Is That really what you believe?

So often these days I come across people who have various beefs with the Catholic Church. You have heard them, I am sure: The Church is anti-woman. The Church wants to enslave women by forcing them to have babies. The Church is anti-gay/homophobic. Frequently, they take an incredulous tone and mock our beliefs. They may ask us, “Is that really what you believe? Do you really believe God is in that cookie? Do you really believe that women shouldn’t have the right to make their own choices with their own bodies? Do you really believe that God is a misogynist? Do you really believe that God wants to throw everyone in Hell? How could a good God do that?”

The misconceptions about the Catholic Church are as rampant as ever, concomitantly exhibiting just enough ridiculousness to irritate the recipient of the charge. Often the accusation is so asinine that people simply cannot come up with a decent response. At this point, the skeptic claims victory and pats himself on the back, persisting in his ignorance.

I propose a simple response. It is not a defense of the faith in the purest sense. It isn’t some witty comeback or a deep theological insight. It is common sense. It is a quick jolt to the skeptic’s arrogance or ignorance as the case may be. This simple response will level the playing field and place the skeptic on his heels: “Is that really what you believe?”

Yes, ask the accuser if they really believe what they are saying. If they ask you why the church is anti-woman, reply simply, “Is that really what you believe? Do you really think the Church is anti-woman?” Chances are favorable that the person has not really devoted a great deal of time or effort into forming that opinion, and pointing out the folly in that opinion is likely to result in either a thoughtful moment of silence, or a retreat from the original proposition to something less outrageous or tangentially related.

Tone is everything in these conversations. You have to maintain a measured, thoughtful demeanor. If you scream, “Is that really what you believe!!!!”, then the person is likely to respond in kind. If you respond in a serious, patient tone, the conversation is likely to go somewhere productive.

Of course you then must be prepared with facts and a solid understanding of your faith to continue the conversation. The Year of Faith is a great opportunity to expand your knowledge of the faith and bring a thoughtful, reasoned perspective to the table. Study the Catechism, the lives of the saints, the documents of the Church, and the Bible. Follow along on this blog as we cover the entire Catechism of the Catholic Church in a year. We will be taking a few paragraphs at a time and supplementing it with deep theological insights from such giants of theological and philosophical thought as St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, St. Josemaría Escrivá, and Therese of Lisieux, scriptural references, and quotes from the saints. You will emerge ready for spiritual battle, ready to defend the faith, and most importantly, ready to grow closer to Jesus.