Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Oh. My. God.

I was evangelized yesterday. By three very nice people – two ladies and a man – who apparently live nearby and who wanted to tell me that if I had not yet found a "church home" in the area that I was welcome to attend their Baptist church. I was a bit taken aback, but rather than slamming the door in their faces, I decided to stand out on the front porch and chat with them for a while. I'm fascinated by religion and it seemed like a good opportunity to either learn something about my new neighbors or to convince them that I ought to be burnt at the stake!

"I am Catholic," I told them, and then I shut up and waited to hear how that would be received.

One of the two nice ladies whose names utterly escaped me said, "Oh! Well that's good. Catholic is good. We are the same in many ways. We all believe that Jesus Christ is our savior."

"Uh huh," I said.

The man looked at his shoes.

The other lady piped up. "Even though you're Catholic, we believe you'll go to heaven, as long as you're saved. We believe you have to be saved; you won't go based on good works alone. Are you saved? Are you sure you'll go to heaven?"

Am I sure I'll go to heaven? If I don't lie, the only answer to that can be, "Hell NO! I'm not sure I'll go to heaven." Of course I'm not going to say that to them, so, naturally, I lied. "Yes; I'm sure I'm sure I'll go to heaven," I said.

"That's good," said Lady #2, nodding vigorously. "That's really good. It means you accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior."

"Uh huh," I said. I considered mentioning that he was here just yesterday, and that I had told him that yes; he was indeed my personal savior, but that seemed like overkill, so I shut up and nodded along with Lady #2.

The man smiled vaguely and looked at his shoes again.

In spite of her assertion that "We are the same in many ways," Lady #1 seemed a bit doubtful about my confidence in being heaven-bound. Unless she is good at spotting liars, or is a bit of a liar herself, I'm not sure why since I wasn't dressed like a hooker and I wasn't openly drunk. "My mother is Catholic," she said. "She thinks good works are enough. You don't think that, do you?"

Uhhhhh. WTF? Okay, I admit it; this is the kind of thing that brings my inner witch to life. Remember that scene in the first Indiana Jones movie when they open the Ark of the Covenant and the holy spirit pours out and turns everyone who looks at it to ashes? Well, that's about the closest I can get to describing the temper that her question incited in me.

If her mother is Catholic, then she knows good and well what she is asking – even though I've acknowledged a fundamental agreement in beliefs – i.e., Christ as savior -- she's attempting to get me to disavow a cornerstone of my faith: that what you do matters.

The funny thing is that I'm not a good Catholic. In fact, I'm hardly Catholic at all. I was raised Protestant, and I identify most closely with the Episcopal faith. But this idea that "good works" are irrelevant is infuriating to me. I absolutely reject the idea that I can gabble some bullshit about Christ being my Saviour, and then go out and murder somebody and because I am "saved" I will go to heaven, no problem. I believe in atonement. I believe in redemption. However, I do not believe in this bizarre "I can snort coke and knock off a liquor store, but as long as I accept Christ as my personal savior, I'm cool and all is well," stuff.

I suspect the man on the porch may have seen the first Indiana Jones movie and recognized the signs of the holy spirit rising within me because he suddenly spoke up. "Do you or your husband play tennis?" he asked. "We're always looking for new members here at the club."

He meant the neighborhood club, not the church club, so he was obviously trying to stop the train wreck before it happened. I decided to help him stop the train wreck because it's such a pointless one.

I gave him my best smile. "My husband does. He was just talking about it. You'll probably see him there soon."

He turned to the others. "Ladies, I think we should be going. It's getting late." He smiled back at me. We were in collusion.

It was good.
I thanked them for stopping by and told them if I was ever in the market for a new "church home," I would certainly consider stopping by their church, but that was a lie too.

I have a lot of Baptist friends and family and I have nothing but the highest regard for them. But apart from cursing and the occasional lie, I really am Christian and I have deeply held beliefs and practices that only fit within the Catholic or the Episcopal/Anglican churches because of their historicity. My faith is abiding; I don't pick and choose, so even though it would be convenient to decide to accept Jesus in this easy way and not have to worry about "good works," for me, that would be a bigger lie. I definitely believe that God would judge me harshly for that.


gillian said...

It seems to me you were saved ... by you and your neighbour changing the subject.

I am unredeemed, though, beause I really wanted to know what happened if you hadn't been saved. Obviously heaven is not for me.

Taminator said...

Love the bit about the Indiana Jones movie! I wish I'd been there. You showed admirable restraint.

tamsaunt said...

The next time you are hit with this "works" things, here is some ammunition.

Paul's letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 2, verses 8-11.

8 for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

9 not of works, that no man should glory.

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them.

Another example of selective scripture usage. If you read the whole thing and other selections in the New Testament, you realize that grace is a gift, but we are expected to "do good works" because of that gift.

Enough theology!

Brian said...

This is essentially the argument that started the English Civil War! Calvinism v Armenianism.

I wonder what God thinks about these quibbles?