Thursday, April 03, 2008

Are You Christian?


One blog I've enjoyed reading lately and need to add to my blogroll is Denise's Catholic Matriarch in My Domestic Church. I've been pondering a post of hers, along with a book I've been reading and am going to try to make some sense here, but I'm not one of those bloggers who takes what I write seriously enough to draft, edit, revise, spellcheck etc (as I'm sure you've noticed if you've read any number of my posts).


First the book: It is junky Christian Fiction called Wisconsin. I picked it up on Bookmooch because I always look over the inventory of people from whom I mooch to see if I can order two rather than one. Since my mom grew up in WI, this caught my eye, and while it was amusing in the same way Harlequin Romances are, it was about that predictable and well-plotted. However, it was also VERY religious. The main characters all either are or become, in the course of the book "saved". This salvation gives them a new way of looking at life, the ability to love and bear hurt, and of course, this love for Jesus leads them to love each other, and they talk about it among themselves. The book is really a collection of several "novellas".
Denise, as you you noticed when you clicked the link wrote about Catholicism being hard. Basically, the Church is not a democracy, it is not Burger King and it has rules, not suggestions. She links to posts by people who basically wonder why there is such hate for the Church.
One of my long-time online haunts is a now almost-dead aol board for Christian Moms Debate. A few years ago we had a pretty regular contingent of conservative Catholics, a couple of liberal Catholics, a couple of liberal Protestants and some very vocal conservative evangelical fundamentalists. We basically went round and round on the same topics and while I'd like to think we got a better idea of where the others stood, I don't think we changed many minds. One thing I read over and over again was that Catholics were so into ritual and thought the Church would save them and they didn't have faith in Jesus. Of course we were also trying to work our way into heaven because the horrible Catholic church kept us in slavery and didn't let us read our Bibles where it said that all we needed to be saved was to admit we were sinners, needed Jesus, and ask Him to come into our hearts. A number of ex-Catholics posted over the years and I was always struck by the difference in attitude they had toward the Catholic Church than what Catholic converts had toward the churches from which they came. In general, the ex-Catholics were mad at the Church or someone in it, they showed little understanding of the Churches teachings or why the Church taught that way, and they felt that they had been deceived by the Church. Despite those feelings however, most didn't leave the Church because they had an active disagreement about doctrine. What was much more common was for someone to be at a crisis point in their life and a friend invited them to an evangelical church, which they later decided to join, or that while they were nominally Catholic, they didn't practice their faith, and when invited down the street by a friend, they went, enjoyed it and stayed. At that point the "learned" how wrong the Catholic Church was. Converts to Catholicism, on the other hand, generally saw the churches they left as good, but lacking.
One thing of which Catholics are accused is being "dead", of not expressing our faith and inviting others to it. In some ways I think this is just a cultural difference. My in-laws are of Italian descent. They all talk at once, and loudly. They greet each other with a kiss. In my family we speak one at a time, and we aren't huggers/kissers. My in-laws saw me as stand-offish and wondered if I disliked them. I wondered if I'd ever get a chance to speak. They were looking for me to act Italian, and I didn't. I wasn't that I disliked them, it was that I wasn't Italian, greeting people I see only on holidays with a kiss didn't seem natural, and I'm still not able to butt into conversations. Just as I didn't share the same culture with my in-laws, I think we don't share a culture with the evangelicals so they read the wrong motivations to our actions or lack thereof.
I also think that because we all claim to be one, we all take the rap for the bad eggs, whether it is Fr. who groweled at you in the confessional, Sister who made you kneel on the floor or Fr. who abused kids. Rev. X may have groweled at someone, Ms. Y may have humiliated a Sunday School student, and Rev. Z may have abused kids but they were all free agents and you can't judge the whole church on what they did...
Why did I mention that book? I know real life isn't as neat as that type of story book. I know most real people's romances aren't anything like Harliquins' and I doubt the faith stories in that book are much more real than the love stories, yet that is the way Evangelical Christianity is often presented--say this pray, make this committment and its done. Yes, you'll fall, but He'll always be there to "convict" you and pick you back up. Yes, you have to change, but not all at once, and He'll show you what to work on first. Catholicism is more like marrying the guy next door, not because you have this sweep me off my feet torrid romance but rather because he's always been there, you've always known him, always liked him, and its expected--heck your parents arranged the marriage.
Maybe that's it--Evangelical Christianity is much more "American" than Catholicism is. It is democratic, but with a constitution (Bible) that can be interpreted in different ways, and so you can find a group that interprets it your way. It is a chosen relationship, at least hypthetically, rather than an arranged marriage. However, many couples in arranged marriages fall in love--and many who choose thier mates divorce. Americans aren't into a lot of pomp and circumstance, yet the Church is. Americans don't like being told "no" and the Church is very good at that. Americans are generally into live and let live, yet the Church says "this is wrong". Americans like to feel good about themselves, yet the church says "you sin, confess".
I'm kind of all over with this and I'm not sure I made any sense, but its bedtime.

1 comment:

  1. Great post Ruth. I think you've hit the nail on the head. I just finished reading a batch of Amish books by Beverly Lewis. My first impression was that the Amish religion was much more harsh than I had ever thought, however as I continued to read, what I saw was a religion that was being attacked by an evangelical. The attacks were so similar to those that are made on Catholicism - they aren't allowed to read the whole Bible, the rules are "man-made" and rigid, it isn't a democracy, etc. So I ended up taking those books with a grain of salt and frankly ended up being tired of them and her writing. It is amazing how many people attack Catholicism with out bothering to understand it's beauty and majesty. Granted it takes some time, but really not that much and Oh, the gains are so great!

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