All posts from "February 2012"February 28, 2012
Turns out reality star Alexis Bellino is one. Here’s what she had to say about the tension between her faith and her career.
A few of the more dramatic reality shows, such as Jersey Shore, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and The Real Housewives franchise, challenge our sense of what’s right and what’s real. Often defended as merely fun and entertaining, we’re told that behind the camera is a less dramatic and even mundane existence for cast members. After all, the relationships on camera are mostly artificial, created through network contracts and celebrity events—which, ironically, undermine the notion of “reality” TV. While the relationships may not be entirely natural, I remain unconvinced that the personalities are contrived. What we see is likely a version of the real self exaggerated only by the compression of time in editing.
People who don’t watch the Real Housewives shows often wonder about my particular interest. Typically, the “housewives” are portrayed as socialites constantly on the go: attending parties, taking vacations together, and, of course, arguing a lot. It’s not those things that have piqued my curiosity, however. Though the shows don’t represent the life of the average housewife, these women do shine a light on the very human and shared problem of sin.
While watching, I search for glimpses of God and a sense that they understand their cars, jewelry, bodies, and even families are insufficient to give life true meaning. Recently I’ve been intrigued to learn that a “Housewife” who professes to be an evangelical Christian is part of The Real Housewives of Orange County (RHOC) cast. On her blog, she responds to the charge of “contradictory behavior” for choosing plastic surgery while professing faith in Christ.
I wanted to know more about her and her beliefs. So when Kyria.com gave me the green light to interview her, I couldn’t resist. Here’s what I learned about Alexis Bellino, who’s been with RHOC since season 5 (season 7 airs Tuesdays on Bravo).
Sarah: When did you become a Christian?
Alexis: I fell in love with the Lord at a young age. My mother had my brother and me in church from as young as I can remember. Growing up I remember asking my tired, over-worked mom to take us to church on Sundays. I’d be disappointed on the Sundays she’d say no. Though I never really had a “home” church, we attended a Lutheran church for most of my childhood. I was confirmed at age 12. Then I attended a Catholic church for a few years during high school. In college, I began attending a non-denominational church. I've always had the Lord in my heart, but I actually accepted him as my Savior seven years ago.
How has your life changed since becoming a Christian?
Alexis: My life has never been the same. I now feel complete. I feel a peace that I’ve never had. Somehow, no matter how tough times get, or what is thrown my way, I always have the strength and courage to make it through. I feel Jesus beside me the entire way.
Who’s been most influential in your spiritual growth?
Alexis: My husband, Jim, has been a huge influence for me. He graduated with a theology degree, so I often find myself looking to him for the appropriate Scripture, or the guidance I need to make it through difficult situations.
Occasionally, your faith in Jesus comes up on the RHOC. Do you experience any hostility from the other wives because of your faith?
Alexis: Hostility is a strong word. Sometimes the ladies and I don’t see eye to eye, no matter what the topic. However, my Christianity is something I work to maintain through challenging times and good times.
What opportunities have you had to share your faith with other housewives?
Alexis: I’ve prayed for Vicki’s daughter, Briana, when we thought Briana was really sick. I’ve prayed for Gretchen a few times. I’ve invited Lynn and Frank to attend church with us. This season, you’ll see another housewife attend service with me.
As a Christian, how do you avoid participating in the gossip and backbiting on RHOC?
Alexis: I don’t know that I can honestly say I do. I try really hard to keep away from it, or to find ways to change subjects, or make jokes rather than gossip, but I’m human and I’m praying that I’m able steer clear of it.
Have you ever walked away from any of the housewife camera “drama” because your involvement might reflect poorly on Christ?
Alexis: Yes, there have been several times. But there are also times when I’ve been disappointed with my own behavior. I learn from those times and work hard not to let them occur a second time.
How do you see your relationship with God impacting your work life?
Alexis: God is absolutely number one in my life, as well as my family’s life. When I’m on the set, I’m constantly thinking about how I’m representing him.
How do you and your husband cultivate your children’s spiritual lives?
Alexis: Jim and I feel it’s important for our children to live around the Lord, not just experience God on Sundays. We read them Bible stories, we pray before every meal, we pray before bedtime, and they attend Christian school. We’re trying to teach them they can talk to God about anything, not just at prayer time and church.
Clearly external beauty is important to the success of the Real Housewives franchise. How do you, as a Christian, cope with the pressures of external beauty?
Alexis: Although external beauty is important, I try to live my life with this Scripture in mind, “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.”
What is your greatest struggle?
Alexis: I have many struggles! One I’m currently working on is not being such a perfectionist. However, my biggest struggle is being a Christian and being on a reality show.
Sarah J. Flashing is a writer and speaker. She is founder of The Center for Women of Faith in Culture.
Is this Easter preparation season really about giving up the things we hate anyway? Or is there some other meaning?
“I’m fasting from Facebook for Lent.”
So read my friend’s Facebook status last spring...for about two weeks...until she started using Facebook again.
Ah, the perils of announcing one’s Lenten fast!
I’ve only been giving up things for Lent for the past few years. As a dyed-in-the-wool evangelical, I never heard about Lent growing up—I didn’t even really know what it was until high school when I spent the night at the home of a Catholic friend. During dinner, her dad enthusiastically passed the broccoli. He then conspiratorially whispered to me: “I gave up broccoli for Lent!”
“Broccoli?” I asked.
“Yes, I hate it.”
He went on to explain that every year he fasted from broccoli; dietarily speaking, Lent was his favorite time of year. He gave himself “40 days off” from eating the despised green veggie his wife so often prepared.
My friend’s dad shared the view that many in our culture have of Lent: a time to give up something you don’t like very much anyway. Others view it as a time to try really, really hard to break a bad habit or, better yet, to give up sweets in order to lose weight. It’s a Survivor-like self-control contest: can you make it 40 whole days without drinking Diet Coke, eating chocolate, or, ah-hem, checking Facebook?
But Lent is meant to be much more than a muscle contest for the will. Rather, through fasting and focus, Lent helps us to enter into close communion with Jesus as we ponder our sinfulness and the grace coming at Calvary. Many evangelicals are rediscovering the spiritual richness of this ancient tradition.
Whether Lent’s relatively new to you (as it is to me), or it’s been part of your life’s rhythm for many years, let me offer a word of advice: pick something better than broccoli for your fast . . . and whatever you pick, don’t post it on Facebook!
What does Lent mean to you? How have you observed Lent in your life? Or if you don’t observe Lent, how do you like to prepare your heart to celebrate Easter?
Four steps to overcoming that feeling of being held back
Even as I think about the words held back, they take me back to third grade. Every day during my second grade year, a cute boy would chase me around the playground. But by the third grade he’d disappeared from our class.
“Why isn’t he in our class anymore?” I wondered out loud to my friend.
“Held back,” my friend whispered, telling me of his failing grades. The shame of the definition was so great, her usually loud voice had been quieted.
My young heart sank, and not just because I enjoyed the chasing boy’s attention at recess. The stigma those two words carried felt heavy.
As an adult woman, I’ve felt that same feeling as I’ve thought about different aspects of my life. Many of us carry with us that stigma of being held back, limited, stifled.
It happens in our jobs. We want positions we never get, and we feel limited, overlooked, ignored. It makes its way into our ministries: we desire growth we don’t see or things we plan don’t yield the fruit we have labored for.
In our personal lives, our hearts desire to do more for God, to feel more necessary to his kingdom work. Yet the moments when we do bravely take a few steps forward, our fears may rise up to pull us back down again.
We feel held back in our marriages and with our kids, in our art and with our worship. We have holes inside us, and their void holds our attention.
And yet God didn’t create us to be held back. He created us to love fully, live radically, and thrive limitlessly. He designed our hearts to desire more out of life than just doing what we’ve always done and resting in our strivings.
In the times I’ve felt held back, I’ve discovered that—while there’s no magic formula for walking out our faith in the midst of limiting circumstances—there are ways that help us push through to get the “more” we really want.
1. Be open. Often we’re held back because our own pride and closed ears and minds keep us from moving into the freedom of being everything God designed us to be. As difficult as it may feel, we can have that freedom when we keep ourselves open to hearing truth, facing truth, and daily walking in the truth of the God’s Word. When we cradle our truth, protecting it from being out in the open, we set our lives up to be limited by the things we hold secret, but that ultimately hold us captive.
2. Own your stuff. Hearing the truth is one thing, but just hearing isn’t enough. What we do with that truth is what really matters. After we’re open to facing our truth, we have to be willing to own our stuff, which includes committing to have a strong dedication to honesty about the things that have hindered us and held us back in life. No excuses, ugliness and all (remembering that we all have our “stuff”).
3. Seek wholeness. Fortunately, we don’t have to be stuck at owning it. Openness and ownership of our truth will create an environment in our hearts to move forward. It isn’t enough just to know and acknowledge our limitations or struggle. We have to take a step in the direction of soul wellness through concentrated prayer, diving into the Word, even seeking wise counsel from an outside source who can help put things in perspective.
4. Repeat the process. In most of life, we don’t handle something only once and never have to deal with it again! We continue to move forward in our lives when we replace our negative habits with positive ones. And that, of course, takes time, patience, and a whole dose of forgiving ourselves when we don’t quite get it right. By repeating the process of openness, ownership, and movement toward wholeness, we form habits that make limitations much harder to stick.
By the power of God who can be trusted to make all things in our lives well, I am learning to dedicate my life to pursuing things that only make me better. In this way I pray to defy the limits that have long held power over me, choosing instead to have the abundant life Jesus offers.
What about you?
Instead of planting roots, what if God wants us to have wings?
It turns out boys (and maybe this is true for men too) do love adventure. But they like it best when there’s a safe harbor to return to. Like the kind a home provides. And by that I mean a home built on a foundation, not the floating kind.
I discovered this truth in the course of house hunting after our live-aboard year had ended. When we asked our sons which house they liked best of the ones we were considering, Jackson, then 12, sighed and said, “I just want a place that stays a place.”
Even though our boat had served us well, providing shelter night after night no matter where we tied up, it didn’t satisfy his intrinsic need for roots. Being transient takes its toll. To wake up every day, never knowing what the next dock will look like or who your neighbors will be, creates a type of “adventure fatigue.” Even the hardiest voyagers crave the familiar.
Our son’s deep need for a sense of place took me by surprise. I’ve spent much of my adult life enduring the pain of God prying my fingers loose from the places I called home. The first one was the worst. We’d bought a house soon after getting married and quickly grew our family, and in the eight years that followed, we became immersed in our community, our church, and the local schools, all within an hour of our extended families. Our roots sank deep.
But then a much-needed job surfaced, and it was time to leave. The day I drove out of town, the life I’d known receded in the rearview mirror. If my heart was a flower, it had been yanked violently from the ground. Would I survive the transplant, much less ever flourish again?
Just as we were settling into our new city, a house fire displaced us once again. Only this time, we underwent the especially difficult experience of not only losing our “place” but all of our stuff with it. After this, I vowed never to let myself become emotionally attached to a home or my possessions again. It was the fire that made 100 ports possible.
Letting go of place had been a theme between God and me for years. The fire put an end to it. While I enjoy and am deeply grateful for the home we now live in, I don’t feel attached to it. If God called us to leave, I’m confident I could go without undue emotional angst. Yes, I’d miss our neighbors and the blessing of the sweet space where our boundary lines now fall. But for me, not staying put has been a spiritual discipline. The practice of not holding tightly to the places God has given me has been an exercise in trust and contentment.
In his article, “The Spiritual Discipline of Staying Put,” Jonathon Wilson-Hartgrove contends that Americans move around because of their drive to move up. We forsake place for personal ambition. In the process, we deny the communities where we live the power of our presence, the power of staying put.
Moving for me isn’t—and never has been—about moving up. I went kicking and screaming the first time. Now, though, I stay open to moving out of a desire to go where God wants me to go when he asks me to go. Without looking back. Without longing for what I once had.
Craig Bartholomew, author of Where Mortals Dwell: A Christian View of Place for Today is concerned about the current “crisis of place” modern society is facing. Displacement is wreaking havoc on our communities, not to mention our souls. After a year at sea, our son, Jackson, intuitively knew this to be true.
And yet throughout history God has called people to leave. Abraham left Ur; the Israelites left Egypt. Along the way, they all longed for a place to call home—a place that stays a place. But being transient helped them see that they were aliens in a strange land—this world was not their home. Ultimately they had to learn to see God as place. Whether a cloud by day or a pillar of fire by night; a tent or a temple, a boat or a house—God always has and always will define and determine our place.
How is he defining yours?
Too often we confuse what love really is—and what it has to do with us.
Rock and roll legend Tina Turner asked that famous question, “What’s love got to do with it?”
I’ve often pondered that question. According to God’s Word, love has everything to do with it! Love has everything to do with you and me and the way God sees us. Love has everything to do with the way we see our past, our present, and our future. Love has everything to do with the way we treat others. It even determines the way we see ourselves.
The problem is that too often we confuse the true meaning of love. We believe it to be only a feeling. Yet, true love isn’t a sexual urge or emotion. It’s not a racing heartbeat or sweaty palms. Instead love is a person. First John 4:7–8 tells us that God is love.
I met a young lady after one of my concerts recently, who told me that although she knows she is loved by God, she struggles with feelings of insignificance. She shared that as she was growing up she was verbally abused.
“I still hear the words over and over in my mind,” she told me. “The words play like a CD on repeat.”
You’re weak and insignificant.
You’re damaged goods.
You’ll never amount to anything.
I prayed with the young lady. Afterward, the Lord prompted me to ask her a question.
“If you were sitting in your car and there was a recording playing something that you couldn’t stand and you didn’t want to hear it any longer, what would you do?”
“I’d take the CD out and put in something else!” she said.
“Absolutely!” I said. “That’s what you must do in this case. You must press the eject button. Remove the mental CD and destroy it so it can never be heard again. Then you must replace the message with a brand new one. The only thing that can destroy Satan’s lies is the truth of God’s Word. Rehearse the truth. Memorize the truth. Say the truth out loud. Hide the truth in your heart. Don’t fall prey to the enemy’s lies.”
God wants us to remove those faulty, false mental CDs that have been playing for far too long. Instead, he—the Almighty God who is love—wants us to believe what he says about each of us. What he says about you:
You are loved.
You are treasured.
You are accepted.
You are redeemed.
You are gifted.
You are unequalled.
You are preferred.
You are blessed.
You are favored.
If you were ever told cruel and heartless lies, they are wrong. Period. No buts.
If there were people in your life who are or were mean and hard to please, hear me. Do not confuse what they have said about you with what God says about you. And do not confuse how they feel about you with how God sees you. What God says about you in his Word, the Bible, is what really matters!
Understanding God’s great love for you is the secret to being more than a conqueror in life. The greatest weapon against feelings of inferiority is to be fully and absolutely convinced of God’s great love for you.
You matter to God and he looks at you through the eyes of unconditional love. He loves you and delights in you. Not just because of who you are but because of whose you are. John 3:16 reminds us: “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” God so loves you and wants you to so love him back.
What’s holding you back from accepting God’s love? How do you fight against the lies that say you are unloved or unworthy?
Babbie Mason is a Dove-Award winning singer and songwriter. She is also a favorite speaker and worship leader at national women’s conferences. Her book, Embraced by God: Celebrating Who and Whose You Are (Abington Press), released this week.
I’m learning what my primary calling is—and isn’t.
I stared at the question in my devotional journal, a grin creeping across my face. Some days I have trouble answering the stretching questions posed in this devotional, but this one drew an immediate answer: patterns and repetition. I’m not sure if I need to hear the same message over and over in different ways and places because I’m stubborn or because I need to think about things for a while, but this is the way God speaks to me. Over and over again he’s made his will clear to me through patterns and repetition.
There was the time I was being called to career ministry. I had many people from all walks of life suddenly suggest this career to me, even though I hold an education degree. Then a spiritual gifts inventory pointed me that way. Then a pastor. And then a position in my hometown opened. I took it without hesitating. The experience taught me so much.
Or there was also the time God was teaching me about truly putting my trust in him—to claim that he is good regardless of my circumstances. First came many pertinent Bible readings, then a suspiciously similarly themed book for class, then a lost relationship, and finally a lost job. Then nearly a year of waiting for a new job. I was broken down by the repetition, but the message came through loud and clear, and I am better for it.
Currently, God is speaking to me about vocation and reclaiming this important biblical concept. I’d heard of vocation before, even thought I had a pretty good idea of what it meant. But as I’ve started working in a new career and attending a new church, it’s been helpful to reconsider. And let’s face it; I haven’t had much of a choice.
God’s been using repetition again to speak to me. I’m reading The Call by Os Guinness for a class, working through a church-wide campaign on finding personal mission, and doing a writing project for emerging adult Christians (18-30)—a group that is searching for identity and purpose. In another, unrelated class I’m working on a counseling case study about a man who doesn’t know who he is and what his life should be about. And I recently heard a talk from a yoga instructor on the importance of finding that one thing you must do in life—that thing that brings you amazing joy because it’s what you’re meant to do.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of confusion about the word vocation, even though it’s been around for centuries. In The Call Os Guinness breaks down the misconceptions into two types: the Catholic distortion and the Protestant distortion. He defines the Catholic distortion as believing vocation is only for those called to career ministry—pastors, priests, nuns. This makes vocation only about spiritual things, and neglects the fact that everyone who follows Jesus has been called.
The Protestant distortion, on the other hand, is believing that any job we do—mothering, writing, teaching, building, fixing—is something we are called to. This makes vocation sound purely secular and can make us believe that vocation and career are synonymous, when in fact our vocations may have nothing to do with our careers.
So what’s the appropriate understanding of vocation? This is how Os Guinness explains it:
Our primary calling as followers of Christ is by him, to him, and for him. First and foremost we are called to Someone (God), not to something (such as motherhood, politics, or teaching) or to somewhere (such as the inner city or Outer Magnolia). Our secondary calling, considering who God is as sovereign, is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live, and act entirely for him. We can therefore properly say as a matter of secondary calling that we are called to homemaking or to the practice of law or to art history. But these and other things are always secondary, never the primary calling. They are “callings” rather than the “calling.” They are our personal answer to God’s address, our response to God’s summons. Secondary callings matter, but only because the primary calling matters most.So our primary calling is to God himself. And our secondary calling is our response to God’s love. Our secondary calling allows us to use what God has uniquely given us to glorify him.
God has certainly had my attention. But why? I’ve realized that God is redefining my secondary calling—to help others live out their callings. As I prepare resources for SmallGroups.com, I’m providing small-group leaders with the materials to live out their callings well—whether they’re training resources, articles on personal spiritual formation, or blogs where leaders can comment and interact. I find joy each day as I work.
Although I’m blessed to be able to live out my vocation at work, I realize there are many ways to live out that calling. As my small group meets, I can encourage other group members to live out their callings more fully. When I speak to young Christians unsure of their futures, I can give them a hug and reassure them that God will reveal their unique callings to them. When I spend time with my four-year-old niece, I can reflect back to her those things she is good at, the gifts and talents God has given her, so she can discover her calling.
As I look around the church, I hear a repetitive call to reclaim the concept of vocation. From students struggling with identity, to emerging adults searching for meaning in life, to single men and women wondering if singleness can be a blessing, to empty-nester parents nervous about what the second half of life holds, to 80-year-old brothers and sisters in Christ doubting that God can still use them. We all need to know that the Caller is calling us—both to himself and to respond to his love by using our unique gifts, talents, and personalities, no matter what stage of life we’re in.
Perhaps God is speaking to all of us through repetition.
God has been painting a new picture of the church for me. Can you imagine what reclaiming the idea of vocation could do for the church? Imagine if we were all living out our unique callings, using our gifts, talents, and days to do that thing that brings us joy and brings God glory. Imagine the adventure, the fun, the chaos, the beauty. Imagine the new reputation the church might have. Perhaps it would be known as the place you go to live life fully, even dangerously. To have a real impact. To bless and be blessed.
What is your vocation? What unique thing(s) has God called you to do for his glory? And how are you living out that vocation
It doesn’t have to be slick or perfect, people just want to hear the raw, authentic version of your moments meeting Christ.
I Am Second’s sleek site offers stories and videos like this aplenty. So I get why people would be drawn to hear, to watch.
That said, after spending a chunk of time there, clicking around at a few videos, fast-forwarding through many of them, I wasn’t exactly hooked.
After all, there wasn’t anything for me. As selfish and “I am first” as this may sound, I’m just being honest. While I have struggled plenty in my life—in fact, in many ways I’m mid-struggle right now—I didn’t connect with the stories presented.
Maybe it was the presentation itself. Though promotional material for the site professes “authentic” and “raw” film testimonies, to me, most felt distant. Though I have no doubt the stories are true, the feelings sincere, the ever-present black background and white chair remind viewers it’s a set. With props. It’s not real life. Not raw. Maybe not entirely authentic.
Maybe it was the over-arching maleness of the site. Except for the hot pink stripe across the top, like so much else in Christendom, this site is male-dominated. Not only are most of the videos of men, but the topics seem to speak largely to men. Middle-class American men, at least.
But before clicking away, I took one last look, this time scrolling through “all videos,” until I saw Anne Rice. And I wanted to take back everything I’d just written. She spoke beautifully about her writing, about her walking away from the faith, about her having been a “Christ-haunted atheist.” And I felt like she was talking to me—like we had a connection.
I’ve never been an atheist. I’ve been a Christian nearly all my life. But as one who has been “prone to wander,” as the song goes, I’ve known that Christ-haunted feeling, that beckoning back to the Cross. And like Anne Rice, I’m a writer (though one of us is a touch more successful than the other). And like her, I’m a lover of some of the mysterious ways we explore faith.
Finally connecting with a story made me realize that the I Am Second folks are definitely on to something. They’re filling a gaping hole in this world—the hole of people willing to tell their stories.
The stories of having hurt, having been lost, desperate, of hitting rock bottom (again and again) and feeling the hand of God reach into a life. We do want to hear stories of those who know what it is to be turned around, made new.
But really, I don’t think we want to hear it from people we don’t know—even if we do admire and relate to them as I did with Anne Rice—we want to hear them from our friends, our families, our neighbors. And they want to hear them from us.
I say this with great caution—as a writer. Because I write these kinds of stories. Stories of my own frustration and disappointment and hurt and disillusionment and feeling abandoned by God. And I long for others to connect with me and my stories. The same way the creators of I Am Second hope others will connect.
But as a writer, I also understand that there’s safety in the distance of the written page. Even though I try to write and share as transparently as I can, there’s still a distance from writer to reader, from speaker to audience, that makes this story-telling easier.
The real trick—and the real power—lies in telling the stories face to face. In person. For real. In real time.
To turn and tell one another—our friends, families, neighbors— when we feel desperate, needy, hurt. And then to tell what Jesus has done and is doing in our lives. The way people who encountered Jesus in the Scriptures did. The way the Woman at the Well ran right into town to tell what Jesus had done. The way the Bleeding Woman pressed through a crowd—infecting everyone she touched—to show her shame and her suffering and her faith. The way Mary ran back to tell how Jesus appeared to her.
So while I hope millions continue to click on I Am Second, and I pray people continue to buy books and read blogs to be fortified with hope and grace, what I really hope is that every time we do experience the power of a story to change a life, we remember that we don’t have to be on a slick site or the printed page to do it.
And really, those stories are best when they aren’t.
Caryn Rivadeneira is author of Grumble Hallelujah: Learning to Love Your Life Even When It Lets You Down. Visit Caryn at her website, friend her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.
What stereotypes or misinformed views about Catholicism might we need to let go of?
I made the mistake of visiting a new church on Sunday, April 3, 2005. The day before, Pope John Paul II had died. And the young pastor of the small church we visited decided to include John Paul’s death in his sermon, which went something like this...
Let’s just say that was our only visit to that little congregation. (The sermon got it wrong on so many levels!) Yet his beliefs about Catholicism, though perhaps not so insensitively expressed, are quite common among evangelicals. His disdain for a fancy or ostentatious church building, the misinformed idea that Catholics worship the pope, the strongly implied suggestion that John Paul was not actually a Christian (and was likely in hell), and further the insinuation that Catholics in general are not Christians.
I’ve heard similar sentiments among evangelical friends. Some evangelical ideas about Catholicism come directly from former Catholics who are speaking honestly about their own experience of Catholicism and what they understood it to be about. But often times, sadly, Protestants perpetuate ideas about Catholicism that are simply ill-founded and misinformed.
Now before you stop reading, hear me say this: there are key, essential, and significant differences between Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism. I definitely recognize these crucial differences, and I believe that these differences ought not be ignored or overlooked—as a matter of fact, recently Kyria.com put together a download resource discussing the Catholic-Protestant Divide. And of equal importance, I believe these differences ought to be fairly and accurately understood.
I’ve come to this belief through a habit I’ve formed over the past few years of periodically listening to Catholic radio. The shows I like are call-in shows in which Catholics, Protestants, agnostics, and atheists call in with questions and chat on-air with a priest, theologian, or lay leader. The value I’ve found in these shows is that I’ve gotten to hear informed, committed Catholics explain what they believe and why—rather than getting the evangelical version of what Catholics believe.
I’ve discovered that some of our differences are more a matter of semantics than true disagreement. For example, though Catholics may not gravitate toward phrases like “born again” or having a “personal relationship with Jesus,” that does not mean that they are not born again or that they don’t have a devoted relationship with Jesus infused with prayer, worship, Scripture reading, and more.
I’ve also discovered that some of my ideas about what Catholics believe were simply wrong. These ideas about Catholicism often come from nominal Catholics—people who are Catholic in name but who do not follow (or may not even know) the actual, official doctrines of the Catholic church. Just like I wouldn’t want a lapsed evangelical with no active faith and no commitment to Jesus claiming to represent what I believe, I think we ought to be careful not to base our understanding of Catholicism on the actions or words of people who are Catholic in name only.
And I’ve discovered that in the remaining key areas of disagreement, there is a great value in aiming to understand why Catholics believe as they do. I’ve had conversations with devout Catholic friends asking questions like, “Why do you pray to Mary?” and “Do you really believe that the bread and wine transform into actual flesh and blood?” In a dialogue of mutual respect, empathy, and a sincere desire to understand, I’ve learned a great deal from these Catholic friends.
While I still hold firmly to my own conclusions on these matters as an evangelical Protestant, I’ve found a deep and meaningful sense of spiritual sisterhood with these friends whose profound love of Jesus inspires my own walk with him.
I’ve personally been blessed by my fellowship with Catholics and by engaging in thought-provoking discussion with them over theological matters. How about you? What stereotypes or misinformed views about Catholicism might you need to let go of? How might intentional and honest dialogue with a Catholic strengthen your own convictions and nurture your faith in Christ?