Culture of Life
Apologetics: The Next Generation
Young Adults Find New Ways to Defend the Faith
BY Eddie O’Neill
March 28-April 10, 2010 Issue | Posted 3/22/10 at 12:08 PM
Easter reminds us to go and share the good news of Christ’s glorious resurrection. Young adults who are on fire for the faith are doing just that using some traditional means of defending the Church — as well as tapping into the use of new media to get the message out.
Down south at Texas A&M University, the opportunities are plentiful for the more than 12,000 Catholics students to get involved in their faith. According to Marcel LeJeune, assistant director of campus ministry at St. Mary’s Catholic Center, there are about 80 different Catholic student organizations.
One of those organizations is Aggie Cat: Aggie Catholic Apologetic Team. LeJeune estimates that 30 students are regulars at this apostolate. Under the guidance of a peer leadership team, the students pick an apologetics topic such as grace, salvation or authority; they research it, then give a talk about it to the group at large. A discussion follows.
“The students learn a lot,” notes LeJeune. “It helps them to grow in their knowledge and being comfortable to talk about their faith.”
Another popular program under way at the university’s Catholic Center is “Ask a Catholic a Question.” Trained students wear bright shirts emblazoned with the phrases “Ask a Catholic a question” on the back and “Ask me a question” on the front. They stand in high-traffic areas on campus to wait for questions.
Howard Sonnier, a senior bioenvironmental science major, wasn’t afraid to show his faith as a campus bus driver a few years ago. He donned his brightly colored shirt and found the daily commute to be a great venue for apologetics.
“Every semester I would have a few people who would actually wait for my bus on their route in order to continue the conversation that we had previously begun,” notes Sonnier.
LeJeune says that the majority of questions are from fundamentalist or evangelical students.
“There has been a lot of fruit from this,” LeJeune says. “We don’t try to get into arguments. I teach the students to have respect for the person asking the questions. They are there to offer themselves as an embrace of God.”
In the world of the blogosphere, Jennifer Fulwiler has a story to tell. Her website ConversionDiary.com counts close to 5,000 clicks a day from readers who want to hear from her: a lifelong atheist who entered the Church along with her husband and family in 2007.
The mother of four small children says that she began the blog in August 2005 after having read Lee Strobel’s popular work The Case for Christ. She was then reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and felt alone in what she was discovering about Christianity.
“I didn’t have any friends who had any faith of any sort,” Fulwiler recalls. “In my social circle, I was the most committed atheist of the atheists. So I started this blog completely anonymously in order to ask questions of Christians.”
Those questions attracted her to the teaching authority and Tradition of the Catholic Church. Fulwiler describes her journey as purely intellectual, with little emotion attached. Her conclusion: Christianity and specifically the worldview of Catholicism is more reasonable than atheism.
Fulwiler notes that her own story has struck a chord with readers who have a similar story or have questions on how to deal with an atheistic friend or family member. While she confesses that she is not sure that she would qualify as an apologist in the strict sense of the term, she feels that the blog is there to help others understand the richness of the faith.
“I promised myself that if I ever found any answers I would share what I found as a resource for other people with a background of atheism,” she says, “and that is what I have done with the blog.”
At VulgataMagazine.org, Melinda Selmys, a frequent Register contributor, describes a similar mission. It was 10 years ago when the then twentysomething Selmys and her social group of “atheists, neo-pagans, pantheists and existentialists” started attending Mass, and as she describes oit, “rhapsodizing about the doctrine of transubstantiation.”
She says that she and her band of friends, while diving into the intellectual and philosophical dimensions of the Church, found that the apologetics materials available were narrow and aimed at an American audience.
To solve that problem, they began a print and online magazine that would revive the medieval aesthetics of the Church and address some of the more pertinent topics that faced their generation.
“Our goal is to make the Catholic worldview aesthetically appealing first and intellectually convincing second,” says the mother of five. “Straight apologetics usually gets read and raved about by the choir but makes little impression on the average reader. So, we are going for a kind of guerrilla apologetics.”
A new edition of Vulgata, which is currently available only online, usually contains a column called “The Latest Thing,” a spoof in which biblical events are reported with blatant liberal bias.
A typical issue will have the translated work of Czechoslovakian Cardinal Tomas Spidlik and a smattering of fiction. All of it is surrounded by classic medieval Catholic artwork. Selmys, who is responsible for putting all of these pieces of the puzzle together, says that the website’s audience is for those who think of themselves as perhaps countercultural.
“If Catholicism is stuffy, prudish or authoritarian, then it’s going to lose out to queer culture, gangsta rap and the juvenile vampire brigade,” notes Selmys.
In the end, both Selmys and Fulwiler would agree that blogging apologetics is a wonderful way to give testimony to the marvels that God has done in their lives.
“I’ve seen how many people God has helped through me sharing my own bumbling efforts of faith,” explains Fulwiler. “Knowing that my story is helping others makes it well worth the effort.”
Eddie O’Neill writes
from Green Bay, Wisconsin.
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