Are Catholics Chicken or Something?

by Jimmy Akin

in Apologetics, Other Christians


Recently I was getting into my truck, and a gentleman I didn’t know came over to talk to me.

He was out front having a smoke and spotted me while I was getting into my vehicle, so he came over and introduced himself.

Turns out he’s my neighbor’s father-in-law.

He wanted to talk to me about Jesus and the end of the world.

Now, he wasn’t one of the Family Radio people who think that Judgment Day is going to occur May 21, 2011 (just watch; Harold Camping’s prediction will turn out to be wrong again), but he was—if I understood him correctly—a Calvary Chapel Evangelical who, like many in that community, think the end of the world is near, that people will be suddenly raptured away before a thousand year earthly reign of Christ, etc.

His primary interest in talking to me, though, wasn’t to swap views on the end of the world. Instead, he had something else in mind.

He didn’t actually use the following terms—our conversation took another path—but translating from Evangelicalese to Catholicese, he was concerned that I might not be saved (i.e., in a state of grace) and wanted to make sure that before I die I got to know Jesus (i.e., experienced a conversion to Christ), so he wanted to witness to me (i.e., evangelize me) so that I wouldn’t go to hell (i.e., hell).

That was right nice of him!

Turns out I was already full-up in the witnessing department—what with being an apologist and all that—but the sentiment was very much appreciated, he was a really nice guy, and we had a delightful conversation.

I hope we can chat again in the future!

I couldn’t help admiring about the gentleman the fact that he was bold enough to go up to a total stranger and start talking about sensitive personal things like whether the stranger has a properly configured relationship with God.

That’s one of the more sensitive and personal topics that can be broached, especially in a one-to-one conversation—as opposed to preaching to a big group of people and asking them individually to consider their relationship with God. The latter is peanuts. Any decent public speaker could do that. Going face-to-face with a single person and making the rectitude of his relationship with God the topic, that requires courage!

I could tell that the gentleman was nervous at the beginning of our conversation, so I did my best to set him at easy and signal that I wasn’t threatened or put off. While I didn’t have a lot of time (I was, after all, getting in my car to go somewhere), I engaged the subject with him happily and enthusiastically, and we had a great (if brief) truck-side conversation.

It brought back pleasant memories of my own time as an Evangelical.

And as I drove away, there was a prominent thought in my head: Catholics almost never do what he just did.


Why Catholics so seldom work up the courage to approach a total stranger with the message of Jesus.

One might think it’s because Catholics are chicken, that they’re afraid to do so. And of course they are. Evangelicals are, too! You have to screw up your nerve to do this kind of thing. That’s only human!

Yet Evangelicals do it and Catholics—for the most part—don’t.

Why is that?

In my next post I’ll discuss my own thoughts about why that is, but until then . . .

What are your thoughts?

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Jack April 12, 2011 at 10:14 am

I think its more to do with the fact that Catholics tend to think of evangelization as something to be done by Religious Congregations for whom Evangelisation is their Reason D’tre e.g maryknowll, Divine Word Missonaries etc

The Pachyderminator April 12, 2011 at 10:47 am

Too bad the Masked Chicken isn’t here during Lent. His perspective on this would certainly be valuable.

GADEL April 12, 2011 at 12:15 pm

I believe most of us in the Church erroneously think that the evangelistic mission of the Church is something left to the Priests and Religious. This may be in part due to poor Catechesis.

Barbara April 12, 2011 at 1:00 pm

One of the biggest difficulties in sharing the Catholic faith, is that it can’t be summed up as a bumper sticker slogan. Evangelicals just need to lead someone through the sinners prayer. I have sometimes invited people to Mass. Then simply answer their questions. But the Catholic faith is too rich and deep to share in a few minute conversation.

Sharon April 12, 2011 at 5:04 pm

Yes, I’m chicken: the first response of anyone who hears that I am a Catholic is to bring up sexual abuse, the Crusades, the Inquisition, Vatican wealth, opression of women etc etc. No one wants to hear about the beauty and truth of the Faith they just want answers to the questions the MSM has raised. When they are given answers the reply is,”You would say that, you’re a Catholic.”
Another reason I don’t evengalise is that I honestly wouldn’t know where to direct someone to find authentic Catholicism. Our schools are CINO, our priests only speak about the refugees or “God lurves you as you are, some of our bishops are personally orthodox but…the others are not backward in criticising the Church.
Ahh Catholicism in the 21st Century Australia.

Gregory Williams April 13, 2011 at 6:57 am

I’ve encountered a lot of “I’m okay, You’re okay” spirituality in Catholicism. The sentiment goes that since Jesus is free to save non-Catholics according to his will, there is no need to share Catholicism for the salvation of souls.

anton April 13, 2011 at 10:27 am

Evangelicals believe in a “personal relationship” with Jesus, where as a Catholic, belief is in a “Communal relationship” with the Lord Jesus in Unity and Community (thus we have Holy Communion to unite us in faith and in Christ.) Evangelizing for an Evangelical may differ from one person to the next because Christ is “personal” and therefore it is a scattered form of Christianity. As a Catholic, evangelizing is the domain of the church as a community so that we may honor our Savior’s prayer that “we may be one” as Jesus is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. I think that this is the reason and not that Catholic’s are chicken or something.

PatronSaint Medals April 14, 2011 at 4:02 am

In my country, there are lots of evangelicals roaming around, going from one house to another asking for several minutes of the person’s time. But Catholics don’t do this. Why? I think it’s partly because there are already many Catholics here and Cathechism is part of a child’s studies. We have Catholic schools and several masses held a week. But for the most part, I think there is a sense to Catholics that approaching strangers are not that urgent at all due to these reasons.

GMcFLy April 14, 2011 at 12:31 pm

I agree with the line of thought from Barbara. I’d say that the evangelization task for a non-Catholic Christian seems like it would be a lot simpler, with much clearer, and usually higher, stakes. Get somebody to say “I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior”, and bingo, you win; that soul goes from damnation to saved.
As a Catholic, how do I know that I’m even helping when I approach a stranger to evangelize? I can’t judge the state of the soul of anybody in the first place. That soul could easilly be in a much better place than I. Maybe I’ll make things worse. How to know what news about my faith that they could particularly benefit from hearing? And I never really know if I helped or not.
This doesn’t so much explain or excuse why Catholic’s don’t evangelize, but it’s my theory to explain why non-Catholics do evangelize. In my cradle-Catholic perception, evangelization might be a lot more fun, simple, easy and rewarding in the mind of a protestant.

Maureen April 14, 2011 at 3:13 pm

The Legion of Mary does door-to-door evangelization.
Evangelizing to strangers is associated in my mind with all the unpleasant encounters I’ve had. The neighborhood kids who tried to strip or beat me up on various days, who then invited me to their church when their church offered them cash and prizes for doing so. The nice college girls who claimed to be throwing a party, which turned out to be an “isolate the Catholic in a faraway house and then quote her into becoming Christian” party. The Bible passers-out who tried to block our way to class. And just yesterday, the normally nice guy who turned all condescending in order to let me know you weren’t Christian until you had glossolalia, which of course all people could have from the Holy Spirit if they weren’t stubborn or evil. I could go on, believe me!
Thanks be to God, I’ve usually been able to find some sort of answer for these people. But it makes me so angry, and I’m not someone with a good grip on temper in the first place. And it’s almost always people who seem nice, turning into super-rude people who won’t let you get in a word edgewise and won’t listen when you do. Maybe that’s how they’re trained, maybe they’re nervous themselves, but it always riles me but good. When you add the fact that they’re generally saying something that (if they but knew it) is blasphemous or at least heretical, it’s really hard for my gut to take.
I’ll write about my faith on my blog, I’ll sing in the choir in church or go out places with it, and I’ll do various other apostolate-type activities. But if I had to do evangelism and apologetics all the time, I’d either kill somebody else or myself. And I’ve worked retail at Christmas without losing my cool, so sheesh.

james April 15, 2011 at 3:15 pm

I think many Catholics are concerned that if they invite someone to come to Mass that Mass may not be the best place or evangelization tool to bring someone bran new to Christianity!
It may seem confusing, they cant participate in the Eucharist and you have to tell them that, its not entertaining, no place to hand off their kids and so on.. There also may not be a proper infrastructure that can respond in a timely manner to the special needs of someone new besides a 9 month commitment to RCIA vs. accept Jesus as your lord and Savior and your in!.So the Catholic feels if he can’t hand them off with confidence, why ask them to come.
I saw exactly this when “Catholics come home” launched in our diocese and our Church had phone calls coming from people wanting to come back. I was horrified that many that called had not been called back or contacted in over two weeks. They did not even have the infrastructure in place to handle lapse catholics let alone people new to Christianity.
Compare this to Evangelicals services that are designed to entertain,inform,all can participate and the service ends with an altar call which shuffles invites off to a group trained and motivated to take there inquiry to the next level while sipping on a cappuccino. We also need to remember that their is financial pressure for new Evangelical churches to fill the seats. If the church does not grow either does the Pastors salary! The good news is it forces them to find new members the bad news is “ear tickling” doctrine keeps the seats filled easier.
Sadly we Catholics have the most awesome product we just need to work on the sales process a bit.!!!!

The Masked Chicken April 25, 2011 at 10:38 am

I put up a very long post-Lent comment on this adticle a little while, ago. Typepad howed that it pisted, but it is nowhere to be found. I’m miffed, I tell you, miffed. Not going to try, again. My kindle broke, today, as well, and will cost much to replace (it’s out of warranty). Electronics is not my friend, today. I have realized because of these things, yet again, that printed books are far superior to electronics. Books usually don’t go bad after a year or two requiring expensive repairs. If computers had the life-span of a book, they might be something to prize.
The Miffed Chicken
Oh, p.s. Be glad the cruxifiction was not covered by television. Happy Easter!

The Masked Chicken April 25, 2011 at 10:40 am

Should be:
Typepad showed that it posted…
Stupid auto-correct…
The Chicken

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