I love apologetics. I love studying ways to defend the faith. So does everyone else. Why?
Also, I love studying and reading about other converts. But, why?
It’s the mark of a child to keep asking “why?” but this is a good question. Why are we so attracted to converts? We love the life-long Catholics, but there is a special power, it seems, in the testimony of the convert. Indeed, in Church history and in our time, there are many who end up converting through the inspiration of converts. Countless souls by the Apostles, numerous academics by Augustine, and many moderns from voices like Gibbons, Chesterton and Fulweiler.
There’s got to be a reason why, though. Why these people did not study their own way to the faith, just magically wake up and go to Church, or some other more expected approach. Those who convert never expect it at all and are always amped with zeal by their joyful surprise. It’s not just an epidemic, though. It seems to be a recurring idea present in every generation. I wanted to figure out why though.
Then, for whatever reason, I got to thinking of the argument between the Lost Boys and Rufio, on the movie Hook, about the real identity of this lawyer. After the young boy looks deeper into the contours of the face of the lawyer, he realizes Peter Pan is still the same person, though he’s not what they’d expected. He’s older, smarter, more responsible and all the while he still has his wit and charisma.
The argument begins as to whether or not the lawyer is a mere lawyer or really is who he says he is. And the little lost boy, Pockets, speaks an incredible bit of wisdom:
“Wait! If Tink believes, maybe he is” with Tinkerbell soon yelling “Give ’em a chance!”
An identical thing happens when we meet our conversion heroes in books, blogs or the Bible. We realize they are just like us. While reading their story, we start believing that the story is actually about us, and have to remind ourselves that it’s not. It’s moving, and it makes the conversion story one of two things: more attractive, or more daunting.
When it’s more attractive, we are like the lost boys, running from one side of the playing field to the other with zeal. For others, it takes a bit more conviction. Some of us are Rufios at heart.
When it’s daunting, we’re more like a mix of Rufio and Captain Hook. Rufio because we need more time, more faith; Hook, because well, we literally don’t want what we’ve discovered to be true because if it is, it might be the end of everything we know. I recall the hilarious scene with Hook and Smee, where Hook realizes he might be outmatched, and that everything he has done to that point was a waste. He wants suicide.
“Don’t try to stop me Smee, don’t you dare try to stop me Smee… try to stop me. Smee, you better get up off your…”
Though I had a rather quick conversion, I was a lot like Captain Hook: I desperately did not want to be Catholic and I searched for months for anyone to tell me a good reason to not be Catholic.
The truth is in the words of Pockets though: “If Tink believes, maybe he is.”
Do you see what happened there? Not only is the bit of a conversion hero about self-identity, it’s also about the credibility of the convert. Take Scott Hahn for example. He was passionate convert. He was well educated, devoutly skeptical, and passionate about Jesus. These were what gave Scott a certain sense of credibility in Rome Sweet Home, where we didn’t just meet a guy who became Catholic; we met Dr. Scott Hahn, the former Presbyterian minister, and observed his work and zeal for truth.
When Pockets references Tinkerbell, it was like he was saying, “We trust her on other matters, why not this one?” This is the thing about converts that pushes non-believers to the edge. Former Atheists love C.S. Lewis and Fulweiler, and former evangelicals identify with Steve Ray because these figures communicate the same struggles and the same concerns as skeptics. This is why converts are so effective; their story and their credibility urge our inner still and small voice to shout “Give ‘em a chance!”
After we look deeper into the contours on the face of This Man, we realizes Jesus is who He says He is, though he’s not what we expected.