What I mean by that is that I’m seriously afraid of being unable to evangelize or successfully defend the (usually seen as backwards or irrelevant) beliefs of the faith to others. I’m shy and non-confrontational to begin with - if there’s mutual respect I can actually carry on a decent “dialogue” with others on the matter - but the whole idea of evangelism and the responsibility of that frightens me. I don’t think I lead someone to Christ for a hill of beans. I already have a hard enough time with older friends and family of religious or God-believing background, but I’m always worried I’m going to run upon some classic internet-style New Atheist at college and blow it. Theology may be a hobby of mine, but I’m autistic and even my own mind gets hung up on careful distinctions (like why we pray in groups or with and through the saints if God has preordained His answers, and merits changing efficacy of prayer! don’t get me started there!) anyways, I’m always learning in part out of love, in part out of confusion, and in part out of fear that my beliefs may be impossible to justify to others. Help… ?
I’m autistic, too, and I totally hear you on not being that keen on evangelizing. I love what St. Francis of Assisi had to say about it: “Preach the Gospel always; use words sometimes.”. I think it’s way more effective to evangelize by example than by any amount of preaching, otherwise, you risk alienating people. I think people these days need to focus more on being charitable than by preaching: not charity as in donating money or food or what have you to some organization that helps the poor, but charity as in being kind to people and respecting them and not looking down on them if they’re a sinner.
God’s providence is funny. You just echoed PRECISELY what I was suspecting I should do, right down to St. Francis’ methods (I’m looking to be a Secular Franciscan). I try to focus on the brotherhood of all mankind. I owe them respect, not ire, ya know? I had gotten caught up in a bit of a spitfire fortress-mentality tiff for a while there, and today I was studying Vatican II trying to understand why they thought the reforms were needed, and one that stands out to me is the idea of coming to the world “on its own terms” instead of hurling anathemas and cursing the darkness. Mutual respect.
The following quote is what Jesus told His disciples.
A Hard Road before them
16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.
17 “But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues;
18 and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.
19 “But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say.
20 “For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.
Keep His words in your heart, know His words, believe them for you. Always act in love. Remember you don’t save anyone. You let the Holy Spirit speak through you and He saves. I found many times when I spoke to people it seemed like I was talking to a brick wall and nothing was getting through.
Mark 4:12 - For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
But God’s word does not come back void. He exhalts the lowly and humbles the wise. They do hear and it makes a difference. Not necessarily instantly, but in time they will remember what was told to them. Yes, some will ridicule you or ignore you or worst. But don’t be insulted by them, take it as a badge of honor for Jesus. They are at a disadvantage because their eyes have become dull. When they convert you have gained a soul brother or sister. What a joy that is!
We’re in a sort-of-similar boat.
I’m a college sophomore at NYU, where a lot of my fellow students are very philosophical, and very atheist, so engaging in conversations about anything – faith, pre-marital sex, abortion, etc. – always puts me into the spotlight, as I’m always speaking against the grain.
One thing that I’ve committed myself to is reading intensely. If there’s any particular topic that worries you, shout; I’ll likely have a book to suggest. I read intensely, and I’ve read so much, and – thank God! – every thing I read only deepens my faith further.
We’re called to be responsible.
On a more practical level:
Don’t be afraid to admitting you don’t know something, and coming back to the asker with an answer later.
Pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance, daily, especially in moments of conversations. I sidewalk counsel before abortion clinics in the city, and the Spirit works wonders when I pray genuinely and fervently for His guidance.
God bless, and good luck!
All this is confirmed in God’s word:
2 Peter 1:5-11
5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.