I still think I'm a Christian[Episcopal Life] Well, spit.
I guess I'm not a real Christian after all.
I thought I was. Truly.
I've devoted my life -- my body and my soul -- to being a Christian, to trying to live as one.
But apparently, I'm not.
At least, not as far as Pope Benedict XVI is concerned. The Vatican, under his leadership, recently announced that the Roman Catholic Church is the only true Church, and that those of us who worship in other "churches" aren't worshipping in real churches after all.
What's a girl like me -- or anyone else who proclaims faith in Jesus Christ but who is not a Roman Catholic -- to do?
What the Vatican declared recently was that Jesus founded only one church, the Roman Catholic Church, and that other communities "cannot be called 'churches' in the proper sense" because, among other things, they cannot (or so the Vatican alleges) track their bishops back to the original apostles of Jesus. Therefore, the document says, other churches' ordinations are not valid.
The Vatican even had the audacity to proclaim that while Orthodox churches could be considered "churches" in some ways, they aren't really because they suffer from a "wound" that comes from not recognizing the primacy of the papacy.
As we say in the South, "Well, do tell!"
I must admit, there is a part of me that says, "Oh, ignore him. Benedict is the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, but he's not my spiritual leader." This is the part of me that recognizes that Benedict is the former cardinal, Joseph Ratzinger, who always has been a strict interpreter of the Roman Church's stances, who once (and for a very long time) headed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and served as the Roman Church's main watchdog. That this is the man who in 2000 wrote the document Dominus Iesus, in which these current views were promulgated. That this is the man who was feared by some in the Roman Church for his unwavering conviction that he was right, the rest of the world was wrong, and that was that.
But there is another part of me that is offended, the part that says, "Hey! Wait a minute! You can't tell me whether I'm a Christian or not, whether I belong to a 'real' church or not. You don't get to decide these things!" The rant continues along the lines of, "The 'keys to the kingdom' be danged, you don't have the right to tell me that my church isn't valid because we don't bow down before you …" (Trust me, this particular rant could go on for hours, if I had the energy, but frankly, I don't.)
And then there is the part of me, the one that after my initial reactions is gaining ascendancy, which is bemused and asks, "Is this really the way to proclaim the Gospel? Is this how we work to proclaim the love of Christ? Are we really called, as beloved children of God, to be this exclusionary? Did Jesus really tell me to say, 'My faith is better than your faith!'?"
Please, dear Lord, tell me that this is not what you wanted.
I know that part of my reaction comes from being a former Roman Catholic myself, from having been born and bred to the faith, from having been educated in Roman Catholic schools. I know that part of my reaction comes because it hurts -- to this day -- to be told that I am an apostate heretic, one who has knowingly turned my back on the true faith to live and move and have my being in a Protestant denomination.
But my reaction is not solely based on my personal history.
It's also based on my understanding of God, which says that we indeed are all beloved children of God, that Jesus calls all of us to follow him, that Jesus commands all of us to preach the Gospel and follow the Great Commandments of loving God and loving our neighbors.
And in part, I realize that every time someone comes along -- be it the pope or one of my neighbors -- proclaiming that he or she alone knows the mind of Christ, and the rest of us are damned, I cringe. Because that sort of exclusionary theology ensures that many, many people -- people who are starved for spiritual nourishment -- are going to turn their backs on churches and church politics and say, "No way. I refuse to be involved in any church that tells me I'm not good enough."
Which basically is what Benedict is saying: Those of us who are not, or who no longer are, Roman Catholics, quite simply are not good enough.
Thank God, that's not what the Gospel says. And I could argue that viewpoint until the cows come home, go out and come home again. Trust me on this.
So, if you are one of those people who is offended by what the pope has said, take my advice:
Say a prayer thanking God that you are indeed a beloved child of God. Keep going to the church of your choice. Do your absolute best to follow Jesus' commandments.
And repeat after me:
Well, spit.» Respond to this article