There's an order to it
It may seem strange if you have never heard it before, but there is generally an order to the way that communities big and small receive the Good News. And if you get this order wrong, mixed up or (worse) you neglect one of the steps involved, then the Gospel does not find that fertile and receptive ground that our Lord speaks about.
So what is the order?
In its shortest version: Pathos, Ethos, and Logos. Sounds fancy I know, so let’s break it down.
When we speak about pathos what we are actually saying in the context of evangelization is that there is an absolute need to share personal stories. Call them ‘testimonies’ or ‘witness’ or whatever you like, but without these personal experiences of the faith shared from the heart, then the faith we see in the culture tends towards a rigid and legalistic ‘obedience.’ And that practically never attracts the onlooker.
If pathos is in play, and one is moved by the testimonies of others - others who are in many ways just like me - then there is a natural movement towards ethos. And in the context of evangelization this is the decision of the heart to live according to what inspired me in the witness or testimony. Essentially, you will not have to convince this person to follow the rules (ecclesiastical or otherwise) because this person already wants to recreate what they have been so moved by. At most, you will simply have to explain how the rule or law or ethic supports what they already feel in their bones is true, and what they feel is the ethos, the interior assent and living out of an ethical principle.
The principle of logos now comes in to play when you want to understand or better live out the ethos already internalized. You want to know why it is that the best way to love one’s spouse is such and such. You want to know just how Jesus taught us to approach our marriages. Notice, you are actually seeking information at this stage, reasons for your faith or belief or your new ethos. And if you are connected to a vibrant evangelizing community that has their act together, then this is when you can really soar.
SO WHAT ARE WE GETTING WRONG?
We are getting the order wrong. We push truth, reason, argumentation, public debate, fact finding etc. and it doesn’t work.
You have seen this.
We keep talking about what a child in the womb factually is and the culture tells stories about how hard it was for the mother to feel shamed by the pro-life community.
We keep talking about why contraception makes zero sense when it comes to the woman’s body, to our environment and so on, and the culture tells us stories about good lives lived when they learned to plan their pregnancies.
Pick a topic of interest to Catholics and the faith today and you will find the same pattern. Atheists talk about the good life having been freed from an aggressive and backward religion and we try to engage them on their misconceptions.
Doing it this way, the anti-culture doesn’t have to have the answers. They just have to tell a good story and most people won’t even question it.
DON’T MISUNDERSTAND ME.
We need to continue to engage people with logos but we are getting things in the wrong order. Pathos comes first. We have the best stories on the planet. Stories about how God has changed us, saved us, renewed us and blessed us. THAT’S what we should be shouting on every social platform and what we bring up when we meet people face to face.
And then, when they are intrigued and are trying to live the same kind of life because they want God (ethos), that is the time for logos.
So, do you want to save this civilization?
Start by taking a good hard look at how God has rescued you and then, tell your story.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to come from the heart.
Pathos, ethos and then logos. Do it in that order and watch the public conversation change.
Have a great day friends,