How to Communicate with Those Who Don’t Give a Fig

Last week’s Catholic New Media Conference in Dallas left me puzzled.  Many of the speakers and other participants with whom I spoke were full of “spiritual direction, discerning, charisms,” etc. That’s what I call full-bore spiritual jargon.  I felt as though I had dropped in from another planet.

Don’t get me wrong – they were lovely people.  At the same time, they seemed to live in a parallel universe to the one I’ve been inhabiting for the last several decades.  If you were into apologetics, arguing with militant atheists, defending doctrine, elucidating ethics – these were the folks for you.  An online world of people who seem to live for talking about religion.

At the same time, this meeting was supposed to be about “the new evangelization” (a term that is making me increasingly nervous).  At best, these blogs, podcasts, comment wars, and tweets seemed more about fine-tuning the already-evangelized and/or already-interested.  Oddly enough, it reminded me of the original tract movements in England and the USA whose goal was to hang on to Protestants in the midst of the distractingly urban industrial revolution.  Preaching to form a better choir.  But new media or old, this presumes an interest in the topic.  Make an atheist into a Christian.  Clarify a Protestant into a Catholic.  Etc.

Many, if not most, of the people I know don’t give a fig about religion.  They’re doing just fine without it, thank you very much.  Maybe they harbor prejudices from their childhood or the media.  Maybe they never give it a thought at all.  Whether it’s the Four Spiritual Laws or 2,000 years of the splendor of Catholicism or Orthodoxy, it’s “thanks but no thanks” (and that’s assuming you got their attention for a second anyway).

There’s nothing like going to a conference looking for answers and coming home with even more questions.  But maybe that’s why I was there….


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One thought on “How to Communicate with Those Who Don’t Give a Fig

  1. rtjl

    “Many, if not most, of the people I know don’t give a fig about religion. They’re doing just fine without it, thank you very much.”

    That’s my feeling as well. As much as I can’t imagine living without my faith, it is obvious that the world around me has learned to live without religion just fine thanks. They don’t need us. They have their own means of finding emotional support, their own wisdom literature to guide them in their personal and professional lives, their own ethical systems (much of which corresponds to my Judeo-Christian ethic, much of which doesn’t) and their own way of finding meaning and purpose in life. Much as it pains me to admit it – they really have no felt need for the God I can’t live without. The question I am left with is “what do I really have to offer them that could have meaning for them”. I’m not sure I have any effective answers to that question.

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