Friday, May 18, 2012

Facing the Machine Gun

Every time I get on Facebook or check the news, I'm bound to see some version of anti-Catholicism.  Someday, hopefully someday in the near future, I'll wise up and stop being so shocked.  Usually, the anti-Catholicism is in the form of "machine gun apologetics" -- when the person jumps from one point to another as quickly as a machine gun fires, aiming to overwhelm any opposition by taking them down any number of erroneous rabbit holes.  Invariably, the discussion jumps from priestly pedophilia to fascism to the Inquisition to how much the Church hates science to their oppression of women to their hatred of homosexuals to any other flavor of the day.

The trouble is, our standards for modern journalism are so low, that anyone is allowed to spew out "fact" in the form of opinion and get away with it, and the tendency carries over to the social networking world.  As Patrick Coffin, host of Catholic Answers Live, often says, "If I don’t know what an RBI is, the New York Times is not going to let me write a baseball column for them.  But journalists who know nothing about Christianity are assigned to cover church news all the time."

An ill-informed reader grows to hate what they think is the Church because of the lousy journalism or so-called scholarly work that passes as the latest proof of why the Church is backward and in need of reform.  I regularly see even those who went through 12 or more pricy years of Catholic education re-posting the untruths and hate about the Church because of how poorly catechized they were.  Unfortunately, we can't blame most of them.  They never learned what Mother Church is and what She's not.  It's a miracle there are as many young, faithful Catholics as there are considering how poorly catechized our parents' generation was!  

I'd hate Catholics if we truly did and believed everything the world says we do, and Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said he would have, too.  

He summed up the world's hatred toward the Catholic Church better than I ever could.  This excerpt is a little lengthy, but every word is worth reading, and I couldn't pare it down:

"There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church—which is, of course, quite a different thing.
These millions can hardly be blamed for hating Catholics because Catholics 'adore statues;' because they 'put the Blessed Mother on the same level with God;' because they 'say indulgence is a permission to commit sin;' because the Pope 'is a Fascist;' because the Church 'is the defender of Capitalism.' If the Church taught or believed any one of these things, it should be hated, but the fact is that the Church does not believe nor teach any one of them. It follows then that the hatred of the millions is directed against error and not against truth. As a matter of fact, if we Catholics believed all of the untruths and lies which were said against the Church, we probably would hate the Church a thousand times more than they do.
If I were not a Catholic, and were looking for the true Church in the world today, I would look for the one Church which did not get along well with the world; in other words, I would look for the Church which the world hates.
My reason for doing this would be, that if Christ is in any one of the churches of the world today, He must still be hated as He was when He was on earth in the flesh. If you would find Christ today, then find the Church that does not get along with the world. Look for the Church that is hated by the world, as Christ was hated by the world. Look for the Church which is accused of being behind the times, as Our Lord was accused of being ignorant and never having learned. Look for the Church which men sneer at as socially inferior, as they sneered at Our Lord because He came from Nazareth. Look for the Church which is accused of having a devil, as Our Lord was accused of being possessed by Beelzebub, the Prince of Devils. Look for the Church which the world rejects because it claims it is infallible, as Pilate rejected Christ because he called Himself the Truth. Look for the Church which amid the confusion of conflicting opinions, its members love as they love Christ, and respect its voice as the very voice of its Founder, and the suspicion will grow, that if the Church is unpopular with the spirit of the world, then it is unworldly, and if it is unworldly, it is other-worldly. Since it is other-worldly, it is infinitely loved and infinitely hated as was Christ Himself. ... the Catholic Church is the only Church existing today which goes back to the time of Christ. History is so very clear on this point, it is curious how many miss its obviousness..."
So, I'm ever so slowly learning to try and stop being surprised every time I open up Facebook or read the news.  When "machine gun apologetics," lousy journalism, and poor excuses for scholarship rule the day, there's no time for a civilized, fair debate free of red herrings, ridicule, straw men, or any other fallacy.  If the goal of debate is to find truth, one would think that the non-Catholic want to find out from the Catholic Church and its faithful what they actually believe.  After all, then the non-Catholic could go on to future debates with more clout because they would be able to accurately articulate the Church's position.  Unfortunately, it seems to me that the goal of most debates, especially those anywhere online, is less about truth than making the other person look like a bigoted idiot. 

There's a lot of work to be done for us Catholics.  I can't go on thinking it's enough to be persecuted just because Christ promised it'd be this way.  After all, if people in his day called him Beelzebub, should we really be shocked at some of the names launched our way for being His followers?  He promised this kind of hatred.  "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11-12).  

It might tempt us to think we're something special just because we're being persecuted, but we better think again.  We don't need to be doormats, but we don't need to be crusaders at every moment either.  It's a delicate dance.  As tempting as it is to flush out every red herring or straw man I read about the Church in the news article com boxes or on Facebook, I'm slowly learning that most people are more in need of conversion of heart than whatever words I can type.  

Sometimes I'll point someone in the general direction of a reliable, Catholic resource like Catholic Answers Live, other times I'll give a short summary of the Church's position on a particular issue with citations from the Catechism, and other times I'll bring that person to prayer by name.  Entrusting that person to the Blessed Mother or to Our Lord is more powerful than any fleeting vindication I might feel from having "won" a Facebook debate.  What victory is it if I haven't revealed God's love?  

I'm slowly learning to pray for discernment on how to handle these situations.  It'd be a lot easier to defend the Faith if I weren't a broken sinner that the world could point to as a hypocrite, but I suppose the beauty of it all is that the world got Jesus in spite of Judas.  God continues to convert hearts despite my failings and miserable blunderings at revealing His love.  
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood (Heb 12:1-4).
So, on with the race set before us.  May we keep our eyes always on Jesus, "the pioneer and perfecter of our faith." 

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