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The NASCAR of Apologetics

Tuesday, January 26, 2010 1:51 PM Comments (25)

I am a flawed man.

I love to listen to Catholic apologetics. I listen to apologetics CDs, I read apologetic books, and I love to listen to apologetics on the radio. I suspect my reason for listening to apologetics on the radio is different from most people; at least I hope it is.

I think I read once that NASCAR is the biggest spectator sport in the United States. Being a northerner, I am sure that I miss many of the appealing aspects of NASCAR, but I think I know why most people watch it. They want to see the crashes. That is why I listen to apologetics on the radio, particularly Catholic Answers. I want to be around when the crash happens.

I view Catholic Answers like a spectator sport like NASCAR or even baseball. In the comfort of my car, I can critique the pitch selection. For example, “That was a good answer,” or “Oh c’mon - you could have clobbered that guy! Why didn’t you say this or that?”.

But moreover, I want to be around when one of the Catholic Answers apologists finally loses it on some purposely antagonistic and woefully-misinformed caller. I have been listening for years, but like Cubs fans, I am faced with perpetual disappointment.

Just once, once I would like to see their happy little feathers get ruffled and get their righteous indignation on. Is that too much to ask for?

When Patrick Madrid is the apologist, I have very mixed feelings. Sure, I know that I will probably learn something about my faith that I didn’t know, but the chances of a meltdown are minimal. Patrick seems almost “unruffleable”. One gets the impression that an angry anti-Catholic could key Patrick’s car and mow over his prize begonias and Patrick would respond by asking the perp if he needed a ride somewhere and a few bucks for lunch. Learning about my faith is nice and everything, but I crave drama.

The only one over there that gives me any hope is Jimmy Akin.  I mean he has red hair, he must have a temper.  I have nothing to base this on, but I harbor suspicions that Jimmy is ready to pull every red hair out of his head with some of the callers but, much to my chagrin, he somehow manages to contain himself.

The problem with all this Catholic comity is that I am afraid it might be rubbing off on me. A few months ago, I was in a car with some business colleagues driving for an hour and the topic turned to religion. One of the gents started making fun of Catholics before he realized that I am one. He started accusing me of not believing in evolution and asked how stupid I could be to think that the Pope cannot make any mistakes. Here I had my very own purposefully-antagonistic and woefully ill-informed questioner and I had years of radio-ready retorts that would put him right in his place. I had my very own NASCAR crash opportunity. But what did I do?

Instead of jumping on him and mocking him for his ignorance as I wish the Catholic Answers apologists would do, I spent the next hour patiently trying to clear up his many misconceptions. At the end of the trip he thanked me and told me it was an interesting conversation and that he “learned a lot.”

Learned a lot? That hurt. It was then I realized the effect that Catholic Answers and other apologetics programs are having on me.

So now I may have to stop listening. I can handle being better informed but I don’t know if I can handle my faith making me a better person. Where is the fun in that?

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About Pat Archbold

Pat Archbold
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Patrick Archbold is co-founder of Creative Minority Report, a Catholic website that puts a refreshing spin on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company. Patrick, his wife Terri, and their five children reside in Long Island, N.Y.