed in that uncomfortable position of having to speak for the magisterium of the Catholic Church and anything short of Jesus Himself walking into the room to pronounce a winner discredits the Church’s position on an issue.
We’ve all been there. You may know the general principles of the Catholic faith, but not an expert on every detail. And you’re certainly not the pope when it comes to theology. In these cases, I think you can state what you know and then politely tell the person you would need to look up more details if he wants to continue the conversation. Or remind your would-be debater that the issue is quite complicated and you would need more time to fully explain the Church’s position. Remind him that you’re a Catholic, but not a theologian, so you would prefer to continue the conversation after you look up a few facts. But this is why it is also a good idea to always learn as much as you can about Catholic teachings and dogma so you always have a few facts in your back pocket for such encounters.
#4 The Hedger
The Scenario: You’re enjoying some time with your family and friends. Some contentious religious issue comes up. Wanting to keep the peace you start hedging your thoughts on Catholic dogma. You might say something like, “I know I’m supposed to go to Mass every Sunday, but it would be nice if the Church lightened up on that rule a little.” Or, “I think Confession is a good thing, but I think it should be optional if you don’t feel comfortable with it.”
When you start to make excuses for the Church what you are really doing is watering down and misrepresenting Church teachings. But you are also sending a message to those around you that you don’t truly believe in the power and glory of the Catholic faith. The people around you may think twice about a religion where its own members have a pretty low opinion about its core teachings. And if you’re looking to lead by example, who would ever want to follow someone who is wishy-washy in their beliefs? People respect confidence and someone truly embracing their faith even if they personally don’t espouse those same values. All it takes is a strong display of faith for the Holy Spirit to transform the hearts and minds of others.
Do you have any advice on how to be a good “annoying” Catholic or know strategies to avoid? Leave a comment.
- Is the Catholic faith too hard to live? (prayerandperspective.com)
- Muslim Men Protecting a Catholic Church in Egypt During Mass (gist4peeps.wordpress.com)
- Misconception about the Catholic faith (sportsguypressblog.wordpress.com)
- How the church spreads the good news! (prroscosblogs.wordpress.com)
- The Church is a Bride, not a Widow. A Word of Reminder and Encouragement to the Faint-hearted and Negative Ones. (adw.org)
- Fr. Ray Blake surveys the loss of “Catholic” in the Church (veneremurcernui.wordpress.com)
- On RCIA and Confession (qmbarque.com)
- Use media to spread Gospel, Catholic Voices head says (catholicnewsagency.com)