Rebel within a cause
My father used to tell me that when I was young I was the kind that needed a special invitation. As I mentioned here, I’ve forgotten most of my childhood so I have to assume what he meant was that I didn’t readily and immediately respond to his or Mom’s general call to the lot of us to come to dinner or some other family gathering. I suppose I
often occasionally took my good old time until they had to send one of my many siblings to come and get me. “Oh, is dinner ready? Well…I suppose I could be too.”
But as self-absorbed as I might have been as a teenager, I wasn’t rebellious and loved and respected my parents. I generally conformed to their rules and their Catholic faith with little questioning. So my rejection of the faith as an adult definitely did not derive from any kind of desire to liberate myself from rules that I had only grudgingly obeyed until I was finally able to have control over my life.
Yet, now that I am free from under the authority of the Catholic Church, I’m sure I’m looked on as a rebel by my Catholic family and friends. And it’s not a rebellion they can in any way approve of, appreciate or acclaim. I’m a rebel without applause. 🙂
What’s more, not only am I not under the Catholic Church’s authority, I’m under no earthly spiritual authority. I belong to no denomination and we currently don’t even have a lead pastor at the church I am a member of. No one tells me how I am to interpret the Bible, what I am to believe, what is and isn’t a valid marriage, who to confess my sins to, how much to put in the envelope, how often I need to go to church, what will merit God’s grace…
What a tragic, pathetic, rudderless, hopeless spiritual state. In the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church, I am a sorry, solitary soul adrift in a sea of lost humanity separated from Christ and doomed to destruction because I refuse to come under her authority to be saved. That’s a pretty ominous judgment. Why am I not scared?
Catholic devotees and apologists are understandably confident in the primacy of the Church. They have the support of the most loved spiritual leader today, and are backed by 16 centuries of building and securing her power and influence in the world. But what makes a solitary, low level, young (at least compared to the Church) individual like me confident that her power and primacy are not of God and I am totally saved without her?
In a word…the Word. Okay, that’s technically two words but it also represents two sources of my confidence – Scripture and the Word made flesh, Jesus. The New Testament is replete with examples and declarations that one is saved, redeemed, forgiven, and reborn by faith and trust in Christ alone, apart from any involvement with or submitting to a religious institution and her earthly head. Yes, the apostles appointed elders to lead the individual churches but as a means of providing guidance and insuring orderliness, not as a means of salvation and not as mere subsidiaries to a global power.
And Jesus is my Head and lives in me by his Spirit. He personally drew me to himself and saved me as a solitary individual when I responded to his drawing by faith. By his Spirit which indwells me (and every true believer) God has given me confidence that I am his child and he has shown me that the more I focus on him and study his Word the better I will know him and the truth. And that even though my knowledge is incomplete, and even if my understanding is off, nevertheless I am his and will be forever.
I love my Catholic family and friends but I love God more and feel so strongly about the need the call the Church to account for her misrepresentations that I am willing to risk disappointing and even angering them. To them I may be a rebel without applause, but to other ex-Catholic Christ followers I’m a rebel within a cause.
Thanks, Caroline. I can relate. Catholics look at Protestant evangelicalism and see a disorganized mess. Structure, authority, and ritual are very important to them and they see none of that in evangelicalism. Yes, it’s a spiritual relationship with no worldly foundation, it’s only Jesus Christ and His Word through the work of the Holy Spirit. The world cannot understand such mishmash. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” My five older sisters are now all agnostics or atheists. For them (and me previously), it was all about the institution and ritual. It was never a relationship with God through Christ. And now they’ve walked away from the institution.
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That’s a good verse to apply here, Tom. Especially when you consider Jesus spoke it to one of the Jewish religious leaders. Many of my siblings are also currently non -theists and I suspect as you do that it’s due in large part to the Catholic Church’s failure to communicate the truth about God’s relationship with us because of our sin, the saving relationship he provided through faith in Jesus, and that we receive it by faith and submitting to God and not an institution.
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Right, my sisters and I all “missed it” because the focus that was presented to us was on the externals rather than on a saving relationship with Christ. John 3 is such a wonderful chapter: Nicodemus, a leader of the religious establishment and a “good” and “moral” man is told (by Christ) he must be reborn in Christ. The chapter is a denunciation of religious authority, ritual, and morality.
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