I used to always like to read articles and have discussions about belief systems that are different from ours, particularly atheism, so that I can understand them and become a better evangelist/apologist. However I sometimes will go for long periods avoiding them simply because I get overwhelmed by the negativity. So many atheists, especially on the Internet, seem intent on disparaging and blaspheming our faith and also disparaging Christians both individually and collectively. There is so much insulting, name-calling and ugliness that it becomes overwhelming for me. I will sometimes begin to avoid having conversations with atheists and avoid articles that are atheistic in nature. Sometimes I avoid these conversations because I fear that I will not know how to answer, but most of the time I just need a break from the negativity. I feel bad about it because I know Fr. Barron answers pretty much everyone who comments on his video including those who are being nasty. I still think sometimes that maybe people are being lost because I am unwilling to engage them, however I imagine that someone who is just looking to be ugly isn’t really open to hearing the truth. What do you think?
I think that you and Bishop-elect Barron have vocational calls that are not identical.
Don’t beat yourself up over it; we are called to spread the Gospel, but that doesn’t mean that you must evangelize 24/7/365. Even priests need down-time in order to recharge and re-energize…
My brother (14yo) did exactly what you do. Just last week he told me he is taking a break from doing so because of the overwhelming negativity, and because he didn’t know how to answer some assertions that were putting doubt in his heart. I advised him to step back and understand the Bible and the Catechism before he does any kind of anti-Catholic research. Unless you believe you are able to adequately defend the faith against certain assertions, I’d say to not engage in such things. Many people can be turned off to the faith through well-meaning, but inexperienced apologists.
Hope this helps! God bless!
I don’t think you have any obligation to engage with every commenter or read every article.
But prudentially, you should probably think about holding back a bit at times when you do feel enthusiastic about such engagement, and not get involved in more discussions than you can carry through consistently. Just dropping out of a discussion (while sometimes the best thing to do) might give the impression that you can’t handle the discussion or that you are just a “drive-by critic” (this is something I’ve been guilty of on atheist blogs, sometimes, because I see an article, comment on it, and then never go back).
For me, I’ve found that a really light touch works well -
Arguments that doesn’t work for me:
"As a Lutherans, I know that just about everything you say is just bunk. (Insert Kierkegaard’s arguments here) "
Arguments that work for me, and draw out people into conversation.
"I like the fact that the more we press on in field of quantum mechanics that it seems harder to understand what is going on. They there are portions of this universe that are unknown is a comfort for me as one who believes in god - of course, this is also a problem in that I’m not espousing a “god of the gaps.” "
Basically I stole this idea from Ben Franklin:
But, that said, I certainly understand - it’s ok to take a vacation from evangelization, and some people really have hard hearts. Sometimes, you need to “dust off your feet.”
It is a person’s own fault for ignoring or disengaging from the truth about our Creator. Even if not directly engaging in their arguments, you can participate by simply smiling and saying (and doing) that you will pray for them. Yes, some just want to be ugly and not open to the truth, but the truth is out there, whether they choose to listen or not, they can feel it, they can see it. Hopefully, a time will come when they listen, and believe.
Do you have a regular confessor, spiritual director, or a good relationship with your parish priest? I ask this because your zeal for evangelization, while very laudable, needs to have a mentor to oversee it. Father Barron has a spiritual director to touch base with, to discuss issues, and combat burnout. He also has a solid prayer life. Without a tangible guide, it is easy to make mistakes and compromise your own faith life. A good apologist starts with a close relationship to the Holy Spirit through prayer, continual education on the faith, challenging and invigorating spiritual reading, and periods of rest and renewal. Procuring a director or mentor will ensure that you are following God’s will and not your own.
I think it’s prudent to avoid negativity at times, if you find it’s bringing you down. I take a hiatus from all social networking once or twice a year for that reason. If you are concerned that your lack of defending the Faith or evangelizing during these breaks is harming their souls, make it up by praying and doing penance for their conversion. Our Lady of Fatima told us to “pray for peace, do penance for conversion”.
I am very guilty of this on YouTube. In fact when people respond to my comments I will get notified in email, and I will delete the emails without looking at them.
I had recently given up facebook altogether, not because of this necessarily, but because it was such a time vacuum. It’s funny because right after I gave it up I have heard several talks about the importance of social media in Evangelization.
I have a strong desire to go out and preach the good news but also an overwhelming temptation to retreat into a bubble. They seem to contradict one another.
I don’t have any of those. I wonder how I might go about finding them.
I feel like since my conversion my relationship to faith has been predominantly intellectual. I realized when I was taking an adult faith formation course that I need to work more on a personal relationship with Jesus. That is still a work in progress.
Personally I have my doubts that very many people come to Christ via something they read on Facebook. We all post our opinions, but who really changes who they will vote for or what they believe in religious terms based on a meme someone put on their wall? Probably not very many, if any.
Retreat may be what you are called to do. There have been holy men over the centuries called to be hermits or called to monastic life where they can devote their life to prayer or other services to God. Perhaps it is not your calling to evangelize, but to serve God another way. I’m not saying you’re called to be a hermit or a monk, but perhaps some type of service to our God that fits our modern life.
Yes, I understand this very well…it is one reason that I prefer this site to that of many of my former atheistic forums. The association of negativity and lack of respect for theists with atheism is the first suspicion of doubt that I have had that something is somewhat amiss with the position…though to be fair most individuals who take to the internet with the intent of changing the minds of others typically do so with a great deal less decorum than those who might be quietly content to keep their beliefs (or lack-thereof) to themselves.
I will make you this offer: PM if you would like and I will explain to you the atheistic position on just about anything you might wish to ask. I will give you both the pros and cons of the argument and let you understand the inner workings of the atheist mind. Provide me an atheistic argument and I will dissemble it for you, complete with where it might be weakest. Do not worry about me trying to de-convert you…my current respect for theists largely prevents me from desiring such a thing…
Your civility is refreshing. I hope you find the best of company here on the forums.
I think it’s totally fine to not engage if you feel that doing so might cause you to react in anger or uncharitably.
Thank you, I really appreciate that.