Since nothing in the ways of evangelization or debate are set, and since there is a time and a place for everything, consider the following list as:
5 Things Catholics Should Consider When Fighting the Culture War
1. Stop Using Reductio Ad Absurdum Arguments
Our society’s morality is skewed. The culture has reached a point where it believes that killing babies is a perfectly normal thing to do.
If that’s the norm, what makes us think that reducing the argument to the absurd will change people’s minds?
For example: Staunch gay-rights activists make an argument that “love is love.” Often, we respond with “well, once you accept gay-rights, you’ll have to accept polygamy,” trusting that gay-rights activists will see this as a big no-no and turn from support of gay rights to support of traditional marriage. This hardly happens; instead most gay-rights activists will think about it, and, deciding that “love is love” will agree with you, and decide to support polygamy as well.
That just made things worse.
2. Not Everything Warrants a Response
Often, Catholics and traditionalists feel the need to do “damage control” in response to actions by “culture-changers”. This may not be best because when we respond to everything culture-changers do or say, we do two things:
First, we reward them for their decisions by giving them attention and causing a ruckus, which is often what they were looking for. They want to get our goat, don’t let them!
Second, it puts us on the defensive and allows culture-changers to determine the course of social conversation. We should be setting the tone of what is talked and thought about. We should be putting forward arguments, posts, and events that they respond to. We need to play offense, not defense.
I once had a professor in college say “you don’t have to have an open mind to evil.” He’s right. We don’t. Meaning we don’t need to grant them legitimacy by responding to everything they do.
This is not to say that we should never respond to their antics, but rather that more prudence in picking our battles pays off. Essentially, let us not ponder the evils of the world, but rather “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Phillipians 4:8).
3. Show Respect
Or, in other words, cut it with the snark. It may be funny or engaging on the first read to those who already agree with us. For those who don’t agree with us, snark is a turn off. It doesn’t make them want to listen to us because it makes us come across as sarcastic, snotty, teenagers.
Snark may be a helpful tool every now and then to point out the absurdity of a certain action or belief, but it shouldn’t be a go-to tactic. We need to be the bigger people.
4. Don’t Give Them Opportunities to Think Themselves Right
When I worked in the pro-life movement, I spent a week in Austin, Texas for the abortion debate. One day, our group decided to do a “sting” operation on a pro-choice rally. Since pro-choicers wore orange and pro-lifers wore blue, those doing the sting wore orange and moved around the crowd, passing out literature that “spoke the truth about Planned Parenthood.”
I was chosen to wear orange.
I didn’t feel good about doing the sting, but overrode my conscious and did it anyway. While doing the sting, people began reading the literature, figured out what we were doing, and were not happy. Not only did we put ourselves in a dangerous situation (you try being surrounded by hundreds of pro-choicers all angry at you), we didn’t accomplish any good.
They didn’t believe what the literature said, and why would they? The person who had handed it to them was lying about who they were. How did they know that we weren’t also lying with what was on our literature?
It gave them a reason to see themselves as more honest. They never lie as we did. They didn’t wear blue shirts, never snuck into our meetings. So why were we – those claiming to take the moral high ground – wearing orange? Parading a lie for the sake of life?
We never want to give culture-changers the opportunity to see us as two-faced, hypocrites, or liars. If they have the opportunity to be morally right over us, then all we have done is proven to them that they are just as morally based as we are, that their morals are no worse than ours, that we don’t stand for the goodness we profess, we only have an agenda and will do whatever it takes to push that agenda. This does not witness to the truth we claim to profess.
5. Stop with the shock and awe
Click-seeking posts degrade the conversation. This conversation is about the most fundamental aspects of human existence: whether or not our culture will survive for our children to see, whether or not people have a right to life and dignity. Don’t cheapen the conversation with gimmicks (“You won’t believe what this mother did to her newborn! Unthinkable!”).
We are about true, honest love. Christ didn’t use gimmicks. We shouldn’t “sell” His love to the world with them. If we want people to embrace the truth, we must be authentic; let’s be serious about that of which we speak.
We are trying to sell a hard story. The only way people will believe it is if they know that we are honest in the little things and we take what we stand for seriously. We do not have the luxury of dishonesty or cheap shock and awe articles.
If we want to win the culture war, and do so by claiming the moral high ground, then we must take the moral high ground in every aspect of the debate.
Lead these people to Christ by example.
Treat them, and the conversation, with respect.
Challenge them with authentic love.
Be honest and kind, not snarky.
Don’t give them a chance to see that what we stand for could be anything less than what it really is.
Love is our story, we don’t need to rebrand it or market it. We just need to live it.