I know I haven’t posted in a few weeks; part of that is due to college, but it’s also partially due to talking with friends about Catholicism face-to-face. And that is gonna be what this post is about. And I think that this post applies to anyone who is looking to converse with anyone of conflicting beliefs, even if you’re not Catholic.
Two weeks ago, I had an appointment with the Spiritual Direction program that is offered at my university and that I take part in. It’s like Christian counseling but in like Flintstone-vitamin-potency, to where it’s mainly you vocally processing your life to a second person. I’ve been struggling in recent weeks with doubts about my capacity to care for people’s emotions, and it took verbalizing this to realize the rut I was slipping into.
When I was 15, my faith really became my own while serving at a Younglife camp; and the switch was not that I was some rebellious, angsty sinner that rejected God, but that I was a calloused, Pharisee-like sinner that rejected the ones that God loves. At that camp that I realized I had been ignored the love aspect of the gospel which is inseparable with the truth aspect. I realized that in the past year or so I have been negligibly falling back into that partial gospel-view I used to hold. Part of this is due to the fact that I am very analytical by nature (which isn’t a bad thing necessarily) and due to my circumstances I have let that part of me run rampant. In transitioning to Catholicism, the major changes are intellectual ones and not so much different heart orientations, so naturally my focus has been on the truth-aspect of the gospel for the past year or so. Indeed this blog is more driven towards the truth-aspect by nature.
Something my sponsor has encouraged me to do whenever my Catholic-adverse environment comes up is “to just love people.” Confession: I failed at that. In Andrew’s ideal world, everyone could recognize logic as supreme. But this is not the world that I’m in, nor is it the ideal world. The ideal world would reflect our God, who holds truth and love in perfect balance.
So these past weeks I have been trying to reorient myself to implement love and truth in my living out of the gospel.
In doing so, I have come across a few things; three for now. We will call them the Trinity of Scarecrows for now.
1-Scarecrows stand in one spot. They’re stuck in the ground.
These people could be called robots in a sense. They maintain a set position and continue on that track with no regard to others’ humanity. These are the people who read Nietzsche and put his thoughts on force over reason into practice. I’ve experienced these people online (and somehow in real life) and you can tell their not interested in convincing a human being of their beliefs, but you rather force you to accept their robotic dominance.
In contrast to this behavior, I would encourage that we realize that those we are trying to convince are humans and not objects to bend to our will so that a sense of dominance can boost our ego. Rather, if we do convince someone of a truth, our reaction should not be that of triumph, but of joy and brotherly love as we welcome another into the dynamic journey of truth of which we ourselves are a part.
2-Scarecrows don’t have minds. To borrow the trope from the Wizard of Oz, scarecrows just don’t have intellectual capacities. In this context I don’t mean to take the metaphor that far, but just to say that scarecrows don’t have intellectual humility; meaning that they are not open to thinking of their own beliefs as beliefs, but as absolute truth.
In relation to the first point, an attribute of this one is stubbornness. However, the source of such a characteristic in this case is not from a robotic, domineering view of people, but rather a pride that isn’t willing to view oneself as human. This stubbornness comes from an unwillingness to examine one’s beliefs, to admit that one doesn’t understand the full picture on their own, to admit they could be wrong.
I would encourage these people to see that whatever they might believe might have strong rationale behind it, but that there is a slight possibility that they could be wrong. Even I must admit that I don’t know everything, and that is why I encourage people to ask me questions on this blog, because it will further refine my understanding (and hopefully others’) of the truth.
3-Scarecrows are straw men. Seems redundant, but in conversation there is this concept called the “straw man.” Essentially it means that one puts forth the argument of his opponent in an insufficient or inaccurate manner and then disproves it to demonstrate his opponent is in the wrong. Here are some examples I have heard recently about Catholicism:
1-The Catholic Church claims that the pope is infallible.
Many popes were corrupt and sinful.
Being corrupt and sinful makes someone fallible.
Therefore the Catholic Church is wrong.
2- The Catholic Church says that contraception is wrong because it would stop the physical growth of the kingdom.
We know that Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual one and therefore is grown spiritually.
Therefore there is no reason to say that contraception is wrong and thus the Catholic Church is wrong.
In the first example, the first two statements are true, but the third is proposing a definition of “infallible” that the Catholic Church doesn’t use. When the Catholic Church says that popes are infallible, they do not claim that the pope is impeccable. We are all sinners, even the pope. So this is an example of a straw man (and equivocation) argument that is very popular.
In the second example, the argument presumes the reason that the Catholic Church gives for condemning contraceptives. Now this argument is very easily shot down because it is a pretty bad one. However, this is not the argument that the Catholic Church uses and so the whole argument is invalid. The contraceptive argument is much more philosophical and relies on the concept of natural law, not this horrible presumed one. I heard this argument from my Old Testament professor last week. It is truly a shame that such straw man arguments that are supposed to represent the Catholic Church are taught to the thousands at this university.
I would recommend that, when arguing for something with which we disagree, we use the arguments our opponent would use.
So watch out for scarecrows this Halloween and in all of life.