Posts Tagged ‘roman catholicism’

anti-CatholicThe historian Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. said that Anti-Catholicism is “the deepest-held bias in the history of the American people”(Gibson, The Coming Catholic Church, HarperCollins 2004). That’s a very strong statement in the face of both our racial biases and our economic and political biases.

You might test your own level of Anti-Catholic bias by your response to the naming of the new pope Francis I yesterday.  Check which box fits your response:

____ Totally disinterested. This has nothing to do with me.

____  Very put off by all the pomp and media attention.

____  Visceral distaste for anything Roman Catholic

____  Mildly interesting political/historical event

____  Deeply moved

Many thought anti-Catholicism was dead in American politics after John Kennedy’s election, but wasn’t it interesting how it resurfaced with John Kerry’s run! I also found it tell-tale that popular evangelicals could find their way along the path from cult to Christian for a Mormon presidential candidate, but could not make the same journey for a Catholic candidate.

According to what I have read, Anti-Catholicism came to America from Great Britain with the earliest Protestant settlers who were either religiously at war with the “Whore of Babylon” or the “Anti-Christ,” or they were early conspiratists, fearing a Vatican-controlled world dominance.  (During JFK’s run for office, I personally heard both of those strains of anti-Catholicism from our pulpits!)

The 19th century version of Anti-Catholicism derived more from immigration issues.  Whereas the United States had been predominantly and pervasively Protestant, waves of Irish Catholics, Polish Catholics, and Italian Catholics began to change the landscape and threaten the national culture in more than just religion. Many Americans do not know that Anti-Catholicism was a core component of the Ku Klux Klan’s identity.

Maybe this is a good time to re-think your own mindset toward Roman Catholics. Even in the very “liberal” circle of our fellowship which is prepared to accept into fellowship anyone who says Jesus is Lord—that’s usually how it is stated—I’ve noticed that they rarely include Roman Catholics in their circle. It’s pretty easy to include all those Christians who sing the same praise songs, have the same kinds of buildings, and who are more likely to fellowship us.

Does anyone doubt that Roman Catholics believe that Jesus is Lord? Our experience in Germany as missionaries was that we had much more in common with the Roman Catholics than we did with the Protestant church.  The Catholics believed that Jesus is the Son of God, that He rose from the grave, that He is coming back for His own. They believe the Bible is the Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Catholics baptize for the forgiveness of sin, take communion every Sunday, and they believe in the power of prayer.

The Protestant Church in Germany does not hold to any of the above! Some in the Protestant Church do—I don’t want to demonize them—but most of the pastors do not believe in the resurrection, and as Paul said, if you don’t believe that then you hope in vain!

Of course, after almost 2000 years of history, the Roman Catholic church has picked up a lot of tradition, a lot of doctrinal diversity, and a lot of human fraility. My brother-in-law, who has become a Catholic priest, says that it is the best of churches and the worst of churches.

Here’s what I know. The Roman Catholic church has had missionaries telling the story of Jesus in every country of the world long before—sometimes centuries before—my church sent anyone! They stand for Jesus, for obedience to the Word, for morality, and for peace in a belligerent world like few Christian churches have done.

I do not believe all they teach or practice; I really do not like it that I am excluded from communion with my brother-in-law.  But I will not pretend that the 1.3 billion Catholic believers in the world do not know Christ.

I am praying for the new pope that he will follow Christ and that he will lead his flock nearer to God.  That’s my prayer for him and for you as well.


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