Problem with over-aggressive apologetic zeal


#1

I’m a recent convert to Catholicism - less than 2 years ago. I’m the only Catholic in my family.

The rest of my family (and extended family) are still “intensely Fundamental” Baptists. In fact, my Bro-in-law is my family’s minister, and my Father-in-law is their head Elder. My wife and children go to church and are regularly fed with anti-Catholic nonsense. They don’t understand Catholicism at all, but think they’re experts! As a result, my faith is frequently and aggressively attacked. There is often a “warlike” and condescending atmosphere in our home.

(Yes, I know it’s an unhealthy and divided family situation. I’ve discussed these issues with my wife, who sympathises with me, but is also *very enmeshed *with (and sympathetic to) her Baptist family - and don’t forget that she is still a devout Baptist. I don’t expect the situation to improve much.)

Due to this hostile atmosphere, I’m getting pretty good at defending my faith. My problem: It’s easy to become too aggressive in my responses to them. I admit that I have a pretty strong anti-Protestant attitude.

They can “hear” me when I’m being calm and good-natured. But when I’m frustrated with their attacks, and I counter-attack aggressively, I only push them away, and it also seems to fuel my anti-Protestant attitude.

For those of you converts who have been at this longer than me… when does the “anti-Protestantism zeal” wear off? Will it become easier someday? Do you have any advice?


#2

I have a Catholic wife and we get into “discussions” about canon law being rules made up by men and such stuff, so no matter what ones spouse is, there is still room for disagreement. At least I am not attacked, but I have learned one thing and that is to merely share what I believe and leave off direct refutation. Now of course what you believe will often contradict what your spouse and kids believe, but by making it personal it takes out the attack scenario. You know the old saying about flies and honey. :slight_smile:


#3

Sounds like you’re in a tough situation.

My family was more open to the idea of my conversion, so I didn’t have to defend myself from outright attacks too much. I did have a little bit of an “anti-Protestantism” mindset for a while after I chose to convert, though. I consider it to be a natural phase to go through when one is in the process of rejecting one’s former education and upbringing, in favor of a new worldview.

I can’t speak for you, but the trick for me in overcoming my problems with Protestantism was remembering that my Protestant brothers are human beings, with real human emotions, and whose feelings are just as powerful for their faith as I have for my own. This humanity required me not to condemn them, but to accept and love them even if I think they’re wrong. Once I began practicing this, the negative emotions began to subside.

Granted, I have not had problems with blatant anti-Catholicism, so I’m not much help in dealing with constant attacks from one’s own family. Hopefully someone else here is.

Would it help if you tried to establish “rules of engagement” with your family for dealing with this sort of thing? Maybe mutually agree to not discuss these matters in certain social/family situations so that you do not feel under constant attack? (not sure if it would help, I’m just brainstorming).

Good luck!


#4

Hi Tom,

I find that it can be extremely difficult sometimes to avoid getting into a “win the argument” mindset.

Personally, I find it best to back up when I am having a hard time avoiding being overly aggressive, & come back to it later.

I found “Catholicism and Fundamentalism”, by Karl Keating to be quite helpful in both answering many non-Catholic objections & in seeking to understand them, rather than treating then as enemies.

You might find “Rome Sweet Home”, by Scott & Kimberly Hahn helpful as well. It details both of their conversions. Scott first, & his wife later.

You & your family will be in my prayers.

God bless,

Chris


#5

Here’s some advice that is general, but is especially pertinent for situations like these: Don’t ever argue with anyone when you are angry or are becoming angry.

And especially: Don’t ever argue with anyone about a religious topic when you are angry or becoming angry.


#6

Don’t know if this will help or not, but…

Maybe an interior visual devise can help you.
Think of a rope being tied between you and your protestant family. (no not around the neck:D )
If you draw the rope toward you you draw others to you.
If you push on the rope, it just goes slack and they can draw away.
The idea is to gently draw others toward you and the faith and not to push them away.

Another similar devise I’ve used is the idea that, in order to push someone toward God you will get further away from God. To take them by the hand and lead them you must remain closer to God.

The idea being that when we get pushy we are really not acting in a Christlike manner, but when we remain calm, loving, yet firm, we defeat emnity and distrust.
A person who must use anger and mis-information as a basis for discussion is easily (though not quickly) defeated by a loving firm, calm and fact based position. Any misinformation on teaching, practice or doctrine placed before you can be refuted quickly by producing official catholic teaching on the subject. If they insist that they are right in spite of the facts, ask them to produce credible documented evidence to support their position.
Work carefully with your wife to insure that she has correct information so that she, a devout baptist, can help educate her errant family.

Sorry if I’ve rambled a bit. Hope some of this might help.
Remember Love Love Love… And count to ten … A lot

Peace
James


#7

Hi Tomch,

I don’t know if one can say that it “wears off”, as such, mainly because it is so often fanned by further a-C attacks.

I have learned one thing that helps greatly.

Prayer…

Yeah, I know that seems obvious, but here’s how it works for me.

When I realize that I have to respond to someone who is caustic, I begin to pray for them, for me, and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as I speak.

I always ask God to help me be the image of Our Lord in the discussion.

It helps.

I also pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet Novena for the people that I’m dealing with. That has worked better than I can even tell you.
Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum.


#8

Hi Tom,

My wife and I were married in a Baptist church 29 years ago. Her family wouldn’t let her marry in a Catholic Church. The pastor and the head deacon were close friends of her family. I used to see them every Sunday that we visted them.

Back then I didn’t really care about Catholic or Baptist one way or the other. But then about 20 years later I had a sudden conversion experience back to the Catholic Church. I would listen to EWTN apologetics shows on the radio, everyday. My wife was listeneing to the shows too. Much to my surprise. I never engaged her in a debate about the faith differences. I just listened to the EWTN call in shows. Then all of a sudden after a few months of this, she blurted out that she wanted to convert to Catholic. Bless the Lord for making it so simple for me. Now my house is covered with statues of the Blessed Virgin and Crosses with Jesus, pictures of the saints, holy water fonts etc…

I am thinking that maybe you could just listen to EWTN or whatever Catholic radio is available and let them do the talking for you. These guys were so much more elegant about it than I could ever be.

Although I don’t pretend to understand your situation, I will pray for you and your family. Maybe you could just let EWTN or others do the talking for you. Perhaps get some of conversion stories available on CD and play them in the car or something like that.

“Surprised by Truth” is an excellent series for those in the family that like to read.

Again, I don’t pretend to have all the answers for you, just trying a few suggestions that have worked for me.

Now if I could only get my brother to listen to those things, well I would be happier than a lark.


#9

“Wisdom” speaks. The best advice of all.

Take heed, Tomch. For while the faith is In us, it is, ultimately, He Who ‘draws’ them and His timing is sometimes, uhm…FRUSTRATING!!

:cool:


#10

I use to argu with my family a lot over contraception. They are “Catholic” but don’t digest the full meal of the faith. I argu less now and to some extent have started thinking of my brother’s and sister’s as being in a different denomination. It made it easier for me to think of them as being Protestant.

I think the bottom line is to do all in love. My lack of zeal probably has more to do with laziness. Sometimes I take on the Joana mentality “let them burn”, but look what happened to him.


#11

One thing that has helped me temper my response is Ephesians 6:12 --consciously reminding myself that other people aren’t my real “enemies” but Satan and the evil spirits who are provoking the bad behavior. I would make this a matter of regular prayer before God – pray for the people giving you a hard time (I often have to pray for the grace to even want to pray for such people!) and pray for the grace to respond respectfully and confidently.


#12

Many, many thanks for all your wise and thoughtful responses!


#13

I have a brother who has a large family (6 kids and a wife). They are foursquare. I am a Catholic convert. His wife is a bit more anti-Catholic than my brother. Whenever I visited when they lived closer to me she asked me a lot of questions about the Catholic faith. At first she really seemed genuinely interested (not necessarily in converting, but just in wondering why I converted…what made me tick).

But later she started getting more hostile about it so I just decided to stay away from the subject altogether…but she kept inquiring. Then one night she just blew up (she was also pregnant at the time, which explained some of it) and said, “I’m tired of all your Catholic **** and I wish you would just take it out of my home and away from my kids!!” I was taken aback because it was totally out of her character.

My brother, feeling like a constant mediator, was about to intercede when instead of tearing her head off like he expected, I simply responded, “If it’s any consolation to you I still consider Jesus to be the foundation of my faith and the Rock of my salvation.”

She was in tears and said, “I sure hope so…I just worry about your soul so much.”

The truth came out. She was not just arguing to argue…she was genuinely concerned about my soul. That gave me a newfound respect for her in spite of our differences. The fact that she loved me enough to care is what motivated her. I don’t pretend to know your situation totally, but perhaps the same is true in your situation?


#14

She was in tears and said, “I sure hope so…I just worry about your soul so much.”

The truth came out. She was not just arguing to argue…she was genuinely concerned about my soul. That gave me a newfound respect for her in spite of our differences. The fact that she loved me enough to care is what motivated her. I don’t pretend to know your situation totally, but perhaps the same is true in your situation?And this is another factor and a very good point.

We need not automatically assume the worst in intentions when people get into this with us. I don’t know anyone else’s heart, so until such time as they make their intentions crystal clear, I have to assume they are legit and deal with them accordingly.

No matter what, it’s absolutely critical that we always deal with others with the very highest charity. With some, that is very very difficult as I’m sure some of you have seen here on CAF, but there are two rules that I try to maintain.

  1. Don’t take it, or make it personal. Regardless of what they say, I have to do the best I can to be charitable in my response. And nothing…repeat nothing ever says that I can or should return in kind. If the other guy wants to be a jerk, that’s on him. I really don’t wanna go there.

  2. Stick to the topic and the facts and not the person. Remember that even if the guy you’re responding to rejects you, there are people who read what we post and hear what we say, and we need to keep them in mind. Most people are smart enough to recognize statements without factual basis when they see or hear them. Just kindly lay the truth out there and pray all the while that the Holy Spirit will bear His own fruit from our poor labors.

Remember, the Holy Spirit is the one who brings about conversions of heart within others, not our great debate skills, or knowledge of our topic.

Know what you are talking about, certainly, but remember that is always about Our Lord, and never about us.
Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum. :slight_smile: [/size]


#15

Wow.

My sympathies. It must be very difficult.

While I haven’t experienced such a situation, I would suggest rather than attempt (at this point, at least) to convince them what’s right about Catholocism (which implies what’s wrong about Fundamentalism), try to focus on the simple things you have in common and when arguments ensue, use the broken record technique.

For example, you both worship Jesus as Lord, right? Focus on that. If you get his with "Well, you Catholics Worship Mary"or other tripe, the response is always, “No, but we both worship the same Jesus, right?”. Over and over, no matter what the objections.

Have you ever seen the film “The Apostle”? Robert Duvall plays a fundamental preacher who gets in trouble, flees his family (I don’t want to give away the plot) and starts a new church in another state. During his travels, he stops to observe from a distance a priest blessing the shrimp boats as they go out to sea.

The quote that I absolutely love is something like “Well, you do it your way and I’ll do it mine…either way we get the job done”.

I’ve seen a DVD that I might recommend called “Common Ground
What Protestants and Catholics Can Learn from Each Other”. It’s a very non-confrontational discussion between a priest and Protestant minister discussing a few differences is faiths, but focuses on the commonalities. What it’s not is a battle between the faiths, which is what the OP already has!

ninevehscrossing.com/Order-CommonGround.html


#16

I’ve had to deal with family members like this (ex-Catholics who joined fundamentalist churches) and it became divisive to the family. I decided not to bring religion up and to ask them not to discuss it either. I refuse to argue about it. It’s not that I don’t want to defend my faith, just that I wasn’t getting anywhere, and family gatherings were tense. This is a job for the Holy Spirit. Put it in His hands, and pray to Him.

I can’t give you any advice about your relationship with your wife in this matter, but perhaps you two could come to an agreement about the rest of the family. It’s your home and it should not be a battleground. That is unhealthy for your children and your marriage. Perhaps a moratorium on the subject when they visit would help. Remember that discord and strife are not the work of God, but come from our own fallen nature and the evil one, who does not want us to live in peace and grow in our love of God. He especially wants to destroy families, because they are the fertile soil in which the seeds of faith are planted and nurtured. Your children need to see examples of Christian charity, not religious battles.

Biting your tongue and even accepting humiliation are hard things to do, but in the end, living out your Christian and Catholic faith to the fullest extent possible is a more powerful witness than arguing about the Faith. Prayer can work wonders, and love will eventually triumph. I have said a prayer for you and your family.


#17

I wish I’d have read this post before I started embarking on some discussions on “Non-Catholic Religions” threads… A very, very good advice indeed!!:thumbsup::thumbsup:


#18

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