On the Reformers’ side of the Catholic-Protestant divide there are some impressive, cogent arguments for or against doctrines on which Catholics and Protestants disagree, logical, finely-nuanced arguments about which whole books have been written, indeed, arguments upon which entire Protestant denominations have been founded.
This post isn’t about those arguments.
No, this post is about some of the ridiculous things that some folks hold up as “proof” that their denomination is Christianity The Way Jesus Meant It To Be, or “proof” that the Catholic Church is the scuzzy spawn of Satan. I don’t know about you, but I can handle thoughtful objections far more easily than I can handle dumb ones. The following are indubitably dumb, yet that doesn’t keep dumb bunnies from trying them out on Catholics. You probably have your own list; these have been tried out on me.
Take the clueless comment made by a Baptist lady while attempting to engage in some spiritual one-upmanship: “Our church is growing by leaps and bounds. People are packing our services. You can see the Lord’s mighty hand upon us as we grow, and grow, and grow!”
Hmmm…. Well, I could have just answered like this:
But instead, I had a dandy comparison handy:
Actually, one of the fastest growing faith groups in the U.S. is the Mormon church. As you know, Mormons deny the Trinity and teach that you can become a god. Do you feel that their growth is evidence of “God’s mighty hand” upon them?
Undaunted, this lady came back with another interesting statistic concerning her church: “We have so many doctors and lawyers in our congregation, and city council members!”
I’ve never been to Utah, but I’m willing to bet that the Mormon congregations are also full of doctors, and lawyers, and government officials. Remember Mitt? I bet you don’t have any presidential candidates in your congregation. Does that mean that your beliefs are all wet?
How about this supposedly unanswerable doozy?
“Well, what about near-death experiences? I’ve read books by Evangelicals who have died and come back and reported that Heaven is just as we believe it is – no purgatory, no ‘Blessed Virgin,’ faith alone and everything!”
And there have been Hindus who have “died” and “come back,” and have reported that they saw Hindu gods – leading one to question whether near-death experiences are really something one ought to be basing one’s theology upon….
Ah, anecdotal evidence – that staple of those loath to think too deeply. If it corresponds with that which has managed to pass through my subjective filter and the subjective filters of those who think just like I do, then it’s just “common knowledge” that things are the way I believe them to be. How dare you Catholics come around here trying to confuse good people with your facts?!
Okay – so far, no insightful objections that would keep a Catholic awake at night – unless maybe you couldn’t sleep because you couldn’t stop laughing. But there are common objections that, while no less ignorant, are no laughing matter at all:
“Well, I’ve read those little booklets you can buy at the Christian bookstore, so I know all about the horrors of your false religious system.”
She means those little goodies known as Chick Tracts. A Baptist friend of mine “chicked” me when I told her I was becoming Catholic. If you’ve ever been chicked, you know it’s an experience you wouldn’t care to repeat. The “information” in those booklets is so far-out, so off-the-mark, so skewed, that you don’t know where to begin to set the chicker straight.
Catholics have been refuting the gobbledygook in Chick Tracts ever since there have been Chick Tracts – with little success. Why should someone who’s foolish enough to get their info on Catholicism from a little cartoon booklet listen to a Catholic source? But when Christianity Today and Cornerstone magazine, both Protestant publications, produced exposés on Jack Chick and his buddy Alberto Rivera, some Protestants sat up and took notice.
Some. The local Christian bookstore still sells Chick Tracts, the logic being that if dumb bunnies will buy it, smart store owners need to sell it….
If you do succeed in making a dent in your acquaintances’ supply of dumb arguments, beware. There are people who will at that point subject you to what they consider to be the argument of all arguments, the ultimate conversation-stopper:
“Catholic priests abuse children. How can you affiliate yourself with a church where things like that happen? How can you claim that your church is the Church Jesus established when your priests engage in such sickening perversions?”
That’s no laughing matter.
Thinking back, I can remember 3 instances of sexual misconduct by Evangelical pastors, incidences with which I was personally acquainted while a Protestant – none of those incidents caused me to believe that Protestantism was rotten to the core. Those pastors sinned; I didn’t feel that that disproved the Gospel that they preached. Claiming that sin in the Church disproves Catholic theology is a dumb argument, just as it would be silly for me to try to argue that the existence of lecherous Protestant pastors somehow disproves the doctrines of sola Scriptura and sola fide.
However, those pastors I was talking about committed adultery with consenting females. Crimes against children are heinous, and there is just something inside the average person which insists that people who commit them can’t be one of us. Not only their acts must be repudiated, but everything they stand for as well. And it is simply “common knowledge” that the Church is a hotbed of pedophile activity. My children, both of whom attend a Baptist university, have been regaled with numerous pedophile priest “jokes” over the years. One Protestant told me that she “knew” that John Paul II had known about the sexual abuse of minors and had turned a blind eye; it was obvious that he had known. She felt nothing but disdain for the Church.
Catholics can respond, and have responded, that insurance statistics show that charges of abuse are aimed fairly equally at Protestant churches and Catholic parishes, but this is almost invariably seen as a dodge. The same response is forthcoming when Evangelicals are directed to a Newsweek article explaining that Catholic priests simply aren’t any more likely to molest your children than your own Protestant pastor – you believe the mainstream media??? Anecdotal evidence is considered to be every bit as good as the real thing; everyone simply “knows” that sexual abuse of children is a Catholic problem, and if you Catholics won’t accept that, you are in denial.
Recently joining us Catholics in denial, apparently, is a Liberty University professor by the name of Boz Tchividjian. His mother was a Graham, as in Billy Graham, meaning that as an Evangelical, Tchividjian has beaucoup de street cred. He is probably best known for his work with the Protestant organization GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), and he spoke this past September on the subject of the sexual abuse of children:
AUSTIN, Texas (RNS) The Christian mission field is a “magnet” for sexual abusers, Boz Tchividjian, a Liberty University law professor who investigates abuse said Thursday (Sept. 26) to a room of journalists.
While comparing evangelicals to Catholics on abuse response, “I think we are worse,” he said at the Religion Newswriters Association conference, saying too many evangelicals had “sacrificed the souls” of young victims.
“Protestants can be very arrogant when pointing to Catholics,” said Tchividjian, a grandson of evangelist Billy Graham and executive director of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE), which has investigated sex abuse allegations.
Earlier this summer, GRACE spearheaded an online petition decrying the “silence” and “inattention” of evangelical leaders to sexual abuse in their churches.
Mission agencies, “where abuse is most prevalent,” often don’t report abuse because they fear being barred from working in foreign countries, he said. Abusers will get sent home and might join another agency. Of known data from abuse cases, 25 percent are repeat cases, he said.
Still, he says, he sees some positive movements among some Protestants. Bob Jones University has hired GRACE to investigate abuse allegations, a move that encourages Tchividjian, a former Florida prosecutor. “That’s like the mothership of fundamentalism,” he said. His grandfather split with Bob Jones in a fundamentalist and evangelical division.
“The Protestant culture is defined by independence,” Tchividjian said. Evangelicals often frown upon transparency and accountability, he said, as many Protestants rely on Scripture more than religious leaders, compared to Catholics.
Abusers discourage whistle-blowing by condemning gossip to try to keep people from reporting abuse, he said. Victims are also told to protect the reputation of Jesus.
Too many Protestant institutions have sacrificed souls in order to protect their institutions, he said. “We’ve got the Gospels backwards,” he said.
Tchividjian said he is speaking with Pepperdine University, a Church of Christ-affiliated school in California, about creating a national GRACE center.
Please remember: Dr. Tchividjian used the word “arrogant,” not me.
Not that that word never crossed my mind.
There really is only one way to fight “dumb” – fight smart. There’s plenty of material out there by honest, thinking Protestants which corroborates the Catholic position on these issues. Find it, and have it ready when some dumb bunny comes hopping down the lane. You may not change the bunny’s mind, it’s true – but you’ll at least be able to shut his mouth.
On the memorial of St. Lorcán Ua Tuathail
Deo omnis gloria!