Friday, May 6, 2011

How to change the world, one campus at a time

Written for the "Rally to Restore Unity" being hosted by Rachel Held Evans.

I was raised in the Catholic Church by my Catholic mother and Protestant father. I attended Catholic and Presbyterian youth groups throughout high school. My best friend is Presbyterian. Although I had often needed to explain my beliefs to my Protestant friends, I had never been judged or rejected for them. Then I went to college. I was a member of two Christian groups, one Catholic and one that purportedly welcomed Christians from all denominations. The animosity between the groups was alarming.

I met Catholics who couldn't (or wouldn't) believe that they could learn anything from Protestants. The Catholics seemed to turn up their noses, deeming that anything outside of the Church was unimportant at best and actively harmful to one's faith at worst.

The Protestants I met fell largely into three camps: 1) You're Catholic? HEATHEN. Outcast. 2) You're Catholic? I will establish a 'relationship' with you in order to convert you to the true faith. 3) Hi! Let's be friends! Oh -- you're Catholic? That's weird, you seem normal to me. Maybe I had misconceptions about Catholicism, can you clarify those for me?

Sadly, the third group was the extreme minority. They were mostly other freshmen, looking for friends. I have stories and more stories about being judged and shunned by the first group and fewer, but in some ways sadder, stories from the second group about friendships that dried up when I remained Catholic despite their best efforts. It was heartbreaking.

But things got better. LOTS better.
Senior year: 2 Catholics, 4 Protestants, all friends.
(and we all went to events from both groups!)
The Catholic group got a new campus minister, one determined that all should be welcome, whether they come as a skeptic, one seeking answers, or a fervent believer. He turned the place upside down. It was amazing. (Not that the former leader had been prejudiced or exclusive, but outreach simply hadn't been her top priority. She was great in other areas, though!) As non-Catholics became more common at our activities, the Catholics loosened up and realized they could learn a great deal about themselves and Scripture by talking with someone who had a different background.

As for the nondenominational group? It was sort of a grassroots movement. The classmates I met as freshmen started taking over leadership roles as we got older. They led Bible studies, worship music, and prayer groups. And when Catholic-bashing started, they would say, "Liana is Catholic, and she's not like that." Or they would listen to the concerns and later ask me to explain so they could share the information.

By my senior year, Catholic-bashing was usually a sign of an ignorant freshman. I attribute this change to my friends. They were willing to question what they had been taught about Catholics. They wanted accurate information. When we disagreed, they could say, "I still don't think that's right, but at least I understand why you do." They cared about our friendship.

It's not about persuading everyone to believe as you do, nor is it about hiding or changing what you believe to blend in or make others comfortable. Christian unity is looking for answers instead of being complacent in ignorance. It's caring more about the person than where she goes to church. It is being a member of the Body of Christ.


  1. Amen sista!

    -says the Presbyterian minister's wife :)

  2. The following link has several of the doctrinal statements on Justification at the Council of Trent, these canons have never been denied by the Roman Catholic church. You will see the word "anathema" used many times by the council. This means that those who disagree with these doctrines of this council are cursed.

  3. @Megan: Thanks!

    @Repent and Trust in Jesus: Not sure what you're getting at here. That Catholics should avoid other Christians? If so, that's contrary to Church teachings. if we want to throw documents around. Also, "anathema" only applied to Catholics. The idea is that someone has had the fullness of truth found in the Catholic Church and has chosen to instead reject it.

    Anyway, let's look at those Canons on your website. All the Scripture quoted below is from the King James Version.
    #9 (we're not saved by faith alone) - see James 2:14-26, which includes "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."

    #12 (faith is not ONLY confidence that God forgives our sins through Jesus; also, confidence that we're forgiven does not save us)- "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Heb. 11:1). Hm, nothing about forgiveness there, seems like faith might include other topics as well. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12). Why would we be working out salvation in fear if we were confident of forgiveness?

    #14 (believing your justified doesn't make it so, faith alone does not save) - Again, see James 2.

    #23 (being saved doesn't mean you never sin again; sinning is not an indication of being unsaved) - Who would disagree with that?! The verses sited don't even apply.

    #24 (works actually lead to salvation and are not ONLY a result of salvation) - James 2! :-) Specifically, "Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?" (vs 22)

    #30 (Purgatory is real) - see 1 Cor. 3:10-15. The passage is clearly about believers, those who build on the foundation of Christ, but says every man will be tested. And then, "If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." Food for thought, no?

    #33 (this document is teaching the true faith) - the author concludes, "This council declares that if anyone disagrees with it, they are damned." So not true. As stated earlier, anathema only applies to Catholics who are rejecting truth. Read this article ( for a better understanding.

    R&TiJ, I responded to this article for a few reasons. First, I hope that your post was meant to encourage dialog and that you wanted to learn the Church's position rather than accepting another's interpretation. Second, I wanted to point out that Scripture can be used to support many different positions -- that's where discernment comes in. Third, I wanted to provide resources for others who may read this post and want to know more.

    I sincerely hope your post was meant to encourage each of us to grow in faith, rather than to be a part of the Catholic-bashing I criticized in my original article.

  4. Do you remember when Sarah G. from down the street said that she was going to heaven because she was Jewish, that Katie Mae might get in but that she was Catholic and it wasn't a guarantee, and that I was definitely going to hell because I was Protestant? Oh kids....

    I have such respect for my brothers and sisters in the Catholic faith. The amount of reverence that you have for the Lord is so wonderful. Also, I think Catholics do a better job in church architecture and using it as a form of worship- the craftsmanship that goes into a Catholic church is generally greater in detail. I consider myself non-demoninational at this stage in the game, but do find myself craving more traditions and reverence within a church setting. I've started church shopping and I'm looking into the Anglican Church. We'll see.

    I wonder what "we" (a universal we, as you and I are already on board with Christian unity among the sects of Christianity) could all accomplish if we could focus our efforts on serving others, rather than wasting energy hurting one another's feelings and faith! Love this post-glad you approached the subject!

  5. Thanks for chiming in! We have so much we can learn from each other in faith. I hope you find a church home soon!