I don’t know who will read this, but maybe it will help someone facing conversion or help someone who has a loved one facing conversion.
Making it personal
One of the frustrating things I’ve faced, mainly from family, is how personal they make it. This is certainly human nature to which we’re all susceptible. No one likes being told by a loved one that they might be wrong, or have believed wrong their whole lives, or that the family line for generations past has believed wrong. Most converts (or potential converts like me) probably never intentionally make this critique but the critique is inherent in that conversion regardless. There is no escaping it.
One family member asked me, “Do you think I’m going to hell?” I could only respond with, “I’m not even sure where I’m going right now.”
When discussing Jesus’ words in John 6 another family member asked “Are you telling me that if I don’t enter into a Catholic Church and eat the Eucharist, than I’m going to hell?” To which I could only respond, “If it’s true than I’m going to hell too because I’m not taking the Eucharist either. If something will keep me out of hell I’d sure like to know about it.”
It’s frustrating how they turn it back on themselves. They’re trying to keep me from crossing the Tiber and yet somehow the discussion becomes all about them. I’m facing spiritual agony and heartache (which I will probably not share in this blog), and yet the conversation becomes about their feelings and I’m put into the awkward position of trying to give them some sort of comfort.
Legacy is another strike that can be used against the convert. “Generations of this family have believed such-and-such.” “This family has a long line of preachers.” Do you think the convert doesn’t know such things? Do you think the convert doesn’t feel the pain of walking away from whole generations?
In his conversion story Confessions of a Convert, Robert Hugh Benson, son of the Archbishop of Canterbury, told of three people who tried to convince him not to convert to Rome. He actually praised their efforts saying,
“They were all three as kind as possible. Above all, not one of them reproached me with disloyalty to my father’s memory. They understood, as all with chivalrous instincts must have understood, that such an argument as that was wholly unworthy.”
Chivalrous instincts. That’s something we all should cultivate more. Remember, some things are “wholly unworthy” of being said, and especially so to the aching heart.
Note: Read passages like Matthew 10:34-39 to see what people like Jesus said about legacy.
If you know someone considering a conversion to anything and want to help, you’re greatest asset is love. Be chivalrous. Be a gentleman. Be a lady. Know that they are already hurting and be there for them. I have three friends (all are women, interestingly) who have no plans to convert but have never attacked my considerations and have been nothing but supportive. For that I thank them. Being available for your loved one doesn’t require you to accept their new found beliefs, but it does require you to man up enough to face opposition without losing your cool (something I’m certainly not good at either, to my shame at times).
This is a world with competing world views and there is no escaping it. Get over it and accept the fact that your beliefs will be challenged, even by those you love most. We don’t get to retire from defending our beliefs until we’re dead.
Who knows? Maybe the potential convert will actually reveal some things to you that you never thought of before. If you’re missing something critical in your Christian walk, wouldn’t you like to know about it? And likewise, a reasonable conversation instead of a condemnation over the phone might draw a potential convert away from the brink and back to your more accurate beliefs.
“I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” — C.S. Lewis
Disclaimer – This blog post is just that: a blog post with my personal thoughts. I am not a Catholic apologist or theologian. What I say here is not official doctrine of the Catholic Church. I am still learning and am susceptible to error. Don’t take anything here as Gospel. Don’t be stupid. Do your own research and learn for yourself what the Church teaches.
Catholics: if my understanding of Catholic doctrine needs adjustment, please point out my error.