This might be a weird subject to rocket-launch right into out of nowhere but lately I’ve been reading a lot of blogs written by Catholics. Not necessarily blogs about Catholicism or faith, but still. And I guess the whole point of this post is summed up right there in my introductory sentence: “This might be a weird subject…”
In case you are wondering, these are my two faves: Camp Patton and Conversion Diary. Grace Patton makes me laugh every single day and it’s possible I obsessively check for new posts on her blog more than once a day instead of just waiting for it to show up in my reader. Jen at Conversion Diary is a converted atheist who started asking really honest questions and eventually embraced the Catholic faith. So, so cool.
I’ve been in the evangelical church my entire life and I plan to stay here. Let’s just get the awkwardness out of the way and say, Yes. There are some big theological differences between the standard evangelical belief system and the standard Catholic belief system. Some of them are pretty serious. What bothers me, though, is how quickly and completely many of my evangelical brothers and sisters dismiss Catholicism. This is what I mean:
“Don’t Catholic people worship Mary?”
“Is she a Christian?”
“Well, she’s Catholic, so…”
And so on.
I get it. I do. I understand some of the misconceptions. I know that most evangelicals who grew up in the South were surrounded by this mentality most of their lives. I know that many Catholics seem to be only nominal in their faith (just going to church and confession but not living anything out). I know that many Catholics curse and drink. I know that many Catholics are northern and many northerners are liberal and many evangelicals are conservative and therefore…well, therefore I don’t really know what.
But here’s the thing: many evangelicals are nominal in their faith (just going to church and reading their Bible but not really living it out). Many evangelicals curse and drink. Many evangelicals are southern and many southerners are conservative and somewhere in the Bible it says that you have to be a republican to be a Christian but I digress.
Those statements above? I’ve made them. Thankfully the worshiping Mary thing hasn’t come out of my mouth since I was a child, but the other one has more than once. And while I do still have some serious questions about the theology of the Catholic church, here’s what I know to be true: You don’t have to be an evangelical to be a Christ-follower. It’s just not necessary.
As evangelicals it is so, so easy and common to fall back on the “getting saved” thing to mean you are now set for life and can live out your faith like a roller-coaster and it’s all the same in the end. The truth is, Jesus doesn’t give us that excuse. He calls us to radical obedience all the time. People are supposed to know we follow Him by our life, not by the labels we stick on ourselves.
Here’s the thing: I am passionately, passionately pro-life. I’m about as conservative as you can be on the abortion issue, and unlike most evangelicals I know I also don’t support the death penalty. And the further I delve into the issue, the more I try to figure out what to do and how to promote life in our culture, the more I discover that the people doing the most. amazing. things. are usually Catholic.
I also am a big believer in family. I’m not going to tell you that I think contraception is wrong (I’m way undecided on that), but I am going to tell you that I think the family is supposed to represent Christ to the world. That family is essential. That children are a gift from the Lord. And while I’m not here to tell you how many children you should have I will say that I think many in the evangelical church have made family all about themselves instead of God. How many children they want, how many they can handle, how many is affordable. All of these are big, important questions but our God is a big, important God and He can be trusted. I fear that sometimes we are so focused on the size and planning of our family that we forget to just focus on the ministry of our family. We worry too much about how many will work for us instead of letting God make it work with however many we have. When you take away the ability to control your family’s size you are forced to change your focus to how to honor God with however many family members you have. Again, I’m not saying it’s wrong to set limits and make decisions. Every situation is different. Every situation is personal. I’m just saying that I think the Catholic church, in some ways, seems to trust in God’s providence a bit more than what I’ve seen in the evangelical church.
ALL that (and yeah, wow, that was a lot) to say that it makes me sad to go to Jen’s awesome, awesome link-up and find myself to be one of the only evangelicals joining the party. To feel the weight of surprise and a bit of judgment when I tell people in my church that we plan to have 4 or more children. To get 20 comments in less than a minute on some funny video I post on Facebook but maybe 2 or 3 on something pro-life. To still find people surprised when I tell them about my mom’s best friend who knows the Lord and has been Catholic her entire life.
I mean honestly. We have tons of theological differences within the evangelical church as well. There is a ton of hypocrisy. There is a ton of nominalism. And I just think it’s ridiculous that there is often more unity among completely different faiths than there is among two sets of people who claim to be following the same Savior. Are there differences to overcome? Yes. Are there always going to be big disagreements? Probably. Will it get a little awkward at times? Definitely. But please, let’s try to build some bridges. Because we have so much to learn from each other, and so much we could do to honor God together.