Hi. I have a coworker/friend who is a Methodist. Ever since I have worked with him (for 3 years now), we have had a nice dialogue about our faith, although we do have our theological debates occasionally. Usually how it starts, is we start talking about our faith or something regarding our Church life, then he questions something about the Catholic faith or the Church. I always try to give him to the best of my ability, a good, charitable apologetic defense of the faith. Once I give my “Catholic answer” (pun intended), he usually has nothing more to say. But as of lately, it seems at every chance he gets, he tries to attack my Catholic faith, whether it’s misinterpreting something that Pope Francis said (his comments about evolution and the big bang theory) or making fun of the Knights of Columbus (because they took Christopher Columbus as their namesake and he says that he was an evil man). But I feel that with all of this he is trying to prove that the Catholic Church is evil or wrong (all the classic anti-Catholic rhetoric). Mind you, I have never said anything uncharitable or derogatory about his faith or the Methodist church. The animosity seems to be coming from him. Also, I do consider him my friend, but lately his attacks on my faith are really starting to hurt me and I feel like it is hurting our friendship. I feel like our dialogue and especially my apologist efforts are bearing no fruit with him. I feel like he does not want to know the truth, that he only wants to prove me and the Catholic faith wrong. (Also, I think that he thinks it’s funny when he can tell when he’s getting under my skin.) No matter how intelligent and well-educated of an answer I give him in defense to his points, it seems like it has no effect on him, except that it hardens his heart even more against Catholicism. My question is, do you think that it is fruitful to continue to dialogue in defense of the Church to my friend or to just ignore or change the subject whenever it comes up? If yes, do you have any suggestions on how to soften his heart more and if no, how can I do this without denying the Catholic faith, or making it seem false? Any help is appreciated. God bless you all :signofcross::signofcross:
Have you told him how you feel when he is showing animosity toward you?
This is a tough position to be in. I used to have a lot of animosity towards Catholics myself. In my head, at the time, my scathing comments (even if they were hurtful) would be “helpful” because then the Catholic I was speaking to would realize the error of their ways and leave a Church that was trying its darnedest to ruin the Gospel. This may be where your coworker is coming from, or it may not be, but it is a common attitude in many Protestants. I’m still attending a Protestant church, and in Bible study I’ve become a lot more aware of comments people make. I’ve heard offhand comments:
- Comparing Catholics to a cult with a leader who demands unquestioning obedience
- Repeated assertions that Catholics get the Bible very wrong
- Comments to the effect that Catholics are as legitimate as the Mormons
And this is a group that doesn’t know about my interest in Catholicism, and isn’t discussing Catholicism, it’s just part of the general Protestant attitude (at least in my experience) towards Catholics.
So, I hope that helps you get inside his head
Advice on how to respond or if you should continue?
Continue if you can bear it! I first encountered Catholics in high school. I went through 2 years of loathing, 3 years of mild dislike, 5 years of sympathy for Catholics while believing their dogma to be poisonous, and now am at the point where I am considering becoming a Catholic. You’re three years in? God may be working through you, and you may never see the results of what you are saying and doing!
As to his specific comments on the history of the Catholic church, ask him if his own church is perfect. Don’t try to convince him that every single thing that Catholics do or have done is right. (Columbus was not a good guy) In Methodism there is an emphasis on holiness or right living and free will (which is a little bit odd among Protestants; but you can thank Arminius for that, whom my denomination would regard as a heretic) which may be why he feels drawn to those particular critiques of Catholicism. But here, rather than debating history, the best thing is to simply be a good person and cultivate a good relationship with him. That will do more for the witness of your Catholic faith than a thousand good arguments.
But like all Protestants, his church draws its authority from claiming to best represent the Bible. Don’t be sidetracked by history (especially trivial things like the name of the Knights of Colombus) - go back to Sacred Scripture, bring him back to the early church, and challenge him. Most of all, show him that you and Catholics read their Bibles, know the Scriptures, and that they testify to the authority of your Church. That’s the sort of apologetic discussion that will bear fruit, or at least, that’s what did for me.
Lastly, don’t push too hard or get discouraged. My last phase of becoming more Catholic occurred after all the Catholics I knew personally were out of my life. Just plant a seed, and try to show him by your actions that you do live out the Gospel.
Quoth 1 Peter 3:15-16 (RSV-CE):
“Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”
Quoth Ephesians 4:29 (RSV-CE):
“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear.”
Quoth Hebrews 4:12 (RSV-CE):
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Quoth John 6:44 (RSV-CE):
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.”
Given all these quotes, it seems you’re doing right in answering his questions patiently, kindly, gently, respectfully, reverently. But you may want to do it prayerfully too.
It seems you are experiencing a fairly common situation. Initially your friend is impartial to the Catholic Faith because he has never been touched and convicted by it. But now your friend is wrestling within his own soul against the calling/drawing, and the result is resistance within his own soul which then becomes expressed externally, and projected externally on other tangible sources, such as Pope Francis and Knights of Columbus etc.
It will only be when he realizes that the struggle is within his own soul, that the walls will fall.
Maybe try a totally new direction. If he brings something up suggest you pray together or do a bible study together? Not to try and convince him of the church but if he sees a believing Catholic who obviously knows his/her scriptures and has an active prayer life it breaks down stereotypes as Sam described.
Keep up the good work strings 385.
Yes Grace (not our discussions) works on people . . . but . . . your persuasion removes obstacles (so what you are sharing and the way you are doing it may be very important to your friend’s spiritual well being).
Grace builds upon nature. Conversions like this can take many years and God may not allow you to observe the good you’ve done to protect you from pride.
Again, keep up the good work.
PS. I felt the same way you did in the past when I was evangelizing CATHOLIC youth groups. My wife urged me to persevere. I took her advice and continued evangelizing these youth groups. About 7 to 10 years later, letters from these same kids who were now adults frequently arrived thanking me. I humbly thanked my wife, and of course thanked God too.
Your work is making a difference in a good way.
if you seem to always be at the short end of the stick, maybe my recent thread will give you some foundation for Catholicism
Yes, the advice about being gentle and careful always applies, but you should have some solid facts yourself, so you don’t end converting to Methodism.