Need Help with responses to abusive ex-Catholic Non denominational guy

I’d like some help if no one minds, but I’m completely new here, so if I’m putting this under the wrong thread, please let me know and I’ll move it.

I’m a cradle-Catholic and a sophomore at a Catholic university (Boston College). I usually attend either the Tridentine Mass (“Extraordinary Form”) at Mary Immaculate of Lourdes or the Anglican Use Mass at St. Athanasius. I’m also a lector at my church at home, which is Ordinary Form. All that for background!

I’m in a French class with a friendly kid who converted from Catholicism to some kind of (forgive me) wacky “non-denominational” Protestant sect. Really nice kid, but he can’t leave off any opportunity to proselytize.

I was also in a (different) French class with him last semester. There was a radical atheist fellow who came in and essentially said all Catholics and conservatives are evil, blah, blah, blah. I argued with him (I think I won the argument, but he became very insulted because he was a professor–not my professor, admittedly, but a different one), and neither of us came out very happy.

But the kid came out happy, apparently, because, seeing I had a knowledge of Scripture, he rushed up to me after class and asked me if I wanted to do a Bible study with him. As you can guess, I knew where this was leading, so I nicely responded that I’d like to meet up with him but wasn’t so crazy about doing a Bible study with him. After going back and forth, he said, “OK, maybe some other time,” and left.

Wouldn’t you know it, we’re in a French class together again this semester, and this time he hasn’t stopped hounding me about going to his Bible study. Day in and out every single day! Finally (mea culpa), I gave in. We just met a few hours ago. Then he told me his church leaders had come too. Oh, no.

It started off all friendly and cheerful, until they started whipping out the Bible and asking me for every line, verse, period, and semicolon. I held my own, based on material I’d learnt from Catholic Answers, and responded to every one of his points.

He was furious. He started screaming at me, telling me I was going to hell. I wanted to stand up and leave at that very moment, but his friend calmed him down, whereupon he fell silent.

After his friend (who was much nicer about the whole thing) finished speaking, the first guy said that I was coming in with a closed mind and that I wouldn’t bear to hear “what the Scriptures plainly say.”

I pushed back, naturally. I quoted Lewis, Chesterton, Augustine, Aquinas, Newman–all of which I probably shouldn’t have, because then he told me I was following “their theology” and not what God is “plainly saying to me in the Scriptures.”

He wanted me to have a proof-text for every single word that was coming out of my mouth. I told him he didn’t have a proof-text for every single word coming out of his mouth. He just said that my mind was “made-up,” that I was not a Christian, and that I just wanted to argue, not listen.

I laughed.

He said my laughing about such a serious matter showed I was going to hell.

I said the Almighty created laughter, did he not?

“Not about salvation.”

By the way, he later laughed at my beliefs. I called him out on it in an instant, and he shut up quicker than you can say “Jack Robinson.”

We left on atrocious terms. He quoted another passage to me. I responded, “‘Love one another.’ That’s what you and I should do, no?”

He walked out.

The kid from class tried to smooth things over, but his church leader was so angry.

I need help. I never want to put myself in that kind of situation again, but, if it ever happens, what do I do? I responded to all of his points, using Scripture but also appealing to the fact that Scripture itself never says that it is the only authority.

I am well-versed in Protestant theology and was able to explain his theology, but he kept saying this was “new to me.” We eventually got into a ridiculous debate on the meaning of the words Christian, disciple, and called. I kid you not!

I know this is long, but could someone help me out here? My heart’s still racing from when the argument got very bad.

My thanks!

There are 3. Things I refuse to debate ,

1. Religion

2. Politics

3. Daylight Saving

Simply because people have such a mindset on the subject you’ll end up worse off,

Just not worth it,

OP, I am not sure what you need help with. It sounds like you did fine.

Is dropping the class an option? :eek: Any of Mark Shea’s books, particularly “By What Authority?”, would be good intellectual gifts, but at this point he’d rip them in half.

Sadly, you’ve come up against a True Believer. At this point, pray for him. Rosaries are especially effective. “We must hope that when your head finishes turning around, it will be facing to the front again…” (Thomas More, paraphrased)

Welcome to apologetics, I got ambushed at a BBQ and that was a similar experience to what you just had. Unfortunately there are just some people you will never be able to talk to, and even come to terms with and say “well let’s just agree to disagree”. Don’t worry about it, study up and trust in the Holy Spirit, He is looking out for you! Get some good apologetic books and if your like me study, study, study and always welcome an opportunity to share the faith, even if they end up walking away thinking you are crazy…

Besides maybe your friend needed to see how his church leaders reacted and hear he arguments. Sometimes God really does work in mysterious ways, maybe what you said hit home and that’s why he reacted the way he did, just trust in God, say a prayer and move on!

My favorite advice comes from the Weather Channel: “The best way to survive a tornado is to avoid it all together.” Your first gut feeling was correct, not go to the bible study in the first place; next time you will know it is a set up. Some people cannot be convinced, no matter how true, convincing and obvious your arguments are. In those cases we just have to accept them where they are and agree to disagree. It sounds like maybe you were getting to one of these guys; who knows, maybe a seed was planted and in his search to prove you wrong, he will find the truth on his own. Leave it all to the Holy Spirit. Good job for defending faith! :tiphat:

Thanks, Phil. As I wrote, I did not expect at all to have this debate. I didn’t want it in the least. But I was forced into it, unexpectedly, because of that kid in my class.

Actually, it’s an excellent class. I’m just never going to say “yes” to that kid in class ever again. At this point, I really don’t want to see him again.

It may be important to note that he wasn’t the one who freaked out, though I’m sure he agrees with what his church leader said. But I will pray for him. I need it desperately because I’m having trouble forgiving them at the moment, and I know he and his group need it. Thank you for the support.

I’ve had chats with people about apologetics before, but never in this manner. I try not to get on to subjects of religion or politics, but I can’t help responding if someone truly insults me. It’s something I have to work on, I know, but that’s the ol’ part-Irish, part-Italian temper in me! (There’s also German and English in there, so they’re not exactly balancing it out!)
I have read many apologetics books (though I’m sure I need to read more–I know both Prof. Peter Kreeft and Fr. Ronald Tacelli, two apologists who teach here and wrote an apologetics book together; they’re good people, and I may talk to Fr. Tacelli after the weekend), which is a major reason why I think I could respond to what he was saying. The way he reacted, I don’t think he has ever had someone push back on him before.

Just so you know, the boy is not “my friend”–he never was, and he certainly won’t be after he set me up like this–but he had been nice to me, and I was trying to be nice in kind. But I thought about what you said in your last paragraph and came to the conclusion that you’re right. God does act in mysterious ways, and, if He used my experience to show the boy that his church leader was being a nasty, rude, even scary person, then I will thank Him for it.

Thank you for your advice. I talked to my parents about it and they said mostly the same thing. I will say a prayer and try to calm down about it.

Oh, how I wish I had avoided it altogether now! It was a set-up, which is one of the things I’m so annoyed about it. I was just trying to be nice; the kid had been nice to me before, and I thought that if I joined him or an hour or so it’d get him off my back from saying, “Will you do a Bible study with me? Will you do a Bible study with me?” Well, this just made it worse.

Thanks for your advice.

Well, I guess it’s just getting out of one of those situations if I ever unfortunately get myself into it again. I guess I’m just asking from some of the people around here who often talk/do apologetics work how to get out of a very sticky situation politely, because now I’m actually (probably unwarrantedly) worried, with how nasty the church leader-guy became.

We met in a lounge in my dorm building (thank God not in my room–I immediately told the kid “no” about that), and, as stupid as it sounds, I’m worried about what these people might do. Yeah, I know that’s ridiculous, but the church leader flipped out so wildly, so radically, that I thought he wanted to hurt someone. Nothing I could do about it on the law-enforcement side: he didn’t threaten or harm me in any way (except for “you’re going to hell,” which doesn’t have any bearing on the police).

So, on this forum’s side, I guess my question is how to get out before it gets to a point like that. In the future, should it ever happen, I’m going to nip it in the bud before it ever starts, but I’m thinking of “just in case.”

Does that make sense?


Congrats on holding your ground.

I am from Western MA and went to Providence College. In those days, I would not have been able to respond as you did.

If you did it as charitably as you could under the difficult circumstances, then you have nothing to be ashamed of.

You witnessed the slander and anger that is exists in certain denominations and non denominations. People like that want an arguement and will avoid even clear evidence that supports Catholicism. Prove one truth, they will just throw five other arguments at you. You can’t help someone who avoids the supportable truth.

Luther was sort of like that. So are many that follow his theology, not by coincidence.

Well done. You did no wrong. Try not to get wrapped up in the anger.

Oh dear, what a trying experience. I hope you’ve forgiven or are in the process. That’s going to be very important for your own well-being going forward – and also an excellent witness to your classmate.

Since you want to stay out of that situation in the future, there’s an almost fool-proof way to do it: just say No. Don’t say anything else at all. That gives an aggressor nothing to latch on to. If he or she asks why, say nothing (which is very pointed and quite effective). Don’t elaborate in any way, even to volunteer the story of this bad experience! Any kind of engagement signals that you’re open to changing your mind. If the situation allows, immediately walk away. It takes two to have a conversation. Be rude if you must; if the aggressor persists, he certainly is.

If you ever do, accidentally, find yourself in a situation like that again, remind yourself that love is always the best witness, and that you are under no obligation to listen. Do whatever you need to do to remain calm, kind, patient, and gentle. Remember you’re on the side of Jesus and can therefore afford to be magnanimous. Call to mind your favorite devotions. Start a side conversation with your guardian angel or patron saint. Picture the Blessed Sacrament. Say the Jesus prayer. However – in the presence of that kind of rage, the best thing to do may be to walk away. Calmly rise, say “Excuse me,” and walk out of the room toward a safe place – a busy cafeteria, a friend you know is nearby, etc. Don’t go back to your room. (Good for you, knowing not to meet there!)

If you are afraid for your safety in the aftermath, absolutely report the incident to campus security. It sounds like that church leader might not belong on campus. I appreciate that you understand you could be inflating things because you’re shaken up, but don’t downplay them, either.

I’ve prayed that you’ll find calm quickly, and that once you’re regained your peace, God will help you forgive and show you what he thinks about the situation. Be well.

Thanks for your kind words, Matt! I visited Providence College when I was trying to pick colleges (seems like ages ago, but it was only three years!), and it’s a lovely school.

I think I did it charitably, but I’ve got a temper, and when he went into the ad hominem attacks and the “you’re going to hell!” bit, I couldn’t help myself from snapping at him, though I tried to end nicely. I did just have to leave after a while. I’d never wanted to be there or put myself in that situation in the first place.

I don’t mind talking with Protestants or other non-Catholics. I’ve studied Protestant theology in my classes and know a good deal about it. I even quoted Luther when I talked to this church-leader, just to show how far off he was from even traditional Protestantism. But what he did to me was beyond the pale. I was set-up by the kid in my class. That’s what I’m having the most trouble with. That and the worry that this wacko might try some kind of retribution. That was how angry he was.

And that’s also what I’m trying to watch out for at the moment: I’m having a great deal of trouble trying to forgive them. As someone advised here, I’m praying and trying to calm down.

One of the moments that really made me break out in ironic laughter was when he told me I didn’t have an open mind.

I asked him if he had an open mind towards my beliefs.

He said he didn’t need to because I was going to hell. (Cue reference to wide and narrow paths.)

Something else that troubled me was how he wanted a proof-text for everything. I get sola scriptura, but he wanted it for every single word. I’m not kidding. If I said, “disciples,” he wanted every verse with “disciples” in it. If I didn’t produce it, or said I didn’t know (and I don’t–heck, I’m a political science major!), he told me that just proved that I was going… Well, you know.

Again, thanks for your too-kind words. Much appreciated.

You’re absolutely right about forgiveness. That is the part with which I’m having the most trouble at the moment. But I have talked to my parents and read the advice here so far. It’s wonderful to hear these thoughts from good people like yourself.

I didn’t want to go to his Bible study, but I thought it would just be the two of us, and I could deal with that. I thought that perhaps it would stop him from continually asking me about it. My first cue should have been when he unexpectedly said his church leaders were coming along, but I (more fool I!) gave them the benefit of the doubt, and they did start off nicely before descending into total madness (or, to be fair, at least one of them).

I know now just to say “no” in the future. It’s a powerful and effective tool, and I wish I had just utilized it.

As for the church leader and campus… I’m not sure. It is a Catholic university. But Campus Ministry has different religious leaders from various religions and denominations, and he said (before he descended into craziness) that he was an authorized campus minister. I have no idea if that means he works with our Campus Ministry. Because I’ve been a lector here as well, I’ve been to Campus Ministry many times, and I do know he doesn’t work for them.

I’m not even sure about the extent to which I’m worried about my safety. The Boston College PD probably would write a complaint and then do nothing about it. Officially, I welcomed my classmate into my building, and he welcomed those two outside guys. Again, I knew nothing about their coming; if I had, I would never have said yes. Even when he did tell me they were coming (at the eleventh hour), he only said one was coming, and he didn’t say it would be a church leader.

Thanks for your advice and, I hope, your prayers. I do think I’m starting to forgive for the first time.

I don’t know who changed the title–I can’t seem to be able to change it–but I just want to clarify: it’s not the kid who’s in my class who was nasty and, well, “abusive.” It’s his church leader, or at least one of them. Actually, that church leader let me know (before he started screaming) that he was an ex-Catholic, so the title is correct, but I’m just trying to clarify.


You’re welcome. I have been in similar situations, but not quite that bad. Now, I try to only discuss these things with people that are honestly seeking the truth.

To respond to your follow up questions - I agree that you are in no way required to respond to openly abusive people who are looking for a fight. To take it a step further, this person likely used you in order to set up the fight or at least to try to convert you. In this way, they can manufacture their own version of credibility for their nondenomination. Additionally, they often run their “church” like a business, so their number one objective is new membership.

Also, good call on pointing out the differences between the theology of the 16th century reformers versus modern evangelicals/non-denoms.

I enjoy listening to Dr. David Anders on EWTN radio. His show is Called to Communion. He is a former Protestant and I find him to be intelligent, humble, and honest.

He once indicated that if you wanted to plant a quick seed, go with this line of questioning (you likely already know all this):

Catholic - how do you know the bible is the inspired word of God and that the canon of scripture contains the correct books?
Protestant - It speaks to me, or I feel it, or the Spirit tells me
Catholic - Yes but if you go by the bible alone, how do you know the entirety of what is inspired? The bible never says “this is the inspired word of God”, or even that “This is the gospel that was written by Matthew, Mark, Luke or John”. The publisher adds the title. Is it left up to every individual person’s assessment? No one can confirm that Luke actually wrote it.

He then indicated that the Protestant will often sneer and walk away. However, he indicated that a few come back later on to say they converted. They obviously realized that the canon was determined by the Catholic Church, in which case sola scriptura has no meaning.

Another good source is EWTN’s The Journey Home program (also found on YouTube). Converts to Catholicism tell their story. This may provide perspective.

In any event, I’m sorry you had to go through all that. It sounds like you are already well grounded in your Catholicism. As a silver lining, this experience may strengthen your appreciation for the church even more.

Hey Brother, I’ve been there too. My Testimony I think you did great and just had the lousy luck to get stuck in like that.

But I thought about what you said in your last paragraph and came to the conclusion that you’re right. God does act in mysterious ways, and, if He used my experience to show the boy that his church leader was being a nasty, rude, even scary person, then I will thank Him for it.Remember the following passage, okay? [FONT=Palatino Linotype]Matthew 10: 14 Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. 15 Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

The best advice I can offer is to just break it off and make it plain that you will not get involved with these 2 ever again without a sincere apology from the guy and even then I would decline any further interactions. You did your best and answered all their objections. I’d just (to borrow a line from Peter Tosh) “walk and don’t look back”.

a set-up, which is one of the things I’m so annoyed about it. I was just trying to be nice; the kid had been nice to me before, and I thought that if I joined him or an hour or so it’d get him off my back from saying, “Will you do a Bible study with me? Will you do a Bible study with me?” Well, this just made it worse.

Thanks for your advice.Anyone who would do that to you, especially with someone who is clearly unstable like that is not someone you want to hang around with and you are within your rights to express that to that kid when next you talk to him. I would say something like … “Hey listen, I really don’t appreciate you dragging that guy into our discussions and I want you to know that is that’s what your religion makes people into then I certainly don’t anything to do with it because Jesus says in the New Testament says "By their fruits you shall know them." (Matthew 7:16) and those fruits are not Christ-like and I don’t need or want that.”

Yep, sure does. Ya just not know when to walk away and now you have some idea what to watch out for.[/FONT]

He needs your prayers.

I went to a Catholic university but I was a lapsed protestant/atheist at the time and I didn’t pay much attention to the “Catholic” events on campus.

One of my childhood friends is a Baptist and she and her congregation are openly virulently anti-Catholic, they don’t have a problem with coming out with it openly. I rented a room in her house while I was at university and she really disliked that I was becoming Catholic.

I stay away from her. It’s sad but I need to protect myself, my husband and our daughter from that. I don’t attack other people’s faith out of a matter of basic respect and good manners, I expect others to do the same.

Respectful debate, sharing of ideas, learning from each other I don’t mind.

I do pray for her though.

OP, you handled it very well. :clapping:

Clearly a setup. They expected another sitting duck Catholic with no knowledge and they got the opposite. And the reaction was anger…hostility. And well, man’s wrath doesn’t accomplish God’s missions. The guy who snapped on you demonstrated that he lacks the fruit of the Spirit:

Galatians 5:22-23New International Version (NIV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

This should be a real eye opening experience for any discerning Christians who witnessed it. :shrug:

Others have given good advice. Pray and avoid bad situations like that again. Dialogue is good, but if it’s one on one and with ground rules in place.

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