Friday, May 19, 2017

Baha'I One, Get One Free

Yes, I spend too much time on Facebook.  Maybe I should be ashamed, but I have good intentions.  To be in a position to evangelize, one must be in touch with others.  When I do Facebook likes or shares, most are pertinent to sharing my Catholic faith.  My Facebook friends would have little doubt as to which church I attend.  Obviously, promoting the Catholic position publicly will be to the consternation of many others in the secular world.    So, how should I respond when a friend posts something anti-Catholic likely intended for me?  Should I respond at all?

Many people on Facebook are compelled to respond angrily to anyone who expresses a view counter to their own.  Internet interactions can degenerate quickly into vicious exchanges, especially when the combatants do not know one another.  In Catholic apologetics, an angry retort is never appropriate. 

Responding to every little Catholic dig on the Internet would be impossible and counterproductive.  Some people are simply trying to elicit a responder to become a target for their abuse.  They have zero interest in engaging in an intelligent conversation.  No reasonable apologist wants to play that game. 

Knowing when a seemingly anti-Catholic post requires a direct response requires some discretion on the part of the apologist.  If the posting contains a false claim by someone who is seriously misinformed but reasonable, then a charitable correction is appropriate and necessary.  Some anti-Catholic claims are so ridiculous that only an idiot would believe them, and trying to have an intelligent discussion with an idiot is futile. 

Still others need to be answered, but knowing how to do so in a positive productive manner is not always clear.  One can either reply to the post directly, or address the topic in a separate post that avoids confrontation with the original poster.

Two consecutive postings recently appeared on my Facebook feed.  Both came from individuals I have known for over fifty years.  One is a former Catholic who now actively professes the Baha’I faith.  The other is a rather liberal friend whose religious persuasion, if any, is unknown to me.  I know both to be loving, gentle souls, intelligent, generous, and very likeable. 

The latter shared an Internet meme that portrayed supermarket clerks of various religions refusing to sell certain items due to the their beliefs.  The Catholic clerk refused to sell condoms.  The Muslim clerk would not sell ham.  The JW would not sell a birthday card.   You get the idea.  Finally, an American clerk who believes in equality offers to sell anything because “he’s not a small-minded bigoted a**hole who hides his bigotry behind religion.”  So, now I know what my friend thinks of me as a Catholic.  The premise is absurd, and I tend to ignore these things on the Internet. 

A Catholic should never put himself in a position where cooperation in evil is necessary, but we must also distinguish between material and formal cooperation.  Even within those classifications, there are varying degrees of culpability.  One must never violate one’s own conscience.  Being a good Catholic means forming the conscience properly and acting accordingly.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a good place to start.  Certain jobs can be unacceptable for a Catholic to perform and must be avoided.  Working as a cashier in a supermarket is not likely one of them.  When one does find himself in a position where refusing service is necessary, it is done out of love and concern for the other person’s soul, quite the opposite of bigotry.

Understanding my other friend who left the Catholic Church to become a Baha’I is difficult.  We are not close in belief or proximity.  He lives several thousand miles from me.  Baha’is believe that Jesus was just a good moral teacher, not God made man.  Of course, that belief is untenable.  As C.S. Lewis noted, Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord.  There are no other possibilities. 

My friend lists his mission statement in life to know God, to be fully alive, to take joy in his work, and to encourage others to do the same.   These are noble undertakings and I highly respect him for that, but knowing God is foremost in making the other goals attainable.  A Catholic understands the best way to know God is through His revelation, especially by His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ who established a Church, the Catholic Church, to shepherd us under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  If a person does not know who Jesus truly is, how can he truly know God?  Instead, my former Catholic friend relies on the writings of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’I faith, and other new age philosophers. 

I have chosen not to directly respond in most of these situations.  Rather, I will often express my catholicity in a joyous respectful manner when posting on social media, making clear the importance of the Catholic Faith in my life.  Our second reading on this Sixth Sunday of Easter begins with the verse every good apologist knows, 1 Peter 3:15.  “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.  Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence.”  Should the opportunity arise to have a dialog with these individuals, I will be ready.