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This is a response to a tag in an article written by Catholic journalist Jay McNally. It had to do with the early Internet, and how journalists have fared in the Internet Age. Jay seems to imply that I am a journalist, which I deny. I’m an apologist. Apples and oranges. Anyway, I had thoughts about it that I wrote on his page and now share here. Jay wrote:
I enjoyed this paragraph early in the essay and thought of my friend Dave Armstrong:
Most professional journalists who had work when the Web was born are out of the business, or under-employed within it. Many work for little or no money. Crazy as it may seem, they keep working because they believe the world needs what they do.
Since my name was (somewhat curiously) mentioned, just some thoughts that I have, for the record (stimulated by your comment!):
1. I’m not a journalist (like you) but an apologist, evangelist, and teacher. They are different tasks and goals, though they can overlap. You seem to think that my job should necessarily incorporate what you do (per our discussions about problems in the Church), but I would disagree with that. I’m not an ombudsman or investigative journalist for the Church: coming up with all the “inside dope” and exposing scandals, corruption, and sin in the bishops and various Catholic organizations (that’s your task) but rather, a defender of it and its doctrines, and of larger Christianity over against secularism.
2. Apologetics has always been a tiny field in terms of bookselling. As Karl Keating has said, 10,000 copies sold is considered a bestseller. I have exceeded or will exceed 20,000 for several of my books. In other words, the success or lack thereof in terms of selling books, for an apologist, is not due only or even primarily to the Internet, but rather, to the fact that only a tiny percentage of Catholics could care less about apologetics or even theology itself, and learning more about it.
3. The folks in apologetics who are doing the “best” (i.e., financially) are doing so, not mainly because of the Internet but because of 1) TV, 2) radio, 3) the lecture circuit, 4) large donor bases, and 5) aggressive fundraising campaigns using Madison Avenue type time-honored techniques (which are fine and perfectly ethical for a very good cause, as this is, but I personally don’t care much for them, myself).
All of these existed prior to the advent of the Internet. I have none of those advantages (though I have been on the radio about 25 times; I meant having a regular show), and do merely one mild, quite low-key fundraiser each fall. Even that began only in 2012 because of the Obama economy. I hadn’t done a fundraiser since 2001, before that. I’m one of very few full-time Catholic apologists who have succeeded without any of the five advantages above. It has all been a result of my writing. If folks like it, they’ll buy my books and/or consider financially supporting my apostolate. But that’s what they get with me: tons of writing: over 2,200 blog posts and 50 books [as of February 2019].
4. My career as a professional writer (originally part-time) began before the Internet took off: in 1993, when I first made it into Catholic magazines. My first book, A Biblical Defense of Catholicism (finished in 1996, published in 2003) was endorsed by Fr. John A. Hardon (in the Foreword) in 1994. My conversion story was also one of eleven in Surprised by Truth that year. But there is no question that the Internet has played a key role in whatever name recognition I have achieved.
5. We chose to live simply and to give up certain things (that lots of folks think they can’t live without), and we are perfectly happy doing so.
6. The world certainly “needs” evangelization and its half-sister, apologetics. Like Jesus said: “the harvest is ripe, but the laborers are few.”
7. We manage (with four children) to pay all our bills, have good credit, no debts excepting our mortgage; we don’t use credit cards, and take a good vacation every year (including four times out west since 2006, from Michigan, and Nova Scotia in 2004).
In a month I will have 19 books that have been published by “real” publishers (not just self-published: though I do a lot of that, too). That’s very successful in the publishing world by any standard or reckoning, so I don’t consider myself “under-employed” nor making “little or no money”: though by American materialistic standards I don’t have much. It’s fine for the life we have chosen, since we’re payin’ our bills and manage to do a lot of fun things for entertainment and recreation.
8. Moral of the story: If God calls a person to a particular task, He will provide and make a way for them to do so. I’ve been a full-time apologist since December 2001. God has provided. I can testify to that. That is the main reason I write this lengthy comment: to give the glory to God and give testimony that He is good to His word: He provides our needs when we devote our lives to Him (in whatever calling in life He has for us). On “paper” it didn’t seem possible, yet it happened, and is a matter of record, and continues to be the case. I’m perfectly happy, content, and fulfilled in what I do and wouldn’t do anything other: precisely because we must follow God’s calling in our lives.
I write this in part, knowing that there are people out there (I hear from them occasionally) who don’t know a thing about my living situation, who believe any number of myths about me and my family and are quite willing to slander me in public: such as, for example, that we’re starving and destitute because I am obsessed with having a blog, typing like a madman up in my “attic” (what one idiot critic of mine calls the top floor of a bungalow) and force my wife to go along, and other such absurdly false caricatures that have no relation to truth whatsoever (in fact, are invariably precisely the opposite of the truth).
We don’t feel that we are lacking in anything. Like St. Paul wrote: “I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11, RSV).
Whether journalists can say the same about their life situations, I have no idea, but then again, I am not a journalist in the first place . . . (which is why I thought it was odd that my name was brought up in this context, and wanted to clarify some things).