E's and C's Together Doing ... ?

My brother brought up the matter of evangelicals and Catholics together over on his site. A number of experiences lately had me thinking through the frustrating issue once again.

I've had conversations with a few protestants who liked to talk about "Catholics who were saved." It sounds like a step in the right direction, and it might be, but there's a tone of condescention to it. They are the ones who have bent over backward, gracefully allowing that you really can be Catholic and be saved. In other words, had the Catholics more understanding they'd be protestant.

It's hard to find fault with a Catholic taking offense at this. It's like your brother breaking all ties with the family only to have his grandkids decide years later that they'd found room in their hearts to allow all the other relatives in to their family.

A couple weeks ago a couple guys from St. Brigid invited me to a talk given at another local parish. It was relatively interesting. The oddest thing though was afterward when I bumped into a guy from my church. I was distracted at the time and didn't think much of it until I saw him after church the next Sunday. Turns out he's pretty anti-Catholic and went to that meeting at the behest of some friends of his who had the usual lack-luster passive Catholic upbringing. Naturally they'd rejected that which hardly anyone bothered to explain to them and even fewer probably acted out and only as they got older did they start to think maybe they'd better start taking this Jesus stuff seriously. So they started going back to church at their local parish and this guy was privy to their journy and was attempting to witness to them.

We had a bit of a conversation about the whole thing, and of course certain facts about my family (my brother's catholic) came out and suddenly I had this bizarre upper-hand. Because I had a personal stake in Catholicism being "ok" I could see this guy get very awkward about the whole thing; perhaps concerned that he'd offended me. He suddenly stopped saying things like "they just completely misinterpret such and such" and resorted to finding the one thing he thought Catholics were ok at (they're pious).

I actually like the guy a lot. The fact that he had such strong opinions about Catholicism actually made me appreciate him more than if he'd been all hunky-dory about it. It's one thing to disagree with Catholicism and get all worked up about it. It's a whole other thing to disagree with Catholicism and think it matters not a whit because, well, it does matter. If Catholicism is wrong on some important points then it's pretty serious (it goes the other way too). But the cool thing is that one could have a conversation with this guy and, as you boxed a round or two, actually get somewhere with it because in his mind he was fighting to the death, as it were. The latter type will often, upon finding themselves smacked upside the head with a trenchent point, shrug his shoulders in response, muttering blandly about the mysteries of Christ.

Even if his apparently traditionalistic mindset was thoroughly modern in its theological assumptions, his heart seemed to be in a better place in some way. At least he was choosing a more difficutl path. It's 20 times easier in the modern West to be "the liberal." I could sense it when I was talking with him. I had the upper hand simply because my perspective was the "broader" one. My heart went out to him. I want to ask him to coffee so we can chat.

A month or two before that April and I went to a Catholic event that was advertisd as having something to do with protestants and Catholics together, understanding the differences, all that sort of thing. There were only Catholics at the event and the video that was shown was really something that should have been shown to protestants since it was a protestant minister interviewing a Catholic preist about what Catholicism taught. The priest was a real interesting guy abd came across way cooler than the prot. That's fine and all but I'm not sure anyone in the room really learned anything. Some of the questions at the end made me realize a little more clearly the strange way Catholics will put things sometimes. If E's and C's are going to have a prayer in conversing with each other then the vocab has got to change. One lady kept saying things that would have sent any good protestant running for the hills, and I'm not sure I would have blamed him.

Those experiences make me want to find some way yo do a kind of inter-faith (for lack of a better term) discussion group where E's and C's could interact a bit more and start to work through some things on a reasonable level. How to do that is a problem though.


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