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SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

I Had No Idea…

June 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Apologetics, Conversion, Paul McCusker

One of the things I didn’t expect when I became a Catholic was how my “conversion” would bring to light what people really thought of me. And, admittedly, I wasn’t happy with what I learned.

On one occasion a close Protestant friend, whom I hadn’t seen in a long time, tossed out this anticipatory statement: “I’m looking forward to seeing you. I can’t wait to find out what you’ve decided you are this time.” I had a delayed reaction after I hung up the phone of “Hey! Wait a minute!”  I wanted to call him back and say in my defense that there has been nothing especially flaky about my Christianity. After getting serious about my faith as a teen, I identified myself as a Baptist for almost 20 years. Then I became Anglican – and remained so for over 15 years. Then I became Catholic, and have been for the past five years. That doesn’t seem flaky to me. Yet all I could think was that this good friend, who I thought knew me well, actually suggested that I was.

Then, on another occasion, this same friend informed me that I’d only become a Catholic because I needed a “father.” “So now you’re surrounded by them!” he said. It was a serious statement. And this same person later suggested that I became a Catholic because I yearned for Authority. So I guess I not only needed a father figure, but an authority figure, and got both in one place. Ummm… okay, sure.

In another discussion he decided he wanted to have Communion with me. When I said that I’d be glad to have bread and wine with him, but couldn’t actually have Communion, he was perturbed. Why not? I explained that we’re not actually in Communion because we don’t agree on what Communion actually is – and it wouldn’t really be Communion for me because the bread and the wine would be just bread and wine. He grew increasingly annoyed and the conversation proved incredibly vexing. At one point, he kept coaxing me to forget my Catholicism and say what I really think about it, as if what I really thought would be different from the Church’s teaching. I concluded that, deep in his heart, he believed that I was merely parroting what I was told to believe and couldn’t possibly believe it for myself.

So, in this friend’s mind, I’m a flaky parrot who has father and authority issues. I honestly had no idea. And I’m glad to finally learn the truth about myself as this friend sees it. And I have other examples from other people, both friends and relatives. It’s been disheartening to think that they thought so little of my intelligence or intentions.

Then I thought about something C.S. Lewis called Bulverism. Bulverism, Lewis wrote in an essay of that name in a book called God In The Dock, is the modern method of argument where one doesn’t have to refute a statement by disproving the statement but by pointing out the reasons why a statement was made. So, in the case of my Catholic faith, my friend didn’t have to argue why my Catholic faith is wrong, he only needs to suggest that I believe what I believe because… well… I’m flaky or in need of something (a father, authority) or that I actually don’t believe what I say I believe. It’s a remarkable diversion and is used everywhere these days, especially when discussing religion, politics, or whatever.

We’re all likely to succumb to Bulverism at one time or another. Especially when the Truth we’re trying to dodge is likely to force us to change – or to consider new possibilities – or to draw different conclusions about our reality. Few of us welcome those kinds of experiences, even if they’re the best things for us.

I sometimes wonder how often I use Bulverisms with God. If not in my words, but in my actions as I come face-to-face with His Truth. Imagine my trying to question His motives in order to duck and dodge. Then I do feel like a flaky parrot with father and authority issues – and lots of other things thrown in. And that’s no Bulverism at all.

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About Paul McCusker

Paul McCusker is an author. He converted from Evangelical Protestantism to Catholicism in 2007. He still works for an Evangelical organization. Paul has over 40 published works, including novels, plays, scripts, and lyrics.

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  • walker_percy

    Sounds more like a frenemy than a friend. Interesting, because I hear these stories all the time, from both atheists and Catholics, about being targeted by outspoken Evangelical friends. I’ve spent time, openly but not obnoxiously, as both and have never had anyone say a word to me. The stories of confrontation fascinate me and I’ve assumed after hearing such stories that I’d experience a conversion attempt one day, but nope, never. During my period of disbelief, a fellow on Facebook raised a question in a slightly ham-fisted manner, about atheists — a Bulverist argument that they were combative sorts looking for friction. My tack was to hear him out and then ask if he had spent any time recently listening to hardcore Calvinists. I’m back in the fold, openly, and am too glad to care what some might think.

  • LizEst

    I learned a new word today: Bulverism. Thanks for the primer, Paul.

  • Southern Catholic

    This post covered just about all of the arguments my husband raised when I returned to the Church. He flatly stated that he thought I was too intelligent to believe what the Church teaches. He thought I was just repeating what I was told in church and that I was being brainwashed. Then there was the emotional connection. Surely I was just looking for a father figure, an authority figure in my life. Clearly I had emotional problems and needed counseling. Fast forward seven years. My husband and I have been separated for a year now and will soon be getting a divorce. He is so angry that I still go to Mass and still refuses to listen rationally or to participate in a serious open-minded discussion about religion. He blames my faith for the demise of our marriage.

    • LizEst

      How sad! From reading what you wrote, it seems to me your husband reacted to your faith out of his own insecurities, and his difficulties with religion, and projected them on to you, a perfect example of how difficult it is to move the human heart. I trust you will be praying for him even after your divorce. May the Lord continue to guide you and give you strength in this. My prayers for you both.

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