Thursday, May 24, 2018

How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice by Austen Ivereigh (UPDATED)

My interview on The Journey Home brought some questions about talking to atheists, which is only natural considering my own history. I'm going to put together a few links and more information but for now here is a review of a really fantastic book. It is more needed than ever in today's contentious world where we can't count Christianity being the norm anymore.

I reviewed the original edition in 2013, but neglected to update it when I read the new edition which is equally fantastic. Both reviews are below, with the update coming first.

How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice: Civil Responses to Catholic Hot Button Issues by Austen Ivereigh

As I mentioned in my review of the first edition below, this is a book every Catholic should read.

I'll take this space to say why the revised edition is necessary. In three short years, debate in the public square has shifted in a way that has often bewildered me. How to Defend the Faith explains that whereas questioners and critics used to be those outside of Christian faith, they are now often secularized Christians. They hold to basic principles that originated with Christian teachings but are so divorced from those teachings that they can't see the connection any more. That leaves a Catholic on shifting ground if one tries to anchor explanations of hot button issues in a Christian understanding. We're having discussions with people who aren't interpreting things with a common framework.

How to Defend the Faith helps understand the shifted frame from which critiques originate and how to reframe our responses so that we are all on the same page. Your questioner may not agree with you (and winning isn't the point - explanation is), but they will at least have a better understanding of the Church's attitudes toward contentious issues in the public square.


This is a book that every Catholic should read.

The reason I say that becomes abundantly apparent in the subhead: Civil Responses to Catholic Hot-Button Issues.
We know how it feels, finding yourself suddenly appointed the spokesman for the Catholic Church while you're standing at a photocopier, swigging a drink at the bar, or when a group of folks suddenly freezes, and all eyes fix on you.

"You're a Catholic, aren't you?" someone says.

"Um, yes," you confess, looking nervously at what now seems to resemble a lynch mob.

The pope has been reported as saying something totally outrageous. Or the issue of AIDS and condoms has come up. Or the discussion has urned to gay marriage. And here you are, called on to defend the Catholic Church by virtue of your baptism, feeling as equipped for that task as Daniel in the den of lions.
Yes, we've all been there.

Or perhaps you are a Catholic who does not feel called to defend the faith but is one of the crowd waiting, wanting, a good explanation for whatever issue has been raised.

Either way, this book is here to help.

The introduction lays out the vital need for good, civil communication that sheds light but not heat. This is followed by nine chapters that discuss challenging questions which seem to get on everyone's nerves, such as the Church speaking up about politics, assisted suicide, clerical sex abuse, or defending the unborn. Austen Ivereigh discusses the overall context for each issue, the positive intention behind challenging questions, the Church's historical and current positions, and more. This is all with the goal of helping us be more knowledgable and know how to reframe issues so that there is a chance of being a positive voice for the Church.
Why the Church Opposes Euthanasia

In common with a long-standing tradition of western civilization, the Church believes that dying naturally is a vital part of life's journey, in many ways the most meaningful part. Dying can be described as a process of healing. Important things happen on that journey, and suffering and pain are often a part of it. As Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo ... said: "Compassion isn't to say, 'Here's a pill.' It's to show people the ways we can assist you, up until the time the Lord calls you."

Dying, then, is a highly meaningful gradual process of renunciation and surrender. Although some die swifty and painlessly, very often the pattern of dying involves great suffering, because (and this is true of old age in general) it involves letting go of those thing which in our lives we believe make us worthwhile and lovable: our looks, intelligence, abilities, and capabilities. This is what the great Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung called "necessary suffering," the suffering endured by the ego, which protests at having to change and surrender. The idea that this kind of suffering is part of growth is not a uniquely "religious" view, although Christianity -- with the Cross and the Resurrection at its heart -- has perhaps a richer theological understanding than most secular outlooks.
The above excerpt is not the whole argument or rationale by any means. However, it was so well put for what I knew instinctively but had never had to articulate. It is one of the reasons I may wind up reading and rereading this book ... not only to absorb the points for the sake of discussion but for my own soul's sake.

Above all Ivereigh reminds us that where there is no trust, there can be no understanding or true conversation. To that end, he ends with ten points which should frame our mindset. These are the points that have stuck with me the most. I can't tell you the number of times in simply dealing with difficult situations daily that I have remembered to "shed light, not heat" and to "look for the positive intention behind the criticism." This doesn't mean not speaking up for the truth, but it does remind us that the goal is not always "to win."

I mentioned above that I thought every Catholic should read this book. I would go farther and venture to say that if you are curious about how the Church can justify a position you don't agree with, then this book is for you. That is how impressed I was by Ivereigh's even-handed, civil discussion of the positive motives of both sides of conversations on contentious issues. You may not wind up agreeing with the Church, but you will definitely see that there is a reasonable, logical context for her position.

1 comment:

  1. ""that the goal is not always "to win.""

    Good point. I think many times we are so keen to "score", that we lose track of the goal. And, that is ultimately to win souls for Christ's Holy Catholic Church. Sow the seed even tho the ground is stoney. Leave the rest to the Lord of the Harvest.

    The other thing I'd mention for those who are new to apology, to get a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church AND then read it beginning to end. When I got my copy I decided that I would finish it in one year and evenly divided it up to weekly bites. It is very important to really know the Churches teachings in some detail.

    I would be mindful of the times we have entered and recommend some more heavy duty reading. Fr Raoul Plus has a fine book on the need for reparation. I'm presently working my way thru St Thomas More's Sadness of Christ. An extraordinary gospel commentary on Christ agony in Gethsemene.