Tuesday, July 28, 2009

More About Your Friends and Family, plus a boat, a lion, and a deer

A man gathers his equipment to go mess around in his boat and maybe do a little fishing. He puts his boat into a river he knows little about. He vaguely recalls the guidebook saying there was a danger of some sort, but the man feels sure of himself and believes he can handle whatever comes up.

He paddles along, happily enjoying himself. The current picks up. The river carries the boat around a bend and the man sees a waterfall ahead. In a panic, the man digs his paddles into the water, but by now the boat is out of his control. He's swept over the falls in violent chaos.

The man finds himself laying on the shore below the falls. He's dazed and sore from two cracked ribs. He has a honking headache and needs a moment to sort out what just happened. Forever after the man would suffer from dizzy spells, but he feels grateful to be alive.

One day, he meets his cousin on her way to the same river that had given the man so much trouble. He warns her not to go. "It's too dangerous," he says.

"It's none of your business where I go," she says. "It's my boat. You're so sure of yourself. You think you know everything. What a hypocrite; you went down that same river. You seem just fine to me."

"I'm merely concerned for you because I care," he tells his cousin. "I'm not sure of myself, but I do know what that river holds. If you don't believe me, take a look at the guidebook. I'm no hypocrite, just a person who made a dumb choice, but survived by some miracle. And I was damaged by it."

And so it goes when one strays from the faith, recovers, and tries to warn others.

The man came off as self-possessed to his cousin, but her perception couldn't be further from the truth. (For more on that theme, see G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy- "The Maniac" chapter.)

How can you avoid being dismissed as hypocritical, preachy, self-righteous to your family and friends who knew you before you returned to or came to the faith? Change of any sort can be uncomfortable for those around us, but when it involves religion or morality, it can be downright threatening.

Pretend you dyed your hair red and went around your blond-haired family singing about how happy you are with red hair. There's bound to be some snickers, mild annoyance, and possibly a bit of jealousy from someone who wishes she thought of it first, because it does look pretty cute.

To a smoker, a former smoker is more of a perceived threat than someone who has never smoked.

If you suddenly embrace Catholicism, (Though it's probably only sudden to the observer), sing "Amazing Grace" in the streets, carry The Bible and a copy of The Catechism of The Catholic Church, and sprinkle holy water on your husband's pillow when he's not looking, the reactions of your fallen away Catholic family, your atheist husband, or your pagan best friend might be more extreme than when you dyed your hair and quit smoking.

Friends and family becoming hostile is reminiscent of what early Christian's endured, so you can offer up the discomfort to Christ. Still, it would be nice to enjoy pleasant chit-chat at Thanksgiving dinner instead of enduring sneers from a relative doing an uncanny impression of one of Nero's lions. Besides, how can you convey the beauty of the faith if you stick to topics like the weather?

The answer- Subtly.

Do you tame a deer by barging up to it with an armload of clover? The clover is sweet and good. Why won't the deer accept it? The deer can't see the clover because it's overcome by fear of you.

*A personal aside*

One of my nieces mentioned seeing an old friend of ours whom I hasn't seen in years. "How's she doing? I always liked her," I said.
"Really?" my niece said. "Well, she sure hates you."
I was flabbergasted. "Why?"
"She heard you were Catholic."


  1. Amanda,

    the Internet is full of nasty people and this one happened to stumble on your blog, unfortunately. Whatever he believes it doesn't seem to be working for him, does it? Poor guy (or girl).

    Randy, atheist :-)

  2. Yeah, that is sad.
    Thanks, Randy. :D You're my favorite atheist- living or dead!