Theologian Scott Hahn has recently come under fire for his “fundamentalist” perspective on the Faith. His main critic is Sean Swain Martin, an Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Viterbo University. Martin has dubbed Hahn the “American Pope”, citing that Hahn has become an unkempt entity, doing and teaching as he pleases. Martin even wrote and published a book titled “American Pope: Scott Hahn and the Rise of Catholic Fundamentalism.”
While Hahn has yet to respond to the criticism, and perhaps he never will, we should take this opportunity to think about how we would respond to attacks on our Faith. Recently on The Cale Clarke Show, Cale examined the situation and likened it to the case of St. Paul, a man who was constantly attacked and hated for his practice of Christianity. “He was maybe the first guy in the Church who experienced this kind of attack on his person, on his theology. And how he responded to his critics, how he responded to his enemies, some of which were coming from within the Church, I think [is] very, very instructive for how we deal with these things, and maybe how I’m sure Scott Hahn is going to deal with this too.”
Cale took a look at an article by Nijay Gupta that talked about the attacks that Paul had to deal with on a regular basis. There weren’t just pagans trying to stop him from evangelizing, but some within the Church didn’t like his methods either. Not only did they want to criticize Paul’s teachings, but they wanted to ruin Paul’s personal reputation. Some of his detractors, as Gupta pointed out, said that he hasn’t done anything to deserve his role in the Church and that he came across as weak and frail. In other words, he was not fit to be a leader.
But Paul expected this sort of response and knew it would never stop. Christ, who never made a mistake in His life, was subject to the most egregious forms of torture and death in front of His mother and friends. If they did that to the Son of God, think about what they’d do to the rest of the Church, a collection of sinners. Cale referenced a famous quote that goes, “If you don’t want to be criticized, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” No matter what we stand for, there will always be critics and attackers who hate us.
So how did Paul stay the course? How did he keep going, even when everybody was against him? Remember that Paul used to be on the side of the majority, the persecutors of the Christians. He was in a place of power and authority, so he knows what that felt like. Surely, it must have been tempting to give up the Faith and go back to the winning team. “There’s this saying that keeps coming up again and again. If you’re a soccer fan, you know this. ‘Keep your shape, keep your shape.’” What that means is to play like nothing has changed and compete like a champion, no matter how tough the odds are. Whether you’re getting blown out or nothing’s going your way, “Keep your shape.” Stick to the game plan so that win or lose, you can say that you laid it all on the line. That was Paul’s philosophy.
Paul ignored his critics and enemies and focused on the plan at hand: evangelizing the gentiles, converting people, and spreading the faith. Cale said that responding to this hatred would probably have been a waste of Paul’s time. Instead, Paul left his life an open book. If people believed that he was corrupt or participating in immoral practices, they were welcome to investigate. Paul taught that there should be no division in the Church based on who taught who. There should be no teams forming based on whether Apollos or Peter or Paul was your local preacher. All Christians are followers of Jesus and nobody should be preaching for fame, praise, or personal discipleship.
Paul also says that there are two routes you can take when correcting or critiquing somebody. There is the route of fraternal correction where one comes to the other as a peer and friend. They make an effort to convey that their intentions are to prevent damage and benefit the Church. This is a respectable but difficult thing to do. The second route that people take, as Paul’s enemies did, is to make efforts to publicly humiliate someone. They use an open platform to mock and dehumanize the person they’re correcting. We as Christians are called to do all things charitably, including correcting somebody.
So how do we face down critics and attackers the way St. Paul did? We “keep our shape”, ignore the hatred that we can, remember that we are followers of Christ, and do all things with charity in the face of derision.
Listen to the full talk below:
Tune in to The Cale Clarke Show weekdays at 5pm CT