A few things I appreciate about Roman Catholicism

In light of recent attempt to slander my good name perpetuated by Jeremy Thompson, known Opus Dei conspiracy organizer, I thought it might be fun to point out a couple of things I really like about Roman Catholicism. Before I do, I want to share that there was a time where I found it my duty to loudly proclaim the shortcomings of Roman Catholicism to any Roman Catholic friends I had. I wouldn’t have called myself an anti-Catholic or anything like that, but I found much of Roman Catholicism to be either insipid or outright offensive. I still love to debate theology with close friends, but those days of hard opposition are long gone. In truth, they probably only happened to begin with because I had recently become a Calvinist, and there is a weird mystical transformation that happens to newly Reformed people which turns them into jerks. That said, once I escaped the theological deathtrap that is inerrancy, the place of the collective Christian witness through history and tradition became much more apparent. I think there is an inherent intolerance that is derived from certain kinds of inerrancy. Outside of this context, I have begun to see the elegance and beauty in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theology.

1. Opposition to War
I still remember a few years ago having a conversation with my wonderful pastor, Grover Pinson, wherein I expressed my disbelief that Roman Catholics did not support the death penalty. The Old Testament obviously allow it, after all. He introduced me for the first time to the prevalent Roman Catholic belief in a “consistent ethic of life.” As he explained how some Roman Catholic thinkers took the sacredness of life explicit in the Bible to mean that wherever possible we should preserve human life, I found the argument strangely appealing. There is an inherent logic to it that jives with the Jesus of the Gospels. While I still wrestle with the question of capital punishment; the general opposition to war, abortion, and euthanasia on the same ethical basis of the sacredness of human life continues to appeal. As someone who originally supported the war in Iraq but came to question the morality of it, it was helpful to know that other believers in Jesus, regardless of their political allegiance, felt that fidelity to Jesus necessitated an opposition to war except in certain circumstances. I was kind of surprised at how many Christians have reacted negatively to my opposition to war, and especially when I cite faith in Jesus as a reason. Knowing that a billion of my brothers and sisters are at lease theoretically opposed has been a great help.

2. Social Justice
In the past I have been skeptical of much that has been produced by liberation theologians, and I remain skeptical. However, the debt I owe to the movement is undeniable. The consistent emphasis in the Prophets on justice for the poor and marginalized has largely been missed in Protestant Evangelical circles. It has been replaced by an inferior notion of charity, more likely to be governed by aphorisms attributed to Ben Franklin than by the Bible. Generosity is no substitute for God’s justice, something the Roman Catholicism has figured out. Roman Catholics have been the leading voices in declaring that the poor are not society’s problem; they are the problem of all who believe.

3. Integration of Science
I could probably list a few more points, but I think the Roman Catholic Church’s relationship to science is a model worthy of emulation in Protestant churches. I’m largely referring to the lack of fear regarding scientific exploration of the origins of life and the universe. Roman Catholics have embraced the discoveries of physics and biology without reducing the strength with which they worship God as creator and sustainer of the world. They acknowledge that God may have used evolution to create the species, but still they recite the words of the creed with all fervency: “We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.” I really appreciate the way they have normalized the integration of science and faith in Christian belief, again when much of Protestant Evangelicalism opposes the notion. Ironically, the freedoms that Roman Catholics have in this regard have helped me to feel all right about being a different kind of Protestant Evangelical.

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