When I went to college, I was really excited about my faith. I was proud to be a Catholic and I wanted other people to know about it. There was only one problem: I knew very little about my faith. (Small detail…) Living in South Carolina at the time—a place with fewer Catholics than those who do not like Catholics—I found my faith challenged on a regular basis.
“Why do Catholics worship Mary?”
“Catholics aren’t real Christians.”
“The Pope is a made up power ploy.”
“That’s not in the Bible.”
I needed to learn about my faith. I needed to learn how to defend my faith. Luckily for me, our Church has a long history of defending itself from outside attacks, dating all the way back to the second century with people like Justin Martyr. And even though things didn’t exactly work out for him (…) his work was instrumental in keeping the faith alive at a time when attacks were not only verbal but also violent. Rather than responding with violence, Apologists, as they were called, defended the faith with intellect and charity, allowing the faith that they believed in to speak for itself and stand up against criticism.
These “apologies” continue today, although in varied forms. In its best form—that which I encountered in college—truth and charity work together, sharing what we know to be accurate about our faith without compromising on the life we live, engaging our enemies while also loving them. This form of apologetics defends without being defensive, knowing that if something is true it will stand up to questioning, and more importantly, recognizing that sometimes the most powerful argument we have is not with our mouths or intellect but with the way we treat others.
Unfortunately, this is not the only form of apologetics known to our Church. Sometimes, as sad as it sounds, we find those in the Church that choose truth or charity, picking one without the other. Armed with the truth of our faith, they treat those who do not believe as we do as enemies, dangerous individuals that need to be defeated at all cost. While the content of their speech is (often) accurate, the speech itself fails to live up to the expectations of the Gospel; as we say, what you say is not as important as how we say it, and sometimes apologetics undermines its truth by saying it with hate.
But this is not the only problem we need to be aware of with modern apologetics, which is the subject of this week’s video.