Thursday, March 23, 2006

Those Weird Catholic Apologists & the "Real Jobs" They Oughtta Get!

This is loosely based on an exchange with a Catholic. The words of the usual criticisms heard in this regard will be in green.

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Apologists shouldn't be a full-time profession or primary wage-earning income.

Why should the apologetic profession be any different than any other? Does anyone poke their nose into anyone else's business, asking what they do for a living, and what they do with all their money? I don't know what anyone else doe, and I really don't care, as long as it is worthy and honorable work (as most work is).

It's not a real job. You could do it on the side, though, as a supplement.
An apologist doesn't have a "real job"? On what basis does someone come to that conclusion? A "real job," seems to me, is something someone does (as long as it is not immoral, of course) which brings in recompense, on which they can live. Period. End of sentence. If Scott Hahn or Karl Keating or Pat Madrid or any other apologist (including myself) have important information to offer, in terms of education and helping Catholics better understand and defend (and perhaps also live) their faith, why should they not do this full-time?

Every other profession expects people to work full-time. But suddenly, when it comes to this, it is somehow a bad thing for someone to devote their full attention and energies to it? Why??!! We are simply exercising the gifts and the calling that God gave us. If we do it full-time then we have to make a living somehow. So we write books and give talks. Why anyone would have a problem with that truly mystifies me.

It's as if we have to be ashamed and embarrassed doing what we do, as if it is of little importance and only a last resort. I'm not ashamed at all; not in the slightest. But I am ashamed to see that so many Catholics have an irrational, groundless hostility to apologetics. I've seen the reasons given for this over and over, but I don't believe I have ever come across one that made any sense or could hold any water under even mild scrutiny.

It's an ego-driven mentality.

LOL Again, why must it be "ego" and what is this "mentality," pray tell? A "mentality" of doing what God calls one to do is a bad thing? A "mentality" of desiring to better equip Catholics with the intellectual aspect of the faith and to help them defend what they believe is a bad thing? A "mentality" that is happy to assist people in becoming convinced of the truth of Catholicism and to enter joyfully into the Church is a bad thing and undoubtedly indicative of a huge ego?

If a conversion story helps others convert and grow in their faith, and a person is willing to share it over and over, why is that wrong? I really don't get this. I have a friend, Alex Jones, who was a pastor (from Detroit, where I am from). He became convinced of Catholicism, and so he lost his job. He had to make a living. This is no small problem for pastors who convert. It so happens he was able to give his conversion story and put it out on tapes, to enable him to bring home the bacon. Now he is a deacon (or soon to be).

Why is this wrong? Some folks act as if it is a Faustian bargain to tell one's conversion story or (heaven forbid) write a book. I get about $1.75 per book that I sell. So how many books do I have to sell to become greedy?

The Catholic market is very small. The other day I saw three of my books in the Catholic Theology Top 50 at amazon, but I can't live off the royalties I get for those books. One of them doesn't even pay royalties. I received a one-time fee. I didn't get one red cent for my story in Surprised by Truth, either. I agreed to it; that was fine (and I got a lot of "name recognition" from it), but I use that as an example to show that one doesn't get rich doing apologetics.

Catholic apologist speakers make outrageous demands on their fees,

How does one determine what is outrageous? Are, e.g., athletes' salaries are outrageous too? 15 million dollars a year to play a boy's game? So maybe we should stop watching. But a Catholic sharing their faith and giving testimony making maybe $1000-2000 for a talk is unconscionable and scandalous?

The numbers of people who hear or read are unimportant. If we make an impact on just one person, it's worth it.

Agreed. I suppose it has to do with making it worth one's while, if one has to travel across the country, etc. We may all like to think that we would travel to Alaska or something to talk to two people in an audience, but if we are honest with ourselves, we would want to be able to feel that we are having a bit more influence than that. It may also have to do with selling more books at the book table (which is not wrong and some damnable sin, either). But if the fee is set beforehand it would be less of a factor.

Apologetics only goes so far . . .

It's not like it is either/or. Apologetics aims to give people the tools to be confident in what they believe, because they can fully accept it with their mind and rational faculties, as well as with their heart, and in faith. This is invaluable. It prevents people from being vulnerable to spiritual or theological attack and possibly falling away from the faith. After all, where are folks most likely to lose their faith? In college, of course. Part of that is peer pressure and hormones, but it is also in large part because of the unyielding hostile ideas being taught and soaked up like a sponge.

All of us can always grow more in this respect; there is no reason to stop. But different folks like different things. In any event, it isn't an either/or scenario. Apologetics need not be counter at all to spirituality, various devotions, love of the liturgy and the liturgical calendar, reading about saints and miracles, acts of mercy and charity, prayer, fasting, a wholesome family life, etc.

No one said apologetics was the be-all and end-all. In fact, I challenge anyone to find even ONE real apologist (published, credentialed) who ever stated such a foolish thing. It's elementary, after all, for anyone to figure out that "apologetics isn't everything." I often find that people argue things because of projection, based on their own odyssey, thinking that everyone else needs to learn the same lessons that they did. Just speculation, . . .

A healthy religious view does need an accompanying apologetics, because that provides the crucial rationale for why the thing is believed, and the basis for it to speak truth to culture, so that the Church can build it up and bring about spiritual revival.

Evangelization is greater than apologetics.

I don't feel a need to classify everything, better or worse. All these things are important aspects of the Catholic faith, and interconnected. I do both of these. It just depends on the situation.

In order to effectively evangelize today, however, more times than not one will need to be pretty well acquainted with apologetics, because it'll be necessary with the first "hard question" one is asked. Not everyone will jump for joy at having heard the Catholic message, and embrace it, no questions asked. They will want answers to many questions. That's where we come in.
Apologetics precedes conversion many times.

I know relatively little about the lecture-circuit because I don't do speaking, but I did do some research a while back after anti-Catholic Eric Svendsen made the charge that we Catholic apologists are so greedy because we charge speaking fees, whereas he does that for free. Of course, he didn't mention the fact (that he had stated elsewhere) that he was so independently wealthy that he could easily fork out $100,000 for a silly challenge he made to Catholics one time. So I made a comparison of speaking fees. It was most enlightening.

If proper catechesis was being done, apologists would not be so popular.

Probably so (as a matter of overlap in causality), yet this exhibits a confusion of category. Catechesis teaches the "what" of faith; apologetics deals with "why we believe what we believe". So it doesn't follow that apologetics would be less needed as good catechetics increased, any more than we should eat less apples in direct proportion to how many more oranges we eat.

If parents were doing a better job teaching the faith, we wouldn't need as many apologists, either.

This doesn't follow. Not every parent can teach decent apologetic skills (and my wife home-schools our four children). It is a specialized field. Therefore, most obviously it is good to have people who specialize in it, so that they can share what they have learned with others, saving them the trouble of doing it.

So, for example, anyone could go to a free paper of mine on the Internet (I have posted over 2100), and find some elaborate information that could literally save them hours of research. This very day I spent about four hours writing two pages on the deuterocanon for my next book. It's packed with information, itself drawn from several papers of mine that, combined, would represent probably 40-50 hours of work.

When someone reads this and takes in the information, they are better equipped in that regard. My 50 hours of labor can save them a bunch of time. Division of labor . . . this is how the world works. Now the trick is to obtain the time to spend 50 hours studying the issue of the deuterocanon.

Here's a news flash for critics of apologists!: it takes TIME. And it does even for one like myself who is known (in some circles, notoriously so) for being prolific and a very fast writer. And time is money. The time I spend doing that takes away time I could be at some other job making money. If folks think an apologist is doing helpful work, then they think it is worth it to support him financially, so he can devote himself more so to the important work. But our "product" has no monetary value; it has only spiritual value. Our society doesn't value things other than products and wealth-producing techniques, and so the type of work I do is not considered "real" work. Hence, many pick up that secular mentality, saying we should get a "real job."

I could have done anything I wanted in my life. I had a 3.5 GPA in college. I could have learned anything and gone into any number of lucrative fields. But I chose to do this because I felt God's calling to do so (way back in 1981). It's a sacrifice, and there are many trials and tribulations. Most folks have never seen one-tenth of the lies and smears and epithets I put up with from critics. This isn't easy work. Not everyone can do it. So it is beyond silly to see people making an argument that we do this for greed and fame and pride purposes.

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