About four years ago, I posted about the phenomenon within the home schooling forum that I am part of, ie, that of forum members crossing the Tiber and becoming Catholics.
Fours years on, and another startling situation is occurring. It seems to me that many people in my internet circles in the past year or so have deconverted – to put it simply, they have become atheists.
Back then, I was wondering whether Catholicism had any merit and whether I should therefore cross the Tiber, too. Now, I’m beginning to question the validity of the Christian faith, in particular the Evangelical variety. I’ve not yet considered embracing atheism (if embracing is the word I’m looking for), but it’s pretty darn close. Scary close.
For one thing, I’ve grown much too irritated with Evangelical Christianity lately. I’ve had to check myself and avoid making comments on social networks and other arenas (real life!) that could get me into trouble.
“Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship.”
Bah, humbug. Lest I’m misunderstood, I used to tout this aphorism out with the best of them. Religion is defined as a list of rules and regulations, and (apparently) Christianity is about being in a loving relationship with God the Father through Jesus.
Funnily enough – in my experience anyway, your mileage may vary – the people who are most wont to spew out this trite axiom, are also the ones who are most likely to extoll the teachings of the Pearls, Jonathan Lindvall, Bill Gothard, Doug Phillips, and the like. If anything, these men’s teachings are nothing but rules and lists of do’s and don’ts!
And now, a word about this ‘relationship’. Within the evangelical community (in particular), much emphasis is placed on this personal relationship with God. What is more, there is also an emphasis on making a decision for Christ so that one can enter into a relationship with God.
What about people for whom forming relationships is a problem? People on the autistic spectrum come to mind. For them, relationships will always be a struggle. Sure, they can learn the rules (there’s that word again!) that go with social behaviour, but their responses will always be learned responses and (almost) never natural. How can they have a relationship with a god whom they have not seen if they can’t even have a real relationship with people whom they have seen? (I realise the spectrum is wide and therefore this is not going to apply across the board.)
Any relationship they have with ‘god’ will be little more than learned behaviour and following a set of prescribed rules and regulations. In other words, it will resemble the ‘religion’ that evangelicals are quick to condemn.
To Be Continued.
Over on the homeschooling forums, yet another person has posted that she is (thinking she might be) Catholic.
Wow. Just wow.
On the homeschooling forums I frequent, there has been an interesting development. In the past two years or so, no less than ten forum members have converted to Roman Catholicism, or, “crossed the Tiber” as it is also known. In addition to these, there are others who are already converts or who are considering converting. And these are the more ‘vocal’ ones! These people are not converting from Protestantism so much as converting to Catholicism. That is to say, they aren’t/weren’t dissatisfied with their church; indeed, some of them have said that they were very happy in their church. But God wanted them in the Roman Catholic Church.
I have never met a more articulate group of people than on the homeschooling forums. They can argue and dispel common beliefs about the RCC. They can quote Scripture and they can quote Early Church Fathers. They talk about how God is so much more real to them now. They show genuine Christian Love to others – praying for them, encouraging them, etc.
Now my ‘worry’: I’m a follower, not a leader. Seeing all these intelligent, witty, articulate, sound-minded, genuine people ‘cross the Tiber’ is almost enough to make me want to do it, too. (“If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?” Sadly, I probably would….) They even have a yahoo-group where one can go to ask questions about the Catholic faith in a safe environment. I have not gone there – one has to ‘register’ to join, and I’m not prepared to do that – because, frankly, I’m scared. I’m scared that this Roman Catholicism thing will start making sense.
Closer to home, I’m starting to ‘sympathise’ with the Catholics. I set someone straight when he commented that Pope John Paul II could not possibly have been ‘infallible’ (ie ‘without sin’) if he died, since we know that ‘the wages of sin is death’. And I cringed when someone else mentioned that ‘[someone] had been “released” from Catholicism’.
To be honest, I do not know ANY Catholics IRL (in real life) who are fully practicing and are knowledgeable about the RC faith. For the most part, they are ‘cultural Catholics’. (Yes, there are plenty of ‘cultural Christians’ everywhere, not just in the RCC, but that is a subject for another day!) One Catholic woman I know (“we go to Mass every Sunday”) said that she wanted to get her husband a vasectomy as a birthday present and was surprised when the Catholic hospital she called informed her that they do not perform that procedure! Ai-yi-yi. It is only on the forums that I see that yes, there are genuine Catholic Christians who can hold their own when it comes to debating their faith.
The way I see it, the RCs feel that the following are true and are in their favour:
(1) The original church was Roman Catholic and is the Church and Jesus set up (the Orthodox would argue this)
(2) Everything that one needs to know about how to live a life that is pleasing to God can be found in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition (the Orthodox would agree with this). SS and ST complement and complete each other. There is nothing in one that contradicts the other.
All the arguments about ‘mortal sin and venial sin’; about ‘Peter and the keys’; about ‘confessing sins to a priest’; about ‘the perpetual virginity of Mary’; about ‘infant baptism’; about ‘the Eucharist’; about ‘church authority’; about ‘Traditions’; about, about, about… – ALL of them seem valid; ALL of them can be backed up by Scripture. So what is my problem? Why haven’t I crossed the Tiber?
Well, for one thing, my husband would not go along with it. We’ve talked a bit (and I really do mean ‘a bit’) about all that I see happening on the home school forums.
Mark: I wouldn’t take too much note of what’s happening there if I were you. [This is his way of saying, ‘Just because all of your friends jumped off a cliff doesn’t mean you have to, too.’]
Me: But, can something that’s been around for two thousand years be wrong?
Another thing, and this is really the deal-breaker for me at the moment.
Romans 14:5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.
I consider myself very much an ‘every day is alike’ sort of person. And the Bible says, that’s OKAY. BUT, the RCC says that it is a mortal sin to skip Mass on Sundays (without a good reason) as well as other Holy Days of Obligation. To me, it’s saying that some days are more sacred than others (which the Bible says is okay, too), but more than that – we all have an obligation to observe it as sacred.
‘So you’re rejecting the RCC based on one verse?’ Not exactly.
I believe the entire NT is talking about the freedom we have in Christ. We are no longer under law but under grace. We are no longer under the OT laws and regulations. So far so good. I can hear all the RCs chiming, ‘We believe that, too!’ But here’s the thing. I don’t believe that God has put us under a whole new set of laws and regulations ‘passed down from the apostles’.
Especially if these laws and regulations violate the freedom we have in Christ.