Sunday, July 15, 2012

"Faith is the True Shibboleth" - A Declaration Long in Coming

"For we account a man to be justified by faith, without the works of the law."
Romans 3:28 (Douay-Rheims Translation)

As a sidebar parenthetical to my point, I'd like to say how annoying it is that there are so many versions of the bible. I have two physical copies published no more than fourty years apart with strong variations between them, never mind the variety I have available to me online.

Seasons shift, I earn time for my brain to be idle, and my mind turns again to religion. It's one of those subjects that are easy to write about, but hard to talk about. Easy to expound, but hard to feel right. We concern ourselves with this dictate, that maxim, those commandments. We look at each other and we see only the lines of difference. Jesus or Mohammed? God, Allah, or Yaweh? Or Vishnu?

In the global scale, these questions are not important. They are personal questions alone. They have to be, because they are not empirical. As much as I would love to come down with absolute certainty, I cannot. I can only come up with the things that are true where I am sitting? If I had found religion living in Yemen, would I be a muslim? What of the Tao te Ching? 

I not, nor will I likely ever be, a great scholar of Christendom. It seems unlikely today that I will ever be called a modern-day doctor of the Church. The only bible verses I know are my favourite platitudes and even then I must look up the chapter and verse. I can't recite the apostles from memory and I really only know about eight of the ten commandments without having to look them up, though I'm sure if I dug deep I could remember them all.

Christianity isn't about the recitation of facts. It's not about adherence, blindly, to laws and statutes. That's why we have discernment. It's why people make decisions for themselves and why we never felt the need, in days more Christian, to proscribe all sins as criminal laws. Christianity is about following Christ. It's about becoming more Christ-like. Being a better person, in a way. Christ spoke broadly of the things that mattered most in the grand scheme. The Golden Rule, Charity, those sorts of things. All the rest is Theology.

It's why I don't subscribe to labels. In my previous post I used the phrase Heisenberg Christian to refer to myself, as a reference to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principal which has nothing at all to do with spirituality. Most of you know I was baptised and confirmed as Catholic late last year. You've all read about my favourite chaplets and what-not. In many ways I do still identify as Catholic. When the mood strikes me, I attend Mass. I believe in intercessory prayer. I say the Rosary, which a lot of protestant churches hold to be a non-Christian thing to do. But, on the rare occasions it comes up, I don't identify as Catholic. I leave it at Christian.

I've read the bible. Cover to cover, pretty close to twice now, in two different translations. And I've learned a lot. One thing I didn't need to read it to learn is that it's hard to get two people to agree on the majority of what it says and impossible to get two people to agree on all of it. The translation issue doesn't help, but it's more than that. The holy spirit works in us in its own way, and our brains are just wired different. Sometimes we interpret things differently. Prioritize things differently. Idealize things differently. I've mentioned before that I don't believe denominational Christianity is truth.

The separation between Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christianity creates friction where it did not exist before. It simplifies conversation to the point of blunting it. The majority of Catholic women use birth control. The majority of baptists are not baptised. We all sit back in our comfortable computer chairs and argue with each other, drinking expensive imported beverages, about who is wrong, each condemning the other with perfect conviction and absolute assurance. Both right, which means both are wrong.

I leave it at Christian. I use the word Catholic in its original sense of universality. I seriously consider the writings of the Magisterium and the Papacy alongside the works of the great unions of protestant Christianity. I read the Catechism and form my own conclusions. If the Church is wrong, I say so. If I am wrong, I wait to be shown so.

I leave it at Christian. To do otherwise is not wholly honest. 

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