Sunday, December 02, 2012

How one should disagree...


On the evening of Wednesday, November 28 this week I was given the opportunity to speak and share about a topic I'm very passionate about; it's the reason why this blog exists in the first place: Catholic apologetics. It was very pleasing on that evening to see so many young(er) Catholics present on fire and wanting to learn more about their faith. I left everything in God's hands and asked for the Holy Spirit to give me the right words to speak and what God would want these young people to listen to that evening.

I shared three stories - personal anecdotes - dating back to my younger years where I had apologetics encounters and spoke about other encounters where a sound knowledge of scripture had provided me with the opportunity to defend Catholic beliefs and other teachings. It was a great evening and I was very humbled to be given the opportunity.

It was, however, during question time in the end where a young man asked me a question and expressed a disagreement with something I had mentioned in my talk, and this is what has prompted this reflection tonight.

I didn't mind the disagreement, not in the slightest, and I informed the young man near the end of the question-and-answer section that he was/is free to disagree. What I did object to - and I believe I handled it well as I did not want to create a scene or exacerbate what had already become a very uncomfortable and awkward situation - was that disagreement being vocalised in such a way where the question/objection was deferred to another member of the audience (a priest) whom, in turn, was also put them on the spot. What made the matter that little bit more uncomfortable to deal with - and again I didn't mind the disagreement or being disagreed with - was the fact that no effort was made for the disagreement to be substantiated, i.e. it was a very impetuous "I disagree" and was not followed up with a rebuttal or at the very least an alternative answer/solution.

In the work that I do, if there's something that I always make sure I do when I come across someone that I can't agree with, I do one of two things:

1.) Explain why I don't agree with them; and
2.) Ensure that I disagree with exactly what they stated/believe and not what I think they stated/believe.

Clarity before agreement/disagreement.

If you disagree with me on something, telling me that you disagree just won't cut it. I would politely implore you to state your case and substantiate your claim. At the very least offer an alternative answer/solution so I can at least begin rationalise that response in my own mind.

At the end of the evening I made sure I approached the young man to thank him for his question and to clarify my position. Fortunately the question was on a topic where we were free to disagree. I was grateful that things could be kept civil.

In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas. 
"Unity in necessary things; liberty in doubtful things; charity in all things."

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"... but in your hearts reverence Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence; and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame." - 1 Peter 3:15-16

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