Apologists, Like Umpires, Can Never Be TOO Popular!

Apologists, Like Umpires, Can Never Be TOO Popular! October 2, 2017




I envision in my head how various people and groups will react to some apologetics analysis of mine, all the time. The problem is, I don’t feel that I can adjust my apologetics analyses according to how they will be received. I can do my best in “approach.” I can seek to be as gentle and diplomatic as I can, of course (though, sadly, we all fail again and again on that score).

But I can’t and won’t in fact ever please everyone, anymore than the apostles and Jesus could please everyone in their time, with the primal Christian message.

I write in one way to (mostly) fellow Catholics. In that instance, it’s an “in-house” discussion” or “talking shop.” That includes most of the writing that I do. It’s mainly a Catholic audience, and one that is far more theologically educated than the average.

But when I’m talking to individuals, I will likely use a completely different tone and emphasis and approach, according to what the other person believes (as much as I can determine that): as I try always to meet people where they are at, according to the Pauline approach, “I have become all things to all men.”

That said, many times people won’t like what I write and defend. It’s all part of the package of apologetics. Apologists are a lot like umpires: making the calls and catching hell for the ones that one side disagrees with. The umpire can never please everyone. And yes, sometimes they blow calls, too, being fallible humans.

But the nature of the profession is to always be unpopular with someone. They can hardly help that. They gotta call ’em as they see ’em. It’s part of the package, and no one becomes an umpire, not fully knowing what to expect.

And that’s what I do as an apologist. Whenever we say “x is a false doctrine” or “y is an immoral practice” or “marriage is between a man and a woman, as has always been taught by historic Christianity, and the Bible” or “Mary is a perpetual virgin” or “the pope is infallible when he binds the entire Church to a particular dogma” or “Protestantism departed in several (not all) respects from historic Christianity and the apostolic succession” (and a thousand other things that we deal with), then we’re automatically in big trouble with many of the folks who sincerely, honestly believe the things that we are critiquing as false and/or wrong.

Thus, apologists are always thought ill of at any given time by good numbers of people with opposing viewpoints, up to and including contempt, and in extreme cases, even hatred. I’ve been blasted or misrepresented; sometimes literally slandered and lied about, almost literally every week since I began my website and active presence online, in 1997.

I’m not talking about legitimate constructive criticism, which I always welcome and greatly appreciate, but unfair, unjust nonsense, where people either know nothing at all about me (and make no attempt to learn what I actually believe) or are operating on stale stereotypes and caricatures.

Jesus said we should expect to be hated by the world, as I recently wrote about in one of my “official” columns. This is no big surprise. But sometimes, some people imply that being an apologist is, or should be, a popularity contest, or merely a touchy-feely exercise. It’s usually not.

The motivation and nature of apologetics is to help people, and to encourage them and build up their faith, and the ones who agree or are persuaded certainly appreciate our efforts. It actually is a service profession, like all teaching functions are.

But the ones on the other side . . . well, that’s an entirely different story. Every time we make a “call”: like the umpire, someone out there is very unhappy about it. I have no essential problem with that. I can take it. I’ve understood that this is part of the package of apologetics (have for 35 years). I’m not complaining.

What I’m doing presently is explaining for the sake of those who don’t seem to understand this. They see me or some other apologist catching hell form here or there, or from the usual suspects, or have heard some terrible, ludicrous thing about us or me, and they immediately conclude it’s our fault, or that we must have something seriously wrong with us. That doesn’t follow at all.

Sometimes it is (where we failed and did badly in some way), but usually not. It’s the message that will offend many people: just as St. Paul taught that the message of the cross was a stumbling-block to the Jews and sheer foolishness to the Greeks, and just as they tried to kill Paul and Jesus many times, and eventually succeeded in murdering both of them.

Nothing has changed since then!


Photo credit: Arguing with the umpires, by “mark6mauno” (8-29-09) [Flickr / CC BY 2.0 license]


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