With so many self-appointed experts around instructing Catholics how to respond to Fundamentalists, it's also important to talk about how not to respond to them. (Of course, if you consult an expert who doesn't know what he's talking about, this may be two different ways of saying the same thing.)
The following points are derived from newspaper columns, books, and articles which have been written as advice on how the up-to- date Catholic should handle Fundamentalists. If you actually talk to ex-Catholic Fundamentalists, though, you'll find these are also things which they say have helped drive them out of the Church.
So let's call these tips on how not to handle Fundamentalists:
1 Avoid doctrinal and biblical discussions as unfruitful. Arguments, after all, never convince anyone of anything. This means people don't become Fundamentalists for doctrinal reasons. They become Fundamentalists because they're emotional basket cases, period.
There's a practical side to this tip, something the Catholic apologist will appreciate. Ignoring scriptural and doctrinal questions has the advantage of protecting the Catholic who knows little about the Bible from demonstrating his ignorance. What should he do instead of talking about doctrines and verses? He should follow the "love them to death" approach--you know, let Fundamentalists (and all other non-Catholics, for that matter) think whatever they want, and don't argue with them--but be sure to smile a lot.
The "love them to death" school of thought (not to be confused with charity, which is always required) not only doesn't work, say some, but leaves Fundamentalists thinking you're either unable or unwilling to stand up for what you believe. They'll walk away convinced you can't say anything intelligent in defense of your religion. (In this they may be right.) They'll also conclude there's nothing intelligent to be said in defense of the Catholic religion--but so what? What do you care what they think?
2 Accuse Fundamentalists of being rigid and simplistic. Use ridicule rather than reason. This method is an extension of the "don't discuss doctrine" idea because it assumes conversions from Catholicism to Fundamentalism are pathological rather than theological. While this may be true in individual cases, as a general rule it's wrong, but don't stick with the general cases--stick with the idiosyncratic ones (because they support these tips).
Fundamentalists make converts, it is said, because Catholics they meet have a poor understanding of their faith or merely a pro forma attachment to it. We repeat: So what? Although it's true that, when a Fundamentalist offers a forceful presentation of his brand of Christianity, he makes an impact because Catholics aren't trained well, it's nevertheless important to keep your mouth shut.
3 Use reverse triumphalism. Triumphalism is the attitude which says only Catholics have the truth and there's nothing to be learned from anyone else. Reverse triumphalism is the attitude that Catholics are the only ones who don't have the truth, and we have everything to learn from others (except, of course, from Fundamentalists, who should be ignored studiously).
If your goal is to convince the inquiring Fundamentalist you're a pagan, reverse triumphalism is helpful. Be as absolutely certain of your theological uncertainty as the Fundamentalist is convinced of his faith.
Remember, no matter how many other points you may disagree with a Fundamentalist on, agreement about certain things like the inspiration of Scripture or the bodily Resurrection of Christ will lead your secularist friends to suspect you of latent Fundamentalist tendencies. You'll be guilty of Catholic Fundamentalism, whatever that is. Don't ever let yourself be charged with Catholic Fundamentalism. It can ruin your social life.
4 Be reactionary in your theology. Reactionary theology is not to be confused with traditional theology. Someone who holds a reactionary theology reacts to everything Fundamentalists believe by holding the opposite out of sheer cussedness.
For example, some Fundamentalists say they're the only ones who'll go to heaven. So you should tell them everyone will be saved. Fundamentalists also stress the inerrancy of Scripture. Point out to them how the Bible is full of errors; in fact, it may contain only errors.
In other words, avoid building on beliefs Catholics share with Fundamentalists. Zero in on what we share and then reject it outright. Don't bother discussing things about which we have real differences, such as the nature of salvation, the sufficiency of Scripture, or the papacy. Instead, create problems with things which Catholics and Fundamentalists should, with a little nuancing and some terminological latitude, agree upon.
5 Be "up-to-date." When Fundamentalists attack the Catholic Church for its beliefs about the pope, sacraments, purgatory, or Mary, sidestep the matter by denying the Church still holds these positions. Tell them Vatican II changed everything and that we don't believe this stuff any longer.
Remember, the "progressive" Catholic has an advantage in talking to a Fundamentalist which he doesn't have with a fellow Catholic. The Fundamentalist hasn't read Vatican II. He can be fooled into believing anything about it. A Catholic who knows his faith might not allow you a theological blank check when it comes to what Vatican II actually said.
While a vacillating Catholicism eliminates Fundamentalist objections to certain Catholic tenets, it also drives more Catholics into Fundamentalism. When this happens, increased Catholic defections can be attributed to a lack of community, or to the laity's sense of alienation as a result of a hierarchical church's indifference to democratic movements of the Spirit, or to patriarchal oppression. No one needs to know the truth: When you stop giving people the full gospel, they latch on to parts of the truth wherever they can find them.
A Catholic who follows the points outlined above is bound to be successful--successful in evacuating the pews of St. Disingenuous's and swelling the church roll at Good Book Baptist. Any Fundamentalist who talks to such a Catholic will come away convinced the guy knows nothing about real Christianity.
Again, we ask you: So what? So what if the Fundamentalist doesn't realize the "Catholic apologist" isn't representing his faith properly? What's the big worry? All that matters is that we avoid divisiveness by avoiding any kind of controversy. Remember that biblical line (we paraphrase): "Muddleheadness will set you free."