How much time and energy should individual Catholics spend on hot-button topics?

I hope this is the right place for this thread. I am a 17 year old cradle Catholic trying to catechize myself. This is the primary reason why I joined this site. What has been bothering me is a huge disparity between study and real time. I mean, one minute, I am just reading Ratzinger quietly at home, taking in and digesting something about the Trinity when I decide to check if there is anything new on CAF. And it is usually the same topics that are not actually dogmas, more on the periphery, but nonetheless important. I am sure many of the posters here can guess what I mean when I talk about hot button issues, I would rather leave it as that in case I might accidentally drop a bomb and the thread deviates mid-way without many answers to my questions.

I honestly hate the Internet; it is my prime source of information, but it never fails to tire me out with the feeling of a bunch of people screaming inside my head. CAF is much better compared to other sites in civility and content, but one minute I feel assured reading a book, learning about the Faith and I get shaken up going online and witnessing people talking in real time. Now, this is confusing and discouraging enough for anyone who is just scratching the surface of the creed in study, let alone someone who is at that point this young. And I really do not go out much or consume much media, and so I do not know much about the world. I am increasingly scared that the world is a hostile place and I will be forced to put a shield up every two seconds of interacting with people. I am afraid of telling people that I am Catholic. Actually, the majority of us are Catholics in my area and school, I am just afraid people finding out that I am practicing and orthodox.

So, how much time should I spend studying the “issues” while trying to study the basics. I know I should not attempt to talk morals with only a rudimentary foundation, but I feel a sense of urgency. Still, I do not want to give the impression of obsession. I know that the Church is not obsessed so much as the culture is with these things and, in a different place and time, the Church could be going up against completely different things just the same. But, I really wish that I could know what to say if I am singled out and that it is for something fairly normal, like, say, the Trinity or Mary. I am not expecting to be able to pull an answer out of a manual in my pocket or a phone app and satisfy whoever it is, but, at least the Trinity or Mary are topics that are not emotion-driven to a frenzy and, though they may take time to discuss, can be civilly discussed over coffee or something.

One last thing that concerns me with these issues, I am not only socially inept, but take little stock in pathos. I tend not to give to emotions or that to others really, I am usually stoical or melancholic as part of my disposition, rarely passionate about even the things I do take seriously. I am afraid of being considered cold or without compassion. It is not that I like to hurt people, it is not like I hold every position I do because I like it or it is somehow easy or advantageous. It is even awkward for me to rent religious books from a public library: I approach the desk when I need help, look around to see if anyone familiar is around, write my title and author on a piece of paper and slip it to the desk lady to look up rather than tell her the title and author myself. I can only imagine how it would be to try to defend the Faith on the spot and in a tense situation. I have heard and read in a couple of Catholic sources that, during the earliest centuries of Christianity, a rumor existed around the empire that the Christians were cannibals. Sometimes I wish it were accusations of cannibalism over those things that I dread. But, how much should I let them worry me and how much should I spend studying those issues in depth? In one more year I will be in college and I feel unprepared for the world.

Sorry for the long post, any answers are welcome and prayers are always good. If I need to clarify anything that was not clear, sorry I am writing this when I really should be sleeping, I will do that tomorrow when I can. Thanks and good night. Pardon any typos, please.

I’m guessing you are not from Irish or Italian stock because hot button issues are the spice of life in my family life! :stuck_out_tongue:

Growing up, it was one of my brothers that was ‘the agitator’ and the rest of us would fall into the wash quickly after with our different perspectives and points of view. In my now adult family, one of my sons is ‘the agitator’ performing the same role. (Strangely enough both those characters are named Michael and I believe Michaels are often like that.)

The beauty of the internet is that you can just not open a thread. Robust argument does not suit everyone and we all have to know our own tolerance levels regarding that.

redbetta. You said:

one minute I feel assured reading a book, learning about the Faith and I get shaken up going online and witnessing people talking in real time. Now, this is confusing and discouraging enough for anyone who is just scratching the surface of the creed in study, let alone someone who is at that point this young.

Are you talking about your dialogue with Protestants or atheists/secularists? Or some other group? Or some combination of groups raising objections against the Church?

If I am aware of who is it that is “shaking” you up (“one minute I feel assured . . . and (then) I get shaken up”), I will suit my answer towards those objections.

You said: “How much time and energy should individual Catholics spend on hot-button topics”. Well the answer to that is, it is a life-long process regarding hot button issues or even “cold-button issues”.

But I will await your answer before I give my response as I want my follow-up to be helpful for you and targeted to your apologetic needs with the people or writings or whatever you are dealing with.

The way I decide how much time to spend on hot-button topics is determined by how I feel as the exchange plays out. For example, there are many Church scholars on here who can take difficult subjects and make them understandable. Time spent reading and considering what they wrote is very valuable to me. However, time spent in discussion with people who are against Church teachings, no matter how much I like them or respect them, has a tendency to cause me to doubt myself and my beliefs and I feel that is non-productive. So, I guess I would say that I feel that in order to be well informed I have to entertain discussions on hot-button topics but I attempt to limit my exposure to things that will enhance my understanding of Church teaching and my faith.

I sometimes participate in a political forum, and often arrive to see people discussing some event or person I have no awareness of. Now in terms of news I check my local news online, and am aware of some national and world news of course, but I do not have televised news on at all. One day it dawned on me do flip to CNN on the TV and there of course was extensive coverage of what the people in the forum were blathering about. In other words they were being spoon fed the hot button topics of the day by CNN or FOX or MSNBC, and it was often if no other issues existed. Remember for example would should have been a local matter only when a teen thug attacked a security patrolman and the teen was killed in the struggle. The President even interjected himself into the story and stirred the pot making the incident a national event when it never should have been. Afterall there is no presidential comment and national coverage of the teen mall wildings where gangs of african american thugs rage through the mall attacking and robbing only white people.
IMO, don’t let national news media tell you what the hot button issues are, and especially don’t let them tell you what to think about those issues. I realize you are speaking in terms of hot button topics in regard to religion, but the same thing applies. Don’t get caught up in what someone has been spoonfed by Marx and communist propaganda. The best reply to “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”, is “That is nothing but a quote from a man, and it is incorrect.” You don’t have to prove that Christianity is not an opiate because neither Marx or anyone else has proven that it is. It is just a dumb quote.

You should be able to answer people when they put you on the spot regarding the hot button issues. This requires understanding of the issues and understanding the opposing view. Only then you can engage with them and demonstrate that you are intelligent and that you have thought things through, and that you have reasons to think differently from them. You don’t have to go into great detail (and chances are they are not interested in detail, maybe they just want to attack the Catholic position).

I’m 20 years older than you and the thought of this makes me extremely uncomfortable, so please don’t feel bad about it. But please keep something in mind. Many (if not most)young people are clueless and don’t think critically. They parrot what they get from pop culture and the media and follow the crowd. You are at an advantage because you know how to think, how to argue and how to recognise nonsense.(at least this is an impression I got from your other posts :slight_smile: These are important things. Sometimes the best response is to show that we know our opponent’s argument inside out and to show weaknesses in their position.

I suggest that when you get to college you make a serious effort to meet like-minded people and to make friends with them. You will meet all sorts, but you don’t have to be everyone’s best friend. It is important to be surrounded by people who have good values, especially if you will be challenged by those who use college as an excuse to indulge in all sorts of morally questionable behaviour.

This seems related to what you are experiencing. I just came across this article from Mark Shea this morning:

A reader struggles with despair over quarrelsome Catholics

My first piece of advice would be to not let bickering internet Catholics steal your peace. Internet reality is not usually the same thing as actual reality. What gets people all worked up here, might not register that much with anyone else.

I would say that, if you are being more edified by books, then stick to the books. There are plenty of books on “hot button issues” that you could look to.

Being you are 17, I understand that going out and buying Catholic books on a regular basis might not be possible. There are lots of places online where you can basically get free Catholic ebooks. Or places like Catholic Answers or Catholic Education Resource Center where you can read lots of articles on lots of topics and (generally) avoid the bickering that comes with real-time forum discussions.

The key is to know yourself. If seeing all the squabbling is throwing you into a funk, then avoid those place and/or topics of discussion. Stick to what edifies – at least in the beginning.

Above all, keep praying. The Holy Spirit will open the doors of understanding for you far more than anyone here on the forum.

I understand your feelings of stoicism. I have felt very similar. In my college writing classes, I was told repeatedly by different people in several different classes that my style was very “deadpan” (I had to look up what that meant). It wasn’t even what I was aiming for, but as I reflected on it, I started to see that in myself. I don’t generally come off as emotionally excited even about those things that most interest me. Just keep learning and keep praying. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Passionate people are great for getting people excited about the faith. But then more stoic people have their place because they tend to get less easily riled up when the hot-button topics come up. We are many different parts of the same Body of Christ. Each part has their role. You will find yours. Give it time.

I have not engaged with anyone yet, but I have been reading threads on CAF on which a lot of the above mentioned groups respond and things can get tense, especially on the topic homosexuality, but abortion, contraception, etc. also stirs a lot of argument. A lot of the arguments against Church teaching is that it perpetuates human misery. I do not read a lot of Catholic blogs, but one that I frequently look at is D.C. Mattson’s Letters to Christopher on SSA because it gives a calm viewpoint from a celibate Catholic with SSA and I felt it to be helpful. Not too long ago, someone commented on the comment box that the author was consigning people to misery and a discussion ensued and I was wondering how I would deal with someone who dishes out that charge. I do not deny the heaviness of someone else’s cross and, as I have said earlier, I am not happy too often myself and it is not like I would deny anyone something that I have myself in taking my stand.

It seems as though the ultimate goal is individual happiness via fulfillment of desires that do not have immediate, visible consequences. And people argue that people of Faith should have the compassion to revel in someone else’s joy and support them whether or not morally licit. These are just the impressions I get from the Internet. However, it seems like the more emphasis is placed on romance, personal happiness, good feelings, the more I have an internal knee jerk reaction that borders on heresy in the opposite direction. This is why I spend more time on study as opposed to pure entertainment and why I feel as though I should forgo any attempts at a romantic relationship and stay single. Not to say happiness and romance are bad in themselves, that would be heresy, but I don’t know, I guess they are too mainstream for me.

I hope that was clear, pardon any typos, I need to get going and make more responses. Thanks for wanting to help.

Honestly, I have not regularly watched television in over three years, I am pretty clueless about secular hot button issues. But, I know enough to know that it is all about stirring the pot, fixating viewers, and raking in profits. The only thing is, what source can I trust to be informed? The Internet is just as bad, if not worse.

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