The elevator pitch

May 24, 2006 | 9 comments

Back in my career days all the sales guys I knew were always talking about their “elevator pitch, ” a compelling, 30-second summary of what their company sells and why you need it that they’d use in case they ever happened to rub elbows with some big potential client, say, in an elevator. Obviously it’s not meant to close the deal on the spot, but to at least pique the potential client’s interest and get them to want to follow up.

So my husband and I have spent a lot of time lately trying to come up with elevator pitch for Catholicism. One of the upsides of our former debaucherous and completely non-religious lifestyle is that people are shocked — shocked — when we tell them that we’re becoming Catholic. And I think we need to have EMS standing by next time we tell someone that, yes, we mean orthodox Catholicism. (The response that we both get frequently is “What?…You’re kidding, right?…What?”) The surprise of us becoming serious Catholics is enough to shock people into having an open mind for a moment. They ask us why we chose this route and listen intently while we answer.

I’ve been in this situation three times in the past couple of months, and my husband has experienced it probably four times. It’s stressful because I feel like the spotlight’s on and I have just a fleeting moment to get this person to possibly open her mind to faith (all the people I’ve talked to happen to be agnostic/atheist and have a particular distaste for Christianity).

So far most of the people I know have no idea that I’ve gone this route, so I’m going to find myself in the position of being asked about my faith more and more over the next couple of years as it comes out. Before everyone gets over the shock and just starts writing us off as “that weird religious family” I’d like to make the most of this rare opportunity to explain my theological decisions to people who are actually listening.

I have a few different pitches I’ve used that seem to have been somewhat successful. I was going to lay them out in this post but decided I’d like to hear what other people have to say first. If you were to find yourself in a position where somebody who is not particularly religious asked you why you’re Catholic (or whatever your religion is), and you only had a few sentences to summarize it, what would you say?


  1. GLouise

    Great idea, Jen! The Bible does tell us to have an answer ready to give at any time.

    “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”

    I’m not Catholic, but I’ll think about mine and try to post. Typically I like to talk about what my life was like before Christ, how and why I decided to follow Him, and what my life has been like since that point. Thanks,

  2. Julie D.

    In my case it was because I just had to have the Eucharist and I wasn’t gonna disrespect Catholics’ wishes not to have others partake. So I became Catholic.

    Now that inevitably leads to other discussions … WHY did I feel that, etc. But people accept that they have to give more time and attention to those stories and either stop asking or find a time to get the scoop.

  3. SteveG

    I’ve given this a lot of thought and decide that I am going to….cheat!

    I am going to steal the words of the prophet Chesterton as my own answer 1) because it really is my answer, 2) because I’d never be able to say it better 3) because you said something on your old blog that is similar and that resonated deeply with me, and 4) because it’s the only reason someone should hold any belief.

    This from Chesterton’s essay, Why I am Catholic

    The difficulty of explaining “why I am a Catholic” is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true. I could fill all my space with separate sentences each beginning with the words, “It is the only thing that . . .” As, for instance, (1) It is the only thing that really prevents a sin from being a secret. (2) It is the only thing in which the superior cannot be superior; in the sense of supercilious. (3) It is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age. (4) It is the only thing that talks as if it were the truth; as if it were a real messenger refusing to tamper with a real message. (5) It is the only type of Christianity that really contains every type of man; even the respectable man. (6) It is the only large attempt to change the world from the inside; working through wills and not laws; and so on.
    In short, I would say chiefly of the Catholic Church that it is catholic. I would rather try to suggest that it is not only larger than me, but larger than anything in the world; that it is indeed larger than the world.

    …Probably longer-winded than you were looking for, but brevity has never been my strong suit, and it certainly wasn’t Chesterton’s. 😀

  4. Kate

    I was raised Catholic, then ‘fell away’ as an adolescent. What brought me back (after only a couple years, but that doesn’t make this any less a real journey) was one question that I had to answer to my satisfaction. Who was Jesus? If he was Who he claimed to be, I couldn’t stay indifferent. I read and read, and there just seemed to be too much there, too much impact, too much evidence, to write Jesus off as a ‘wise man’, a ‘fool’ or a ‘lunatic’. With Lewis, I realised I only had one choice left.

    And then, Christ himself is so radical, that only the most radical of Churches could possibly contain the Truth about Him – the Church with the most radical claims, the Church which alone has stood firm about matters of morality over the last hundred years – the Catholic Church. Really, what other church is there?

    So, there’s my elevator pitch for you.

  5. Rosemary

    I think all of these are good pitches! Kate, I really like yours but your question “Really, what other church is there?” at the end seemed over the top to me. Honestly, I’m Catholic and understand where you’re coming from theologically in saying that.

    I usually can’t stand those people who take one sentence and make a big deal out of it, but well. . . I do think that particular sentence is a big deal. There are a whole lot of churches out there and a whole lot of people who love those churches and have found Christ alive in them.

    How I do wish all Christians were together in one Church! But, since we’re not (yet!) I think it’s a good idea to try to avoid hurting our brothers and sisters in Christ by writing off their churches.

    Kate! Please don’t take this the wrong way! I have this ecumenical heart you see, and it had to speak up.

    “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.” John 17:11

  6. GLouise

    Great responses everyone. And a great question from Jen.

    Rosemary’s comment was very interesting to me. I think unity in the Church worldwide is such a critical thing, and something I desire very much. Think of all we could accomplish together if all denominations and those who love Christ, acted as “one.”

    It is also a point my husband I talk about often, “do we think of ourselves more as “Christians” or “Southern Baptists (or insert any other mainline denomination)?” We go to an SB church, but I do not identify myself as *that* first and foremost. It is just the place in my town where we prefer to worship, because of the teaching and people, etc.

    (Actually, funny story- when we moved out of state a few years ago, we attended a different denomination of churches…My mormon neighbor, remembering my Baptist background, asked me “are your parents upset that you ‘changed religions?'”) 🙂

    I guess that is why I love blogging so much. It’s a great forum to discuss our similarities and differences in Faith, and hear about other perspectives.

  7. GLouise

    One edit to my story above- it may be confusing. We didn’t start going to a Mormon church (now that would have definitely been changing religions!), just had a very sweet Mormon neighbor 🙂

  8. Kate

    rosemary –

    I wrote that comment on the fly and I can see that the last sentance isn’t ver tactful – or expressive. But I don’t think I could have that elevator conversation without mentioning the Church, and not just because I was born into it. I did a lot of reading ( I was a nerd) and, to be frank, I couldn’t find any denomination with compelling enough claims to compete. I have a lot of respect and love for our ‘seperated brethren’ in other Christian denominations, and I often marvel at how much good htey are able to accomplish, since I know how weak I would be without the tangible graces of the sacraments. But i can’t seperate my Christianity from my Catholicism. They are the same thing – my membership in the body of Christ and His Bride.

  9. Colleen

    Oh, I am coming a bit late to this but one answer that might interest your atheist friends and acquaintances is what got me interested enough to pursue Christianity further.

    I was reading one of the Gospels (intending to find proof that one of my Christians friends was wrong about something), when it hit me like a bolt of lightening–
    I was reading the bit (I think it was the episode of the feeding of the 5000) where the author writes that Jesus, not trusting himself to the crowd which was growing bigger, got into a boat and put out from shore, because “he knew what was in a man”.

    It was like scales falling from my eyes. For all the quaint and overly familiar language, when you look at scripture, it understands and describes human nature, as we all know it to be.

    Then the notion that Jesus could know exactly how hypocritical we can be, how easily led to mob behaviour we are, how venial, selfish, etc. and yet still died for us, well that was amazing.

    That was the day that I started looking honestly at the claims of Christianity.

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