I want to write a blog post about how to talk and relate with those who are considering conversion, doubting some bit of doctrine, discerning what they actually believe, or are just plain theologically confused.
So, for any of you out there - what do you like or dislike about the way people treat or speak with you? What feelings do you have that those who aren’t in your position just don’t understand? Please share, & please let me know if I can use what you write in the post or not. I am so interested in hearing others stories.
One thing that really gets my goat is when people assume I’ve already decided to convert – talking to me as if I am a Catholic when I still haven’t made up my mind! Little do they know how confused I still am in my heart!
I am new to the forums, so excuse any n00b mistakes on my part.
I probably fit, somewhat, into the category you describe. Two bits of advice from my POV:
Be positive. Speak positively about your faith and communion. Don’t bash. For example, if you are discussing issues with Lutherans, the worst thing you can do is start out by bashing and trashing Luther. It simply puts folks into defensive mode, instead of being interested in open dialogue, and open to what you have to say.
Stress common ground. This is easier for some than for others. For example, Lutherans are sacramental. we share your belief in the real presence, and infant Baptism. On the other hand, there are those who do not. But even with them, there is common ground to build a foundation of dialogue on.
Jon you impress me every time you post. Great advice you have this new member.
Elsybet, as a former atheist, then agnostic, then pagan… I can tell you that anything you say that makes a person feel judged will close their ears. Keep that in mind, always.
It also helps to learn some good QUESTIONS, rather than feeding an endless stream of “answers” and information. Questions that make the person think. You can even say “You don’t have to answer me, just consider this…” and ask the question. Puts people off of the defensive.
Also, a side note that as someone discerning the truth and asking questions you might feel out of place and nervous to remeber others are too. I know that I’ve been Catholic all my life and feel I know my faith relativly well (always more to learn) but when I get into freindly discusions I still feel unsure. I want to share the truth but am unsure how to do it kindly but still convincingly. I know how many times after the fact I say to myself, “I shouldn’t have said that it wasn’t nice” or “I was too nice and agreed with something I know is wrong.” Lets help each other find that area in the middle of charity AND clarity.
This would be my number one request. Be truthful but positive about why you are Catholic or Orthodox, rather than focusing primarily on what you perceive to be the problems in what I believe and in my Christian community. I already know all Christian communions have problems and weak areas, as well as each having their own strengths.
In being positive, don’t be unrealistic. You’re not a salesman, you are a fellow pilgrim–don’t bother trying to over-sell Catholicism or Orthodoxy like it’s a “It slices, it dices, it answers all your theological questions” gadget. Again, I already know the Christian life for any kind of Christian can be hard going at times. Life on this planet can be painful and confusing regardless of whatever faith one holds.
If I doubt or question some belief you hold, please don’t play armchair internet psychologist by assuming I must have some subconscious reason for not believing as you do. Maybe the evidence just doesn’t seem that conclusive to me. Please assume, if assume you must, that I’m trying to be honest with God, myself, and you, and questioning—and looking for evidence— in good faith.
Please do not endeavor to undermine anyone’s faith, even if you don’t approve of what they believe. Don’t assume that if you undermine a person’s form of Christianity, for example, that if that ground becomes shaky for them because you’ve mercilessly pointed out every last weak spot in their beliefs, that they will jump onto your patch of ground with relief. Maybe your patch of ground seems just as questionable as theirs, with simply a different set of weak areas and questionable beliefs. If you succeed too well in your undermining efforts, there’s a possibility they may abandon Christianity altogether.
Not a one of us will fully know if we’ve made the best choices in our beliefs about God until we stand before Him on Judgment Day. Till then, humility is needed with those who believe differently than we do.
We are on our way to converting to Catholicism. The thing that has spoken loudest to us has been the unconditional love and acceptance we have received from Catholic Christians when they know we are Protestant. Even before they found out we were converting they were open, welcoming, non-judgmental and very loving toward us. That has gone the furthest in winning us over.
I try to meet people where they are in their journey. It has shocked a lot of people that I’m no longer a Protestant Christian. I’ve never been a pushy Christian who rammed my faith down someone’s throat. I’d much rather live my Christian faith and share when the opportunity presents itself. When a Protestant asks me about my faith I share what I have found to be true in the Catholic faith and how that truth has affected my life. I never say or imply that I’m right and they are wrong. People will stop listening the minute they think you are bashing their religion. They are hearing that you think they are stupid/naive and that’s no way to have someone open their heart to the message you are presenting. I’ve invited some of them to Mass or Adoration with me. One came to Adoration and now attends every week and is bringing other non-Catholics with her.
I think, and I may be wrong here, that most people brought up in a religion think that once someone hears a few things about their faith they should make the jump immediately. They don’t understand that in most cases it’s a process. It’s easier said than done. Some people have to take baby steps. Some will take a few steps forward and a few back.
I am currently mentoring someone I met here on CAF. He recently had a very bad experience at a weekday Mass. He was very upset and he took a couple of steps back. He almost didn’t move forward. I listened, I was supportive and he’s going to Mass again. If I had jumped down his throat about the experience he would have shut down. He needs time.
Sorry this is so long.
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