I’m sure that, even if the term isn’t commonly used (I haven’t found anything on google with this context), many have encountered the questions that I am calling “bad faith” questions.
I live in an area now where Catholics are about 2% of the population, and most of the people in the area are some variety of either Baptist or “non-denominational”. Personally, I am a convert, and I haven’t had to face this type of question in quite awhile, but my children in high school frequently do. While they have no problem answering the actual question posed, the issue they seem to be facing is that the question is actually being asked “in bad faith”.
To define the term for purposes of discussion here:
“in bad faith question” means that the person asking the question is not asking in a genuine manner. Frequently, it seems like Questioner can barely wait for Answerer to “shut up” so that Questioner can go on by providing the “right” answer. In other words, it feels more like an undeclared rhetorical question rather than an opening to dialogue.
Personally, I’m fairly blunt and willing to call the Questioner out, but my usual “script” is too confrontational for my daughter’s comfort.
My “script” runs along these lines:
Q: Why do Catholics (do/believe) x [usually phrased in a manner that misrepresents the practice/belief, e.g. “worship Mary”]?
Me: By your question, I can tell that you love Jesus very much. So do I. I’m sure that you know, as I do, that Jesus said that He is the Way, Truth, and Life. So, I’m sure that you agree that seeking the truth is important to one who loves Jesus. I’ve been asked your question before, and I can certainly answer it … but I have been asked the question by others who are not actually interested in hearing an answer or even that the phrasing of their question misrepresents the truth. Are you asking me because you want to try to understand this [belief/practice]?
If the conversation continues, either it is a genuine interest in understanding (or learning what Catholics truly do/believe about the topic), or a subsequent response from Questioner reveals the “in bad faith” nature of the questions, and I’ll terminate the conversation by saying something like “I can tell you do love Jesus, as I do. I believe you are being sincere in your questions, but in the interest of our friendship, we need to end this discussion, as I do not feel that my answer is being heard. Pray for me as I will pray for you.”
So–either softer ways of ending the conversation or ways to successfully turn the conversation that started from the “in bad faith” question into an actual conversation? Share your thoughts and experiences.