Internet Evangelization

The internet can be an incredible waste of time. Having been a member of various religious websites for nearly a decade, I can tell you first hand that if you are not careful you can spend 6, 8, or more hours online and accomplish absolutely nothing. The internet is often used as community. And while there is nothing wrong with making friends and getting to know others online, if you say that your primary relationships and your community consists solely of the internet, there is something amiss. I've seen conversations on message boards that stretch on for over 200 pages filled with mindless chat over periods of weeks. This is not productive. I've also seen the same arguments rehashed over and over again by the same people without getting anywhere, ever. This is also pointless and hurts both parties involved in the discussion. If you are going to use the internet for evangelistic purposes there are several guidelines to live by, especially if you are engaging in debate. 

* Leave your emotions out of it. I've learned that this is a cardinal rule to live by. The Ad Hominem attack will not get you anywhere and will only frustrate you and make the other person angry. Always stick with the issue no matter how much another person baits you personally attacks your character. Find the key issues that a person is talking about, what are their actual points of argument in the issue. A person may write a page and a half but essentially only say one thing, such as "The pope is the anti-christ because only Jesus is the leader of the Christian Church." Address then only this issue even if they attack you, telling you how stupid and ignorant you must be for believing what you do. Treat them kindly and always be humble, and in doing so you will heap many coals on their head. 

* Likewise then, do not critize anyone for their own beliefs. Don't tell a fellow Christian or non-Christian that they are an idiot, even if they really don't know anything about the issue even though they think they do. Consider the motto of our website: Never Attack. Never Defend. Always Clarify. The Catholic Church does not need you to defend it. She's done a fine job defending herself for 2000 years. You are not all that and a bag of chips. Never attack others and do it in the name of Catholicism. If you want to attack others, go wrestle an alligator. Always be ready to answer for the hope that is in you by clarifying. Do you see the fine line between clarification and defense? People do not listen to others on the defense, and certianly do not change their own beliefs due to others on the defense. Instead, be a witness and clarify the truth. If someone says that Catholics worship Mary, do not defend the Catholic position, but clarify the Catholic position. In clarification you will find charity, in defense you will find bitterness. 

* Attempt to stick to only one issue at a time. Protestants will often run all over the map when debating online. One issue easily leads to another. The priesthood leads to the hierarchy, which leads to the Eucharist, which leads to the mass, which leads to Mary, and so on. Keep the person you are talking to, to only one issue. If they they try to switch subjects, make a note of it in your reply, and tell them if they want to talk about that subject, you should open a new 'thread' to do so. 

* Keep the issue moving. Make your point and move on. If they come back to the same issue over again, point out that you answered them, and tell them if they need further clarification, to expand on how your answer confused them. Don't allow yourself to be run into circles. The point of internet evangelization is to bring new debates to a conclusion and help others decide on an issue that is bothering them. In my own experience all debates between Catholics and Protestants come down to one issue - authority. Keep that in mind and be well versed on the issue. If the authority is the Catholic Church, all other issues, even faith alone, become small. If the authority is not the Catholic Church, then no one has any business being Catholic. 

* Respect the rules of a website and its administration (as well as moderators). This should be obvious. If you are not welcome at a website, leave and don't press the issue. Remember that you are only out there to plant seeds and you cannot force anything on anyone. If a website is fundamentalist in nature and they want only fundamentalists as members, respect that. 

* Know your faith. You never know enough and you are not an expert. The old saying goes "The wise man knows he is a fool, and the fool knows he is a wise man." As much as you may have already studied (or not studied) apologetics, always be willing to learn from others, especially those who are already familiar with internet evangelization. Remember that you can even learn from your Protestant brothers and sisters. Never assume they are ignorant of their own faith or of the Bible. If you do, you will likely find yourself squashed in a debate. 

* Never be confrontational in a debate beyond presenting facts. Don't say "so now that I have proved the Catholic faith you must become Catholic or you will go to hell." Really? You are God and can judge their soul? Present the faith, but don't make demands. It is not your place. 

* If someone else does a good job, tell them. If someone comes to agree with the faith and begins the process of converting (reverting), do not gloat. This is a great time for humilty and to witness to the faith.