Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Why not Rome?

I was thinking this morning about how we (my family and I) got where we are and especially how the path we took developed over the last ten years. I am not sure anyone will find this remotely interesting but what the heck.

When we left mormonism we were faced with a major dilemma. I still believed strongly in God and wanted to know and serve Him but we needed a church home to get involved in. With pretty minimal background in Christianity and after having been fed a steady diet of garbage about God declaring all non-mormon faiths to be an abomination, we didn’t have much to go on. I was very much a blank slate. At that time, it would have seemed to make sense for us to go to the Roman Catholic church for a bunch of reasons.

First, my wife grew up in a Catholic home and was a weekly Mass attendee (more or less) as a kid. We were married in her Catholic church. Our first couple of kids were “baptized” in that same parish by the same priest. While my family at that time was not at all active in the Catholic church, both of our families were culturally very Catholic. Up until we joined mormonism, I think the only church I had ever been in for services were Catholic churches. Weddings, funerals, Mass, everything I knew of church life for most of my life even from a distance was Roman Catholic.

We had some outside influences as well. Some people had been talking to my wife after we left mormonism. The actually were kookie John Birch society folks and along with trying to get us entangled with that group, they also were trying to get my wife and I to come back to Roman Catholicism. They were quite persuasive when they talked with her (I missed most of these conversations).

Also when we were mormons, we had pounded into our heads how hateful and dangerous most Protestants were. Especially Southern Baptists! At the time we left we saw most evangelical Christians as hateful people who were trying to mess with God’s “one true church” so we had been warned away from them. I didn’t have exactly a warm, fuzzy feeling toward evangelical Christians.

In spite of all of that, at least for me, Roman Catholicism was never an option. If you have read my testimony you know we went almost immediately to a Southern Baptist church and never looked back. Why not Rome?

As I look back now, I think a lot of it had to do with the similarities in how Rome and Salt Lake City viewed the church. After our time in mormonism, I didn’t want anything to do with a highly hierarchical church structure. In fact the only churches we ever considered or have ever been involved with have been strictly local church governed without a regional hierarchy (no Presbyteries or parishes or regional/national hierarchies). That eliminated Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Lutheran and Methodist churches right out of the gate (along with infant baptism, even as a new Christian I figured out that was wrong!) So when I looked at Roman Catholicism, I saw a highly regimented and ritualistic religion that made grandiose claims about the sole authority of its spiritual leaders to speak authoritatively and made equally sweeping claims regarding the exclusive nature of their religious organization as the “one, true church”. That is precisely what we just left!

Now having said that, in spite of some organizational similarities Rome is not Salt Lake. Although Roman doctrines are replete with errors ranging from the Eucharist to the priesthood to justification, Rome does hold to the Trinity and unlike the pagan polytheism of mormonism, Rome is a monotheistic faith. There are many Christians in Roman Catholicism whereas every doctrine of mormonism is at odds with Biblical Christianity.

So Rome just never had much appeal. As I look back now, I believe I am beginning to see the providential hand of God moving us down the very strange path we have been on. The path behind us is pretty clear, the path ahead? Not so much! I am certain that God used our time in mormonism for His glory and that He is likewise using many of the experiences of our time since then to form our understanding of the church, of community and fellowship and of how we fit into God’s mission in the world. Of course as I have seen and written about over the last couple of years, He is hardly done with molding and shaping us! I so look forward to growing through being humbled and make much of Christ in the years to come.

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