Friday, July 18, 2003

That's Right! A Rant!

Yes, you'd think that after two weeks dealing with twenty-some kids aged seven through eleven, I'd be ready to rant on that subject. You'd be very nearly right. However, no one, either student or teacher, is dead yet, so I consider that a success. Prayers, especially for me to find ways of motivating them instead of having to discipline them, would be very appreciated.

I'm going to rant about Catholics and Catholicism (by which I mean the group of Christians owing allegiance to the Pope...or Bishop of Rome, if you prefer). Except, I'm taking their side. Several times lately, I've heard things like "with 4.5 million Latinos in the Los Angeles area, it's heartbreaking that only .5% are Christians" and "yeah, it was my friend John, back before he was a Christian: when he was a Catholic." I regret that I didn't speak up, but I've got a mind to do so whenever it comes up again.

I call myself an Evangelical Anglican. It's a description fraught with problems, but it's the least-worst way I can find. Realistically, of course, if an American describes themselves as an Anglican rather than an Episcopalian (for those who don't know, the Episcopal Church USA is the American province of the Anglican Communion, a confederation of churches aligned with, not under, the See of Canterbury, and in pretty much all other countries the member churches call themselves Anglican -except Scotland, go figure-), you should suspect something is up, and that the person is either in the Evangelical or Anglo-Catholic wing of the denomination. The term "Evangelical" poses a bit of trouble, of course, since it makes it sound as though I'm a Protestant. I fully deny that I am such, just as I deny that I am a Catholic (or am Orthodox). Like very many Anglicans, I've considered leaving for a Protestant church or the Roman Catholic Church, and have even thought a little about the Orthodox. I've studied enough theology that I seriously doubt I'll leave the Anglican tradition, though, as I expect a schism in the next five years or so, I may leave the Anglican Communion. Among other things, while I don't believe priests are necessary, I don't believe in sola scriptura, either. Perhaps another time, we'll have a lament for what I expect to lose in a schism, but not right now. I tend to be very conscious of courtesy, and for me you need an extremely good reason to be rude, such as pushing people out of the way so a doctor can help a wounded person. I view God as my Lord, worthy of my obedience (because He is worthy of it, I happily attempt to give it of my own free will). I do not view Him as my friend, though He definitely helps me, protects me, and cares for me. At Bible Study recently, we were talking about what we thought it would be like if we were (metaphorically) at the Pearly Gates. Someone said they were looking forward to high-fiving Jesus. Let me be clear: I would rather gouge out my own eyes than ask Jesus to high-five me. I would fall prostrate, and regret not being able to get even lower. Simply being told to get up, with a "well done, thou good and faithful servant" would be very nearly more than I could bear. I don't think that it's necessarily wrong to want to be so close to any of the persons of God, but that sort of thinking could very easily lead to a "Jesus is my boyfriend" type of thinking.

I know enough of Catholic theology to be able to put up a reasonable defense of it when Protestants claim Catholics have no Scriptural support for their positions. For that matter, I also know enough of Reformed theology to make a defense when Catholics say Protestants have abandoned tradition (we Anglicans, of course, have both tradition and theology on our side...we just have trouble with adhering to them...). Just as Catholicism can very easily slide into legalism and ignorance of the meaning of rituals, Protestantism can very easily become rude and ignorant of the past. The problem Protestants face is that very often, they assume that any schmuck with a Bible can decipher complex theology. Now, I don't deny that anyone with reasonable mental abilities can follow at least the New Testament (in my view, the Old Testament should be an appendix to the New, or rather, several). Enough knowledge of the faith to be Saved can be acquired by just about anyone. If you're going to go into things like Eschatology (a worthless study, in my opinion) or Calvinism vs. Arminism (not a whole lot better), it takes a bit of chutzpah to say that you're smarter than centuries' worth of theologians. You may be right, but then, centuries' worth of mathmaticians may be wrong, and pi may actually be valued at six. Both are possible, but the more likely scenario is that the majority is correct.

Protestants should have far bigger fish to fry than Catholics (and vice versa). Atheists and the apathetic come rapidly to mind, not to mention the other people outside the Christian faith.

It does strike me, however, than the RCC isn't doing an outstanding job of educating their flock. Very many of my Protestant friends tell me stories about asking a priest why Catholics believe something, only to be told "I don't know" for things like why there is a need for a confessor or why they pray the Rosary. For pity's sake, I know the answers to those. It often seems as if it's still a Medieval faith, where parishioners are expected to be uneducated peasants. Of course, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Catholics have a far better reputation for helping the poor than Protestants (who often seem to prefer proclaiming the Gospel to living it; Earth to Protestants: unless you're in a place like Azerbaijan or Papua New Guinea, people usually have some sort of access to the Bible and Christian literature in their native language. Most Americans have at least a very basic idea of Christianity. Work on showing it, not talking about it.). For some people, especially the Medieval peasants of centuries ago, the most that might be expected was to recognize God as the Supreme Lord. If they pray the Rosary and kiss episcopal rings, it's a failure of education, not of devotion, and can be easily rectified in this life or the next. I'm more worried about Protestants, who too often show less devotion than they ought.

I'm not sure I've said anything of substance, but I'm glad to have it out of my system. If you've got thoughts about the contents, that I'm an idiot, or anything like that, don't hesitate to leave them in the Comments section.

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