2Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Gal 5:2-6
First off, Most who know me, know I am a cradle catholic. That means when I was born, my parents made the decision to baptize me as an infant. I made my first communion, My confirmation, all within the Church. I have as much as I have challenged the Church, also defended her, to my best, broken abilities. In a sense, this blog is an example of it, a defense of the true faith (as I see it, and not what the extremists on both sides scream it is). You’ll see me pull from different sources, equally. Its not unusual for people to be “nervous” of what I write.. when I write it, because at the end of the day, all I care about is the Gospel.
Denominations were attempts at getting back to the root of the Gospel – In the Beginning, oh…say around 33ad (and about 7 weeks after), there was ONE, HOLY,CATHOLIC,APOSTOLIC CHURCH. They were united in love (and shared all things, alas, I digress), and defended their faith to the death. It would really exist this way until the 4th century. At that point a couple different things were happening. One most importantly, the Empire, long the oppressor of the Church, was Crumbling. Constantine had conquered back the Eastern Empire, and had set up his capital in Byzantium, which he renamed, Constantinople (Now Istanbul) – He Realized though, he still had the problem of us Christians, and that we were so busy fighting amongst our selves, that we were oblivious to what it was causing to society around us. The Empire was already on shaky ground enough, and was becoming predominantly Christian. We needed to be reigned in. One one Side, we had the Gnostics, who had their own set of Documents (see Nag Hamadi, and also Qumran), and on the other side, we had internal divisions, over the very nature of our savior.
Thus the Second Eccumenical Council Occured (see council of Jerusalem… history likes to forget this one in their counting.. I digress) – Specifically, this council dealt with what we as a whole believed, and who we believed God was. It wasn’t the first meeting like this, and it wasn’t the last. However, a few things came out of these Councils. First, we received the Nicean Creed, which to this day, is a source of unity (if nothing else) amongst the Church. The Empire was at peace, atleast from the perspective of the Christians, who, which us becoming a state religion, were now in check. However, this is where alot of other problems came up. Because we now were part of the system, we developed all the trappings of it. Money, Power, Primacy – Those all entered in, as the undoubtedly would. Much of the externals we Catholics (and orthodox) have that we see as “Big T” traditions, came from this period. We now had money to build Cathedrals.. We were able to have glorious Vestments for our liturgy. We Codified once and for all, the books we would call the Bible (cir 383). We no longer had Church, but something bigger.
With being bigger came a sense of importance, a sense of Pride – It wasnt long before we started fighting again, first, Amongst which bishop was First among equals, and why. Later during the reformation, we would argue about Salvation, and abuses to the message of how we obtain it. No one would agree, and this is why we have 40000 + denominations to this day.
We can use the Term Schism. We can Say Reformation. We can say a lot of things, that takes away the sting of the word Division. Its a foolish state, because the ONE THING that Christ prayed for, was our unity. He didnt pray that we would feed the orphans.. or that we would see the light. He Prayed we could be unified. He Knew in numbers we were strong. Everything else takes care of itself when we are unified. Sadly, this hasn’t been the case. Much like the Christians of the 4th century, we have trouble agreeing on even simple things.
Through this all we forgot what matters though. Back to the Creed. No where in the creed does it mention the pope. No where in the creed does it mention indulgences, or speaking in tongues, or who to donate. What it does mention is Who God is, What he Did, When he did it, Where we are Going, and Why. That, in a nutshell is the Creed… the Ends all says all of our Faith. There are other traditions that go along with that, but, they are inconsequential to this.
People like to talk about the “spirit of ______” this, that or the other. Im Convinced right now though, there is a real rebirth amongst believers. One That started in places like Taze, and in other efforts. That real rebirth gets beyond the labels, and focuses in on Why we believe. We believe because God Loves us, because he sent his son to die for us, and we will share in that resurrection. That is what we begin with as a Christian. That is what we end with.
Right now, we are faced with an uncertain election. Labels are being adopted, used, thrown around and into the ground. We are being told, vote for this person if you are a true Christian, or dont vote for them or you will die in Gehenna. All of the options are distorted examples in their own right of our Christian faith as it was originally intended.
I believe God does in fact allow nations to be humbled in their arrogance, and we certainly as a country have been arrogant for a very long time. Many would argue this election is a judgement on us, for abandoning Christian values, and instead somehow making them fit into the mold of government. In that effort, we have become worshipers of the letter of law, rather then the Laws set forth by God.
I also believe however, God has raised up a generation of people who are able to get beyond the labels. I was really thinking about this over the weekend – I had attended a concert that included Casting Crowns, with Matt Maher opening for them. Those who follow contemporary Christian Music, know both of these names very well.
What I had forgotten while I was there, was that Matt Maher, is a devout roman Catholic. Probably no one in the crown knew it…nor did they care. His music has been a part of Worship music for a very long time now – I myself have played many of his songs at Mass.. His Lamb of God (which, has latin added to it.. ), Here I am to worship, and Others like Love has Come. All of these reach across lines, without sacrificing his own personal convictions, and the recipe is simple, because we are all Christian, what matters is the message.. not where we go every sunday.
Casting Crowns is no different. Mark Hall, (a Baptist), is a wonderful emmisary. He doesnt speak as a Baptist though, he speaks as a Christian. Hes not obsessed with how he is different, but how he and you are the same, because you both believe. Certainly his music has reached across fences and lines.
Still I can go on and on about Others. How About Rick Warren, the Evangelical Powerhouse who prays the Rosary (What SCANDAL! Right? ), Or someone like John Michael Talbot, who is along with a few others, Credited with igniting the Christian Contemporary Music industry. Certainly, his song he wrote along with Michael Card (El Shaddai, amongst other songs he is known for..) “One Faith”… speaks to the ideal those men started with, and people like Maher, Hall, etc have continued the work of.
Also, look to some of the heavy hitters in the Blogosphere, thinking Shea, Alt, Rose, among others. All Speak from a Catholic Perspective, but radiate a greater Christianity. They arent afraid to point out when right is right..and wrong is wrong, and sometimes that puts them at odds with their own community.
In Unity we are strongest. Something I learned in my second Degree as a Knight… a single strand of rope alone can break, but all the fibers wound together into the rope are not easily separated. We Christians, need to get back to being one Rope… Rather then the thousands of strands we have let ourselves become.
Come November 8 – we will have a president. Either choice.. will have its challenges for us as a Christian people. Neither route will spell anything good for us. However, this should be seen as opportunity for us Christians, to finally come together. We have the bad seeds we have out there, not because we have been quiet, but because we haven’t spoken with one voice. If Anything else, I see this election forcing us to reevaluate what that voice is, and we will found that unified voice.