The other day somebody on some blog somewhere went on the attack and junked something I’d written and junked me at the same time. It was a smart, sarcastic attack with no real substance, full of anger, lack of information, false assumptions and personal abuse.
Then somebody else pointed me to the article and wanted me to engage with the author.
I said, “I don’t argue with people.”
To which he replied, “That makes his point.” Meaning that it proved that I was an arrogant know it all.
Alas. I admit it. I hold up my hand. I confess. I am arrogant, and not only arrogant, but ignorant about many things.
But this is not why I do not argue. I don’t argue for many reasons, some large and some small.
The first reason is small. I simply don’t have time. I am busy being a parish priest, building a new church, helping to run a parish school AND being a writer, author, speaker and oh yeah…a husband, father, friend and neighbor. In addition to this, I get an increasing amount of email and phone calls from people who want my advice and help about stuff.
But there are two other reasons I don’t argue which are broader in scope. One that is worrying and one that is encouraging.
The one that is worrying is that, in our relativistic, multicultural, post modern age, any form of argumentation is simply impossible. You can only argue about something if you and your opponent have at least some shared foundational values and philosophical principles. If your opponent does not believe there is such a thing as truth or if he denies that there is any authority on earth that can ascertain and interpret the truth, then there is very little that can be discussed.
Look around. Why is there so much chaos, turmoil, confusion, fear and recrimination? Because people not only do not believe the same thing, they don’t believe it is possible to have a shared belief system or foundational philosophy. They don’t believe it is possible because they don’t believe such things exist. Consequently, on what basis does anyone argue about anything?
Increasingly, the only basis on which people argue is their feelings and instincts. Driven by animal instincts and dark forces they cannot understand, they respond with feelings of rage, anger, confusion and fear. When confronted with a belief system or person that contradicts them or suggests they control these instincts, the response is rage expressed as sarcasm, personal attack, profanity or some other form of irrational emotionalism.
If the dispute is about sexuality the temperature rises even further and faster because the debate is now not only about what goes on between the sheets and between the legs, but when sexuality is involved all the deep emotions about love, self esteem, family and sex are thrown into the cauldron.
The result is a bitter brew indeed.
“What can one do against such hate?”
Just shut up I guess. Hunker down. Hope for the best. Expect the worst.
However, the final reason I do not argue is because I really don’t have any opinion about anything at all. I often say from the pulpit of my parish, “All I have to deliver to you is the Catholic Faith. This is not my opinion. It is not my wish. It is not my good idea. If I stray from the Catholic faith I pray you to correct me. If I stress one part of the Catholic faith to the exclusion of another I pray you to forgive me.”
Because I have no opinion I have no real ego in the matter. Here is the Catholic faith. I will do my best to present it clearly and positively. Furthermore, I am not the only one presenting this Catholic faith. There are many others who are better than me and more charitable and clear in their presentation. There are libraries of books, websites, blogs, videos and courses where you can get the Catholic faith. If anyone wants to learn about it they may do so.
So instead of arguing I want more and more to somehow or other, by the grace of God before it’s too late, to live out the Catholic faith in such a way that there is no argument. I pray for my life and the life of my family and parish to be such a simple, radiant and dynamic expression of the faith that no argument is necessary because that life IS the argument.
If I was busy before. That is really going to keep me occupied!
Finally, there is this: anyone who reads my stuff will say, “Father Longenecker saying he’s not opinionated!! That’s rich. He’s very opinionated.”
It’s true. My opinions are often expressed and often strongly. But I think I’m pretty clear, at least in my own mind, what is my opinion and what is the Catholic faith. When it is my opinion it’s not really worth a lot.
Therefore if someone wants to disagree with my opinion they’re welcome to do so, and I won’t argue with them because chances are…
….they’re right and I’m wrong.
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