Saturday, November 16, 2013

Five Signs You've Lost the Catholic Vision

As a Catholic Blogger, you have a job to do. You are to present to the world your faith in all its glory and its beauty, to fight back against the falsehoods and deceits the world presents about us, and to reveal the truth in a language that makes it accessible to those who aren't theologians.  It's a tough job, and nobody would deny that who has given it any kind of try.

However, it is an undeniable position of leadership.  It sets you up as an authority figure, someone that other people can go to for help and advice in matters of all things Catholic.  Therefore, it is a dangerous position to have because it is just as easy for you to lead others astray as it is for you to lead them into the arms of the Shepherd. The more fans you have, the easier it is for you to develop a spiritual pride that allows you to stop listening to the warnings of other Catholics who tell you that you might have wandered off that narrow path just a little bit.

Here are five signs that you have lost the Catholic vision, and lost sight of the entire point of a Catholic blogging ministry:

1) You think anyone who doesn't agree with you is stupid.

You are not God almighty.  No matter how long you've been Catholic, no matter how many classes you've taken or degrees in theology you hold, you can still learn more. For goodness sakes, there are over 2000 years worth of Church history as well as vast collections of documents and books to read and to interpret. You are human and you can be wrong. When you hold the attitude that those who don't agree with your position are clearly stupid, you not only alienate those who don't hold your same position and remove the hope of conversion, but you are sitting in the seat of Christ, actively judging others.  This is pride, friend, and it is poison to any evangelistic effort.  Left untreated, you'll end up surrounded by yes men who only tell you what you want to hear and will chase off those souls that may have even greater wisdom to offer you.

2) You are more concerned with being right than being righteous.

When you're engaged in debate with someone over the internet or in person, it's easy to lose sight of what really matters. It's easy to forget that the point of the debate is to help someone else find the truth.  It's easy to focus on proving that you're right and they're wrong.  However, this can't be the point of a Catholic debate.  The point of a Catholic debate must not be to win, but to win hearts.  Treat your opponent with respect.  Give them their due. Admit when they have made a valid point.  Admit when you don't know something. Admit when you make a mistake.  The most important thing, after all, isn't that you be right but that they find the truth.

3) You frequently use sarcasm or snarky statements against your opponents in your writing.

Sarcasm may be funny, and humor can make a point, but if it is directed against your neighbor, it's wrong. That neighbor is Jesus, and how you speak to them is how you speak to Him.  Condescending speech never won any hearts or converted any souls, so it really defeats the purpose of your blog if you're engaging in it.  Humor is fine, but humor at the expense of other people is unworthy of the dignity of man.

4) You are impatient with "those" Catholics who don't believe the "right" things

There are plenty of Catholics in this world who aren't practicing their faith.  We all know those who continue to go to Mass while holding on to beliefs that clearly go against Catholic teaching, or who have fallen away from the Church because of some erroneous belief. It can be difficult to put yourself in their shoes.  It's easy to assume that they are just intent on destroying your church, and to want to push them out of the church until such time as they can be a "good" Catholic and do what they are supposed to do.  It's frustrating to watch as their behavior gives the "rest" of us a bad name.

The reality is that many of those who are going against Church teaching aren't even aware of what the Church really does teach.  Those who are aware of it and continue to persist often don't understand why what they are doing is wrong.  They don't understand why the Church teaches what she does.  The fact that they are spending their time reading your blog and making comments means that they are trying.  They are attempting to figure out the truth, and to understand why things are done the way they are done. They may not be ready to agree with you yet, but they are trying.

Get impatient with them, put them down, or tell them that they aren't a "real" Catholic and you may very well stop them from continuing to try.  Your rudeness, your impatience, your desire for them to just leave already,  validates all those negative impressions they have of the Church and drives them even further away.  If you want their hearts to change, be patient, be gentle, and keep trying to reach them.

5) Your posts label people of other beliefs as crazy, nutjobs, or any similar putdown.

People who visit your site may be blind to certain truths, but that doesn't make them crazy. It doesn't make them a nutjob, or an idiot, or any of the other insults that come to mind.  These are people who are ignorant or misguided.  It's your job to help them find the truth, to educate them in the truth, and to guide them on the path.  Don't label them, explain why you disagree - respectfully.  Blog about errors you find on the internet, yes, but don't call the people names while doing it.

I was raised in a home where a lot of errors were taught to me from a very early age. Not surprisingly, I accepted those things without question because they came from my mother and other authority figures in my life. I wasn't crazy, I was being misled. People eventually got through to me and changed my point of view, not by calling me names but by pointing out to me the errors and showing me why what I believed was wrong in a loving manner.

I hope that if you are a Catholic blogger you read this and take these things to heart. As writers, we are leaders with great power to persuade.  We must remember that our mission as bloggers is to lead people to Christ, not to elevate ourselves or to win followers who will agree with everything we say.

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