As is my custom, I got an email from a total stranger who took time out of her busy day to send the following:
Dear Mark, just came from your Website and have some questions. It sounds like you were a “Protestant” before becoming a Catholic? I don’t know which church you were in but I have to question whether you were ever taught the Word of God there? If you had been in a church which taught the truth concerning Baptism according to the Word of GOD and not the “traditions of men” you would have learned that not only does baptism NOT save nor “grant justification” but it is ONLY for those who ARE BORN-AGAIN by the SPIRIT of GOD by placing their faith in the LORD JESUS CHRIST! It is to be symbolic of the new birth ALREADY ACCOMPLISHED by GOD as Romans 6 clearly teaches! PLEASE READ the Gospel of John and pray asking GOD to show you HIS TRUTH – HE LOVES THE WORLD and DESIRES TO SAVE the LOST – which we all are apart from the New Birth which IS FREELY offered to ALL ! Please read and be saved! I will be praying for you in JESUS Name.
Perhaps it’s that I’ve gotten notes like this before from people who a) don’t know anything about why I became a Catholic after starting out as an Evangelical, b) aren’t interested when I try to tell them, c) seem never to have considered the possibility that I have read the Bible, and d) seem to love the sound of their own voice as they inform me of truths I already know and believe in order to attack truths of which they are wholly ignorant. What strikes me is how dehumanizing such an approach is. Such people typically write, not so much to speak the love of God as to fire words at a Nameless Papist Alien like blaster bolts in a cyber-video game. So in frustration I posted the note above on my blog (www.markshea.blogspot.com) with the following reply:
The Word of God? What’s that? Never heard of such a thing. Is that, like, the Bible? We used to read something called a “Bible”, I think, at our old church. But that was an awfully long time ago.
Boy, thanks for setting me straight. I have never ever ever heard before that Jesus Christ loves me and desires to save the lost with his free gift of grace! I always thought that I had to perform magical rituals to make God love me. But now that you have so thoughtfully set me straight, I see clearly that when that big black book we used to read in my old church-that-never-taught-me-the-Bible says “Baptism now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21) what it means is “baptism does not save you.”
And thanks also for explaining that when Romans 6 says, “all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death” and “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” this has absolutely nothing whatever to do with baptism. I really appreciate you setting me straight on that as well.
And finally, thanks for making me see that all that stuff in John 3 about being born again of water and the Spirit really means water and the Spirit are complete opposites.
Golly. It is so good to finally after all these years, have somebody who really teaches the Word of God to clue me in. Who would have thought that all those years of studying…. what’s that big black book called again? Ah! Yes! “The Bible”–anyway, who would have thought that all those years of studying the Bible could have left me so totally ignorant of what Scripture really means. Thanks ever so for enlightening me.
I was just blowing off steam in response to insulting arrogance. But I was surprised to find I’d touched a nerve. One of my readers wrote in response:
When I converted to Catholicism, it was the statue worship that appealed to me the most, but banner worship has its appeal as well. Historians have been able to show that pagans also worshipped primitive banners so either one has authentic Catholic-pagan connections.
I also liked that I didn’t have to read the Bible any more and that I would have to earn my way to Heaven. Besides that, I really appreciated the fact that I could check my brain at the door and blindly follow the leaders.
After that, it was katie-bar-the-door. People wrote in with a cornucopia of tongue-in-cheek things they love about the Catholic Faith as the blind, ignorant, slaves that ignorant and arrogant people had so often told them they were. For some, it was the chance to worship Mary and adore her as the Creator of Almighty God that was so appealing. For others, it was the security of knowing that salvation is completely up to us and our righteousness apart from the grace of God. Also, many expressed deep pride in the Church’s many Inquisitors, cold-blooded killers, persecutors, perverts and criminals. Others crowed about how dandy it was to add absurd human myths and legends to the pure word of God and said they got a real kick out of enslaving themselves to little rules and regulations in order to cut themselves off from the love of God.
And so it went for something like 200 comments. Catholics got their tongues stuck so far in their cheeks that they could lick their own ears. But it said something loud and clear: a lot of Catholics have to put up with an awful lot of haughty instruction about their own Faith from arrogant anti-Catholic ignoramuses. Now it’s good to blow off a little satirical steam now and then in the face of tedious blowhards. But, of course, Catholics can fall for the same sort of tendency to use a broad brush in speaking to “Protestants”. Indeed, not infrequently will I see a Catholic speaking of “the Protestant position” on such and such a belief. Or else I will wince as a Catholic tells a non-Catholic brother or sister in Christ “You people believe X”. The problem is not so much the inaccuracy (though the Catholic often is inaccurate about what the Protestant believes too). Rather, it is just as embarrassing when Catholics approach Protestants with exactly the same mind-reading self-confidence that my readers were–with perfect justice–mocking in their interlocutors.
And, not surprisingly, Catholics who do this meet with the same success in Winning Friends and Influencing People as those folks who write to urge me to Just Read the Bible and stop worshipping Mary as a goddess. The moral? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If we Catholics dislike having our minds read and our beliefs told to us over our protestations that we do not, in fact, believe any such nonsense as our accuser claims, let us learn from the indignities we sometimes suffer and refrain from doing likewise.