On Giants' Shoulders

Thursday, March 22, 2012

It's Not Because I'm So Smart

It's easy to think sometimes, when I get frustrated with the inability of people I love to see the logic of the Catholic position, that they are just not that smart. It's easy to believe that somehow I have superior brain power that allows me to think more logically than they are. Well, that might work for more than five seconds if I didn't know that it really isn't true. In point of fact some of them have much more logical brains than I do. I didn't become Catholic because I was so smart. It's my sister-in-law who made Phi Beta Kappa, not me.

Well, then was it something else. Perhaps I was holier... Well we can eliminate that one off the list without even a second thought. In fact, it's laughable as anyone who knows me will readily admit.

Perhaps I was more courageous? More courageous than my friend Shari and her husband who pulled up stakes, gave up secular employment, moved into a community of like minded believers because of how seriously they believed now that took courage (it doesn't matter that it turned out poorly, it still took guts to do it).

So, perhaps more not holy, but given to piety? Nope, have always had a hard time keeping to a devotional schedule for even as much as three days running.

So what was it then. Well in a word there's only one explanation: grace. In my life God has written straight with some of the most incredibly crooked lines. I was someone who talked people into leaving the Catholic Church after being a junior high school student who crossed myself every time I passed the Catholic Church when I was by myself. I was the person who prayed the Hail Mary when Bobby Kennedy died, but tried a couple of years later to convince Gail in my Intervarsity Christian Fellowship Group to ditch her remaining ties to the Catholic Church. I started reading Church history because my son announced at 13 that when he turned 18 he was going to become Catholic. I wanted to understand his inclinations, but I certainly never intended to follow them (I actually came into the Church a year ahead of him). I could go on and on. The point is this. If it had taken brains, courage, holiness, or piety I never would have become Catholic. I thought I was all finished with novelty when I got married to a Congregationalist. God clearly has had other plans. I suspect there have been a goodly number of Heavenly chuckles over mine.

Recently there's been some consternation over a blogger who made it clear that, although she sells headcoverings to Catholics, she's not Catholic, and in fact believes the Catholic Church to be dead wrong. Some people have been mightly offended by her attitude. Me, hey, I can kind of understand where she's coming from.

If you were born Catholic, you may be offended by anti-Catholic rhetoric because it's like someone's saying your mother wears Army boots. If you're a convert it's your own choices, as well as your mother who's being attacked. In both cases, however, the fact that it's you in the Church rather than this other person is flat out a matter of grace. If you were born into a Catholic family you really and truly had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that your Catholic (other than that you never decided to leave). If you're a convert you may think that it has something to do with being more open, smarter, humbler, holier, more courageous. Think again, my friend, it's all about grace. You certainly did respond to the call of God's grace, but He gave you the grace in the first place.

What I recommend when dealing with anti-Catholic rhetoric is to step back for a moment and pray. Then, if it seems appropriate, meet it with a charitable answer. Please don't meet it with anger, and outrage. In most cases the people who are anti-Catholic are that way because someone taught them anti-Catholic rhetoric at a pretty early period in their faith walk. That anti-Catholic rhetoric may be a family inheritance going all the way back to Elizabethan England or all the way back to Lutheran Germany, or all the way back to Calvinist Switzerland. A family heritage of that sort isn't overcome with boycotts or angry words, it can only be overcome by grace.

Anti-Catholics of the religious sort (as opposed to some of the secular type) aren't anti-Catholic out of hate. They are anti-Catholic because they believe things about the Church that would make you anti-Catholic if you believed them. They think that we follow the Pope instead of the Bible. They think we believe that we earn our way to heaven by our good works. They think we worship idols. They think we believe Mary is a goddess. They think we believe the Holy Father is impeccable and that he can't ever make a mistake even in math. They believe that horrible things went on in convents and monastaries (and unfortunately sometimes they might have been right about that one). The list simply goes on and on. Many of them have read Loraine Boettnner's book Roman Catholicism and believed what he said. Others have listened to James White and believe what he teaches. Most of them have never once looked at the Catholic Church fairly. Some of them were once Catholic, and they think they know what the Church teaches, but they were poorly catechized, they had families who sometimes gave wrong impressions, or in some cases they have other reasons (like a divorce in their past) for wanting to be out of the Church and the anti-Catholic arguments are a good place to hang their hat.

Please, please, know that there are people wearing the anti-Catholic label today who could (like Scott Hahn and others) be your Catholic brother or sister a year or two from now. Your words may not change anything, but your prayers could help change everything. Your angry words will simply reinforce what they already think about us.