Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A New Tool for the Box: A Review of "How to Defend the Faith without Raising Your Voice"

Austen Ivereigh's book How to Defend the Faith without Raising Your Voice
is a great new tool for budding apologists, and regular folks, too.

I heard Austen Ivereigh for the first time on the Sonrise Morning Show on my local EWTN Radio affiliate, St. Gabriel Catholic Radio. His English accent caught my attention at first, but what kept it was his techniques for debating hot-button issues with people who know little or nothing about the Catholic Faith.

At the end of the interview, Ivereigh told us about his book How to Defend the Faith without Raising Your Voice and I was intrigued. I was tired of losing my cool over defending the church's teaching on everything from gay marriage to why women can't be priests - so I had stopped commenting altogether.

Of course, once I arrived at work, my train of thought quickly jumped the track and I forgot all about the interview and the book. But, as usual, God had a plan and I found the book through the Catholic Company's Reviewer Program and was again intrigued. Only when the book arrived and I began to read it, did I remember the interview I'd heard several months before.

The method that Ivereigh details in his book was developed for use with the Catholic Voices project in the UK. Catholic Voices is the go-to group of people for the media when they need the Catholic point of view in a debate situation such as when the resolution to allow same-sex marriage in the UK was passed this Summer.

In each chapter, Ivereigh takes on a hot-button issue, explains the most common objections or arguments that he has seen, shows you a good way to reframe these objections or arguments and then gives a detailed explanation of what the Church holds to be true about each issue. At the end of each chapter, (because you don't have time to read a chapter of a book each time you discuss issues like this,) he distills the entire argument into small bite-sized pieces that you can use to remind yourself of what you've read.

But, the best part about this book is not that it tells you what to think, but rather tells you how to see things from a different perspective, so you can effectively debate and not lose your cool, or your credibility. These are skills that you may have learned in your high school debate team or class, but a brush-up is always helpful.

Ivereigh explains that the heart of this techniques is what he calls "positive intention." He explains:
"Behind every criticism of the Church, however apparently hostile or prejudiced, is an ethical value. . . It is much easier to persuade the critic if you can appeal to that same value, or show that you can agree with it. . . Empathy is the beginning of dialogue. Dialogue does not mean abandoning or adjusting your values, but building relationships of trust between people of differing convictions."
It took me a long time to get to the point that I could actually use the information in this book. One of the things I have learned at my advanced age is that in order to put tools into action effectively under pressure, you must practice using those tools when the stakes are lower.

Practicing "positive intention" can be a great tool for conflict resolution in everyday situations at home, and then, when it's time, you'll be ready to use it with confidence to defend the Faith.

I really liked this book, but the most helpful parts of it are the introduction and the sections at the end of each chapter. This is a great handbook for people who finds themselves under fire at work or on social media outlets, but it's also a great brush up on the Catholic Church's position on many things.

It's a great tool for just about everyone from teenagers through adults. The language and the subject matter is a bit on the adult side for anyone younger than that. I highly recommend it to anyone who has family members who are not Catholic or have left the Church, or people with kids who are being challenged in their faith at school.

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