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Drive-By Theology

May 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Apologetics, Paul McCusker

Life, As I Find It

One of my experiences with my Evangelical-Protestant friends after I became Catholic involved Drive-By incidents. You know the kind: a fast comment, often sarcastic or corrective, with little chance for response.

So, I would get hit with Drive-By Bible Verses that are meant to rebuke Catholic teaching, or receive the instantly dismissive “that’s not in the Bible.” Or a Drive-By Comment that may be derisive or simply wrong (“you worship Mary”). Fortunately, a good friend had told me to expect this. What I hadn’t really thought through, unfortunately, was how to react.

In those moments when the Drive-By happens – when I’m at a social function or in a meeting or having a casual conversation – I suddenly feel like the Terminator. Not that I want to kill anyone, but it’s as if a screen suddenly pops up in front of my eyes with the various options for a response. Like, A) Say something amusingly caustic or, B) Say something witty, or C) Summarize why the comment is theologically wrong in ten words or less, or D) Just say “Huh-uh!”

None of which work very well. A) and B) are contingent on humor. My experience, thus far, is that any joke I might make – no matter how funny it really is – won’t be funny to the person I’m talking to. C) is obviously problematic, for reasons mentioned in a moment. D) simply makes me feel like I’m in grade-school again.

I was in a meeting with a co-worker who suddenly launched into how she had visited the Vatican and found it offensive, even repulsive, because of the opulence and how the Catholic Church had clearly pillaged all those items from poor nations everywhere.  She said the experience made her physically ill. The Terminator mode kicked in and my possible responses were:

A)  “I’ll send a message to the Pope recommending that he strategically place barf bags around the museum for people like you.”

B)  “How terrible. Then you must have been a wreck if you ever visited the Smithsonian or the British Museum.”

C)  “Well, you understand that part of the Vatican is a museum, with items freely given by many countries from 2000 years of history.”

D)  “Huh uh!”

In the spur of the moment I opted for a variation of B), which caused her to look at me puzzled. Then, when she got what I was saying, she quickly redirected with a “We’re not here to talk about that anyway” and moved on quickly.

So, here’s what I’ve learned (but don’t always practice) when it comes to Drive-Bys…

[] Make a joke, it won’t be funny. Not because it isn’t really funny (though it may not be), but because the person or people you’re talking to don’t really want to laugh. They’re too busy thinking about the point they’ve just scored against Catholicism in the name of Jesus.

[] Respond seriously with something akin to a genuine answer and you’re being defensive or contentious (or both), no matter how intelligent your response may be.

I don’t remember committing Drive-Bys as an adult Protestant. More than likely, it’s because I wasn’t often in the company of Catholics. Or, if I was, I didn’t presume to know enough to offer a comment about what they believed – and why talk to a stranger like that?

So I began to wonder why these Drive-Bys were coming specifically at me, and often from good friends or even family. Here are a few variations of what may be happening:

[] I have betrayed them by becoming Catholic. I joined the “other” team. They don’t want to know why, they simply feel betrayed and want me to know it. It’s an expression of disapproval.

[] My decision has made them nervous. It may make them think about things they don’t want to think about. If I became Catholic, then it’s possible I’ve seen something they’re not seeing – and they don’t want to see it. No one likes challenges to their core assumptions.

[] Or, as I already mentioned, they really believe they’re going to score one against Catholicism in the name of Jesus – as if I might suddenly slap my forehead and cry out, “What was I thinking? Of course Catholicism is nonsense!” and rush back to the welcoming arms of my true kin.

So, what is the right response to a Drive-By? A good friend advised one of two courses of action – neither of which seem very satisfying to me, but are absolutely correct. First, smile and say, “if you want to talk about that seriously, then let’s have a meal together.” If they want to talk about it seriously, then they’ll follow up. If not, then it won’t matter.

The second is even harder. Smile, nod, and say nothing. Let them have their Drive-By. No reaction is better than a bad one. Or, if you have to do something, then silently pray for them. If it won’t help them, it’ll certainly help you.

And such is life as I find it.

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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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