The Wrong Question

A tough spot for the headline writers at the NCReg with this question from yesterday:

How Do I Convert People Who Hate the Church?

Here’s a hint: you can’t even convert yourself. Grace is an action of God, not a human being. If a Christian is totally reliant on God’s saving intervention in her or his personal story, that evangelizer-to-be has no hope with another person.

Columnist Chris Stefanick does credit grace, no credit to the webmasters at the site. He stumbles a bit here:

(W)e have the best news in human history — the love of God for us in Jesus Christ! And somehow the world has successfully rebranded that as bigotry, hate and repression.

Alas, no. I think our own members have done a bang-up job presenting the message and mission of Jesus as bigotry, hate, and repression. The sad truth is that the Church in the mortal realm consists of, well, mortals. We sin and fall far short of the divine ideal. We do the things we don’t want to do, according to Saint Paul, and we don’t do the things we know we should do.

Complaining about the world comes across usually as just complaining. The secular culture advocates complaint. That bad referee. That bad school board. That bad politician. That bad teacher who gave my kid a D. Complaining about the world will likely gain nothing. Even the pagans complain about the world–listen carefully for that.

Bottom line: the “world” doesn’t really care about branding anything that doesn’t sell its product.

It is credited to Fulton Sheen, the notion that maybe there’s a hundred people in the US who actually hate the Catholic Church. The rest who profess they hate, really dislike the caricatures, the sins, the bad behavior of Catholics.

I think Catholics like Mr Stefanick are earnest and realistic to note that many people will misunderstand them. Hate is a stretch. Sometimes the best approach is to listen carefully to a person willing to speak with you. It’s good to try not to formulate a speech in your head while doing so. The apologetics approach of formulating a speech before you even meet a person–that’s far worse.

The danger many evangelist-wannabes and apologists run into is that they’ve taken themselves out of the dialogue before it even begins.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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