Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What About Those Catholics - Revised

My view of Catholics has metamorphosed with time. Am I a beautiful butterfly? Not yet, but I’m no worm either. Catholics don’t give a hoot what I think, nor should they. I care what I think. There exists this Big Huge congregation of people worldwide, professing faith in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, and I don’t like thinking of them as not Christian. It bothers me.

My little hometown on the North Dakota Prairie, one thousand people at its peak, had two churches. The “Big Church” North Viking was Lutheran. The “Little Church” (only name I know, and I attended it) was Lutheran. There was a church some miles south of town, South Viking, was a Lutheran Church. And I remember one north of town, yes Lutheran. Several other Lutheran churches lay scattered about the rural countryside. It would not be a stretch to say my hometown was Lutheran. Most people were Norwegian, but although having plenty Norwegian blood, I am a mutt married to a purebred.

A handful of Catholics existed but they took some years to reach critical mass and met in some house, I think. We felt safe as I remember, as long as they met in that house. Then one day, as rumor had it, the Catholics had purchased land within the community, planning a church building. I have no recollection of specific words spoken, only a vague feeling surrounding the calamity. Remember when Sputnik went up, that feeling, Nikita Kruschev pounding his shoe on the UN podium, threatening to bury us, like that.

The church was eventually built in anticlimactic, do-it-yourself style and nothing more came of it.

My only practical knowledge of the Catholics was their extraordinary cooking ability. Each year they held a turkey and all the trimmings feed which we eagerly awaited and stood in long lines to get. Family style, all you could eat. This was the beginning of my Catholic metamorphosis. The way to a man’s heart, no matter how young I guess.

I don’t know how Lutheran’s felt about Catholics exactly, I heard nothing from the pulpit, maybe a Pope shot or two. My mother was not Lutheran, she was Pentecostal so you can imagine her frustration trapped in a Lutheran community. My exposure to anti-Catholic material exceeded a normal Lutheran’s I suppose. I remember the Harlot Church of Revelations, idols, worship of Mary, prayer to Saints … and the Pope never seemed like a nice person, dictators were never popular in our household. But I saw no reason to drift far from the turkey, dressing and mashed potatoes.

Later when I became more involved with evangelical-charismatic teaching and the turkey was only a pleasant distant memory, doctrinal negatives surfaced and I adopted an anti-Catholic theology.

My wife and I started a Bible Study in our Minnesota home in 1975. Many of those involved in our Bible Study were Catholic, nearly the entire town was Catholic so it was no surprise. We tried to hold a nonthreatening approach, sticking to “Good News for Modern Man” it had the imprimatur. We had no idea what to expect and had mixed results. Some accepted Jesus as their personal savior and promptly left the Catholic Church for greener pastures. Some accepted Jesus and stayed in the Catholic Church and are still there. Some felt they had already accepted Jesus through the Church and were happy campers. Sounded like a bunch of Baptists, some saved (personal relationship) some not, and all in the same church. This was straining my anti-Catholic theology.

The Charismatic Renewal was cruising and we found ourselves in a busload of Charismatic Catholics headed for The Kansas City Charismatic Conference held in the summer of 1977. I could not detect a lick of difference between them and us, and every single one as Catholic as the Pope. My position was becoming untenable anti-Catholic wise. Local meetings with Father so-and-so, praying for people to be filled with the spirit, it all became quite hopeless and I decided Catholics must be like the rest of Christendom, some individuals are close to God, some are not, and all slots between those two extremes occupied as well.

Renewal died down, we quit bouncing from meeting to meeting, and I lost track of Catholics. I’m sure they didn’t notice. But now I am in a Bible Study again (30 years later) with a bonafide Christian Catholic couple and the husband is a Big Huge Mary advocate. We also have a wonderful Catholic friend in Florida were we winter like geese. She has been to Medjugorje resulting in a Big Huge life change When she first returned from Medjugorje seventeen years ago, all she knew to do was make Rosaries for people. Now she has much fruit in her life. I am still cautious about these apparitions. There is just something that does not "feel" right.

I’m now reading books on Medjugorje, studying about the Rosary, researching this whole praying to Saints thing. I did no research last time, I do have to close one eye and lean some, I gasp occasionally. Some of it, indulgences for example, may be too far afield for any Protestant perhaps, but if you are a legalist it may work out nicely. And Purgatory, well we Protestants get downright nasty if we can’t at least find some hint of it in our Bibles. Sure there are other Big Huge issues, too.

But the Catholic Church has a long and complicated history, fighting wild-eyed heretics and Kings hundreds of years before Martin Luther was a gleam in old dad’s eye. They can’t just throw out the whole institution and start over. All the powers of Hell have pressured the Catholic Church for two thousand years to distort their message. The Church has resisted and remained on track with their central message of Jesus Christ, not a bad record. Methodists can get up this morning (every four years at least) and decide ordaining homosexual clergy sounds good and bingo, it is done. This is impossible in the Catholic Church. Most and maybe all Catholic doctrine is painstakingly linked to past, new is feared and inspected and has slim chance of adoption without overwhelming "proof". This proof need not come from the Bible for Catholics and that is a problem. Pressure has added to their "Gospel" and all they need to do it is the Pope's say so. Study of Papal backgrounds shows some of them should not have been deciding anything.

Error has unquestionably crept in somewhere. Two Thousand years of pressure and no error, impossible. It is equally as difficult for them to remove old errors as to adopt new ones. We all love our error filled traditions. Catholics have more documentation for theirs. But one wonders about some of the documentation.

The Web is replete with Catholic history. Here is an interesting Rosary history. This praying to Saints article made me think a bit; I can use all the help I can get. So the metamorphosis continues. No butterfly yet and I won’t be converting any time soon, but if Catholics are a tool of Satin, he needs to fire his strategist, in my humble opinion. No group is stronger on right-to-life issues … the list is Big and Huge. I’m no Catholic expert but they trust in a crucified and risen Christ for crying out loud, I’m cutting them some slack. But if attention goes to any one but Christ I can't buy into it ... why risk it, I say. I remain open to suggestions but still not sold.

All I can say is God bless those Catholics for the good they do. I am certain He does, as individuals.

My ecumenism is not going as well as first thought.

I’ll race you to Heaven, with that Purgatory detour I have Big Huge advantage.

by BigHugeThing


Pilgrim said...

Nice to know that Our Father in heaven is an infinite God of Revelation to us all. Peace and many thanks. I enjoyed reading your post.

Pilgrim said...

Take up the offer to go to Medjugorje. It’s the best week’s investment you will make in your life. And it certainly is fruit-bearing. Medjugorje is the perpetual Pentecost. The Blessed Virgin starts her messages with “Dear Children”, not dear catholics, dear lutherans, dear methodists, dear jews, dear muslims, dear buddists etc etc, but simply and truthfully: Dear Children...

Anonymous said...

Go to www.NewAdvent.org to access much of the (manually entered) 1913 Edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia (CA). It's pretty reliable and may answer some of your questions (such as regarding the Scriptural basis for the doctrine of "Purgatory" - there IS one, and it is of considerable length) and misconceptions (such as "the Pope can say whatever he wants and all Catholics have to believe it." - In fact, it takes the Pope speaking in concert with the bishops of the Church to declare something infallible.) Also, read the Catholic Catechism for Adults that was published by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops around 2005 or 2006. It will be a very accurate presentation of what a Catholic MUST believe to really be a Catholic. I pray you will find this reading helpful in your Earthly pilgrimage that, hopefully, will see you enter into the fullness of Christ's grace which resides only in the Catholic Church (though those Christians who are not Catholic also share in Christ's graces, but to a lesser extent.) At every Mass (Divine Liturgy) the Church prays for the unity of Christianity, and I pray for it every morning (along with for a lot of other "stuff" - no brag, just fact.) Your Brother in Christ, Jon White of Bethesda, Maryland.

BigHugeThing said...

I appreciate your well wishes and your concern. I've given a good shot at accepting Catholic doctrine and have visited the sites you mentioned and more. In the end I still find there is too much "religion" in Catholicism for my comfort. I see religion as man's attempt to reach God on man's terms and man's attempt to control other men.

But on the positive side, I understand more about where Catholics derive their doctrines and even though I don't accept some/much of it as valid, I do view Catholics as brothers in Christ, those Catholics who have personal relationships with Christ, I mean. I still don't believe belonging to an organization does the trick, not your organization or mine (if I had one).

God Bless