03 July 2011

Ambushed in the Bookstore

Went to Half-Priced Books this afternoon to browse the philosophy and poetry selections.

While looking through the poetry anthologies, a young man walked behind and said something I didn't quite catch.   

--Sorry.  I didn't hear you.

--What church do you go to?

I thought he must recognize me from Mass, or maybe from U.D.  He seemed harmless, if a little addled.

--What church do I go to?


--Well, I go to the priory.

--OK.  Do you family and friends go to church?

By this time I've figured out that this is a Religious Ambush, and I ain't playin'.

--Yes.  They all do.

--Good.  What's the priory?

--It's where I live.  I'm a Catholic priest and a Dominican friar.

--Oh. . .(long pause with an anxious look). . .have you read Revelations 17 lately?

--Lately?  No, can't say I have.

--Do you know the name of the city in that chapter?

--Let me guess:  Rome?

--Yes.  Now that you are old enough to make your own choice, you should re-read that chapter.

My brain is whirling now.  I'm trying to decide if I really wanna do this.  Do I want to confront this guy with his historically illiterate fundamentalism and challenge him on his anti-Catholic bigotry?  He doesn't strike me as being very open to discussion and the last thing I want is a public shouting match. 

I chicken out. . .

--OK.  I will.

He nods and walks off.

What would you have done?

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  1. I have had this happen a lot. I sometimes tell them they are ignorant of the facts. I tell them I am a convert and am no longer eating and drinking myself to condemnation when I take their fake "communion" which will cause them to go to hell. Oh, I can be mean. The bad mean, not the good mean.

    Sometimes I just give a derisive snort and walk away.

  2. I hope that I would have quickly offered a prayer to the Holy Spirit, then asked him to elaborate.

  3. Depends on how much time I have. I usually let them do all of the talking, and practice my active listening skills, affirming that I'm listening while neither agreeing nor disagreeing.

    When the conversation gets to its logical climax I'll pause and say, "Tell me one thing..." (Because the point is always that one should leave the Catholic Church) "...what will I gain in another denomination that I don't already have in the Catholic Church?"

    That usually leads them off script from the very limited proof texts they've been taught to memorize, and they'll come up with a short list of off-the-cuff "best guesses."

    When you keep answering, "I already have that...I already have that...I already have that, the conversation on their side usually fizzles.

    In the time you have left, you can turn the table on any number of topics. The fact that the earliest Christians believed that Jesus was really and substantially present in the Eucharist, etc.

    The bottom line is "I already have that."

  4. Anonymous10:44 PM

    Chances are he isn't of the right mind for any talk that could sway him - when you're on a mission, your mind is made up. You have to pick your battles, and this is one where he has a high ground and a castle with a moat. Never argue with a fool - onlookers will have a hard time telling who is whom. You needed no witty comeback. Forget it.

  5. Anonymous6:48 AM

    I would have responded the same way. This wasn't the time or the place. Plus, the guy wasn't interested in a discussion. If he had been, it would have been a different story.

    We don't have to engage people every time they say something stupid.

  6. I'd have encouraged him to the point where he'd proclaim the Church is the Whore of Babylon and all who follow are damned. Then I'd have smiled and told him that is exactly why I'm part of it. I call it the "Gomez Addams" approach to salvation.

  7. Subvet wins! BTW, the pie lasted less than a day.

  8. MightyMom says we DID offer for you to take two!

  9. I know! Now you know why I only took one.

  10. Anonymous1:32 PM

    What would I have done? I don't know. Probably the same as you. I'm almost done with my confrontational argumentative phase. First as a wannabe apologist and now as an adoptive parent, I do get the hankerin' for a good verbal smackdown once in a while. But I've also gotten a little older and hopefully wiser and realized that some idiotic questions don't deserve answers, and many people aren't genuinely interested in a constructive learning discussion. They only want to force their opinion on you, or to bombard you with nosy questions that are none of their darn business.

  11. It would be wrong, however you look at it, to give him a slightly puzzled look, then stare at a point a thousand yards past his right shoulder and say, "Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, Ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul."

    Even, "So where do you live? I'd love to bring a couple of my brother priests with me to really dig into Revelation with you and your family," would not be a blameless reply.

  12. I'd say good thing the Vatican is built outside the 7 hills. And then smile. But I'm always spoiling for a fight.

  13. Anonymous5:43 PM

    I would have poked the bear. I would've have done as Subvet did. Then made the large loopholes in his argument large enough to drive an 18 wheeler through and then, possibly, just entirely destroyed his argument. Nothing like a convert who knows both sides of the argument or one who just likes to poke the bear.

  14. Anonymous11:34 PM

    I would have started beating him while yelling "THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU!"


  15. Okay, color me baffled. I just did an internet lookup and the city in the passage is Babylon. And the city has seven mountains. Rome just has hills and isn't named at all. For the win, the city with seven mountains that was well known to John of Patmos was Jerusalem, and it wouldn't be the first time she was compared to Babylon in Scripture.

    I think you did the best you could with a bad situation, Father. The Apocalypse is a weird book, and people will do very weird things with it when untethered from the infallible teaching of the Church.

    Knowing I frequent the same store, I'll be alert should the same happen to me.