My Super Internet Friends Roy Petitfils and Marc Cardaronella are having a great conversation about resistance to faith, and how to handle it sensitively. From Roy’s post on the Four Types of Resistance:
1. Intellectual. Having a different point of view, disagreeing with one’s logic or reasoning and ignorance. This type of resistance is falsely assumed by most Christian apologetics and thus explains why so much “apologetics” and “evangelization” is so woefully ineffective. (emphasis mine) It is the least prevalent form of resistance in young people today.
2. Spiritual. Sin is a choice to step out of relationship with Christ. The more seriously and repeatedly we do this the more resistant we become to re-entering that relationship.
3. Physical. Many people, especially males experience, learn and process kinesthetically—touching, moving, creating and yes, even destroying. I’ve seen some pretty resistant young people open up while mixing cement in Mexico, riding horses or after I sent them rocketing to the clouds as a result of jumping onto a giant air pillow in mountain lake.
4. Emotional. Often resulting from an experience of disappointment or hurt. The blame was either consciously or unconsciously ascribed to God. Saying “I’m agnostic” or “I’m an atheist” or “Christians are just a bunch of hypocrites” are all symptoms of emotional resistance. These sound better than saying “I’m feeling disappointed because God…” or “I’m having some feelings about God and the Church I don’t understand.” or “I’m angry that God…” That level of awareness is rare in adolescence and even when it is there, it will likely not come out in a classroom, youth group meeting or confirmation class.
Great taxonomy, especially that first point – which is what I want to respond to.
I’m not sure what Roy means when he says that intellectual resistance is the least prevalent form of resistance in young people today, but I’m guessing his point is that we so often want to hammer away at evangelization with the help of our trusty apologetics toolbox. I mean, we’ve got all those books! The logic is laid out so clearly! If we can just get those kids to focus on what we’re saying, they will be stunned by the wisdom of our arguments.
But, of course, for the reasons Roy has outlined, more often we are encountering a group of kids who are, for all intents and purposes, covering their ears with their hands. “LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!!”
I think this is so important to remember when we’re talking to kids about a “difficult” teaching – one that personally affects them. We can’t answer their questions in a vacuum. Even though we might totally follow the logic behind why, for example, abortion isn’t okay even in the case of rape, we can’t assume that all we need to do is lay out the arguments and our audience will accept them.
First off, we need to accept the reality that – as Roy pointed out – our listeners may have deep emotional scars that we’ll never know about, and that their past wounds are brought to the forefront when these sensitive topics are discussed.
And we always need to provide a context for whatever answers we’re giving them – not just “the Church teaches that sex is both procreative and unitive, and we cannot sever these two aspects,” but “Jesus talked a lot about marriage as an image for His love for the Church. What does that mean? Total self-sacrifice, total self-giving. And the way this applies to human sexuality is…” I’m not great at doing this without giving 15-minute Charlie Brown Teacher Voice answers to apparently simple questions, but I think it’s better than trying to answer all of kids’ questions piecemeal, thinking we can shoot down their objections one at a time and they’ll eventually see things our way.