This post is the first in a series I’m calling The Badattitudes, which are Beatitudes that did not make the cut at the Sermon on the Mount, but are followed as though they were.
I know what you’re thinking. “Apologeticists” is not a real word; I meant to say “apologists,” right? Just bear with me.
If you avoid Catholic media, then you are blissfully unaware that one of the big subjects of late is apologetics. (You are also making better decisions in life than I am, but that is for another post.) The term refers to the branch of theology that focuses on defense of faith. St. Paul did it. St. Augustine did it. C.S. Lewis did it.
But if you listen to Catholic radio these days (pre-papal retirement, at least), the little airtime that is not already occupied by abortion, the gays or Obama is granted largely to apologetics. Experts (as well as others whose credentials are sketchy) take the guest’s chair and answer questions. Listeners are sent forth with a newly enhanced knowledge of their faith.
On the surface, that does not seem like a bad thing. We all would like to understand our beliefs well enough to explain them to people. But the recent fad of apologetics encourages debate more than it boosts faith. Topics are more conventional than they are spiritual, which causes the shows to come across more as politics than religion.
It has reached the point where the word “apologetics” has lost its power. Instead of strengthening the resolve of people to live their own faith, apologetics shows arm the listener with talking points to win arguments. And if you stick with the show long enough, you get the phone number or website to purchase materials that are so apologetic, people will be demanding an apology from you!
Which brings me back to the term apologeticist. I thought I made it up, but apparently people (mostly forum lurkers) have already coined it. But as an unofficial Lay Augustinian (which means they don’t kick me out of their meetings), I could not bear to think of Catholic media personalities existing in the same rhetorical category as someone like St. Augustine. So it’s time for an understanding of the difference between an apologist and an apologeticist.
- apologist – one who understands his/her faith well enough to describe it to people; has understanding enough to answer skepticism with reasonable dialogue
- apologeticist – one who strives to learn as much minutiae as possible about a given belief system so as to win arguments; wishes to be perceived as right by other people
If you wish to argue about this issue, feel free to comment. My apologetics will own you.