Monday, April 18, 2005

A la carte Catholic

I was listening to NPR this morning, and Neil Conan (Talk of the Nation) was interviewing a few Catholic fellas and taking calls from listeners and so on. One particular caller said that she didn't necessarily agree with the Pope on all matters but still considered herself a real Catholic. Neil Conan came back with, "Well, you're kind of an a la carte Catholic, aren't you?" She replied, "yes."

I was stupified by this in some senses because everyone Catholic is an a la Carte Catholic... in fact, I think that every Christian is an a la carte Christian, whether they know it or not. No person (that I have met) really believes that they should do everything said in the Bible. Like those pro-lifers who hated Kerry sure have no problem with the violence taking place to protect our American interests abroad. And those who go to such great to say that they are literal Biblical Christians? What about the charges to dash children on the rocks? Or what about the command to care for the orphans and the widows? Or those who say they believe the same core things that the church has always believed, are they referring to the time that the church believed that the earth was flat and killed those who objected? Or are they referring to the time when Martin Luther said to burn Jewish temples? Or the time that Scripture was used to enforce slavery? Or the crusades? Or oppressive forms of capitalism?

All I am saying is that is wish every person in the Christian church could see that they are an a la carte Christian. In fact, I don't see that we could be any other way. First, the movement of Christianity (as with any movement) is broken... because people are broken... yes, even those who wrote the Bible you hold onto... and yes, even those who chose what books would be in your Bible... Second, this movement (and even the Scriptures themselves) show an evolution over time. The way man understood God in Genesis is very different from the later prophets, and even more different in the New Testament. So to embrace all things as "Thus saith the Lord" is to embrace a plurality of viewpoints. And how does that hold for those "absolutists"? Not well.

Certainly many Christians will have a defense for this, but I just thought, "There it is. Every person personalizes their religion to their own life." And can't God be in that?


Jon said...

Well said, Ryan.

Brian Aaby said...

Greetings! Elisabeth and I really enjoyed reading of your trip. I have been checking your blog and contemplating many of the things you have been writing, thank you for your honesty and voice, I believe you speak for many... However, you don't speak for all (as you know). Here are some of my thoughts...
You are absolutely "right" when it comes to the A la Carte Christianity... because "There is no one righteous, not even one" (Romans 3). If it is your desire for all Christians to understand that; I trust that you are claiming that for ALL mankind, not just Catholics or Christians, but for all of humanity. We are all hypocrites.
I know that you believe that to be true, however, in many of your posts I have felt that your passions (convictions) have been pointed AT Christians (specifically the more fundy, conservative or "right wing" Christians). With this last post you spoke of the "Kerry Hating Pro Lifers." While I must say that I do not agree with MUCH of what has happened with Iraq I feel your "Anti-Bush" crusade is being stated without recognizing the other side of the coin. For instance. While the "Kerry Hating Pro Lifers" agree with what is happening with the killing in Iraq what about the "Bush Hating Pro-Choicers who agree with the killing taking place in our own clinics?" If one "killing" is wrong, aren't both?
Perhaps the root goes much deeper. Many times in your posts I see you point out Biblical principles as the "right" thing, this is admirable, however, at the same time you question the very foundation of the Scripture being "Truth." In this last post you point out that fallible men put the Scriptures together. While "man" is fallible, can we not believe that an Infinite Infallible God that was big enough to raise His Son from the dead was also big enough to ordain fallible men to make the right choice in putting the Scriptures together? I may be reading you wrong (and if so, please forgive me), but I have felt that you point out that living as Jesus lived is what we should do, however, the only way we can know how to do this is by reading the Word and responding to the Word. But I have felt (through your blogs) that it is now up to us to determine what Scriptures are really "Jesus" Scriptures. Judges 21:25 says that in a time when there was no authority that everyone "did what was right in his own eyes." Is this not what is being advocated if we don't believe the Scripture and the Scripture alone to be ultimate authority? And I must say we still have fallible man interpreting it, but can we at least say that Scripture is God's Word and that is what we must strive to keep? I feel you asking "can God not be in this?" is saying that perhaps in fact there are many ways to get truth, and if you really believe this to be true, how is your newfound truth any different than the most fundamentalist Christians truth being right for him? Can God not be in both?
Ryan, I am inspired by what I believe to be a true desire to do 1 John 2:6 "To Walk as Jesus walked." I admire your desire to make a difference in SE Asia and our world. I simply wanted to commend you and encourage you for this and give you my thoughts on some of the questions I feel you have raised.
May God continue to bless and lead you and Holly!
Grace brother!

Ryan Lee Sharp said...

Very good thoughts Brian! I definitely bag on those who are in the place that I once was... you know, it's really more of a self-hatred and not allowing myself to be okay with my past as a vital part of my journey.

For certain, we all as human beings are frail and broken, so our understanding of the Infinite will be the same... which is why humility and a sense of student-like understanding is so necessary for our entire lives... and I hate to admit it, but I should really approach so much of evangelical roots that way instead of with such aggression!

Damn fundies, gotta love 'em. Even as I grow and change, seems I can still maintian so many fundamentalist aspects to myself... I'm hoping God will work that out of me someday.

Okay, enough said. Glad you are a part of the conversation.

Joey Mejia said...

if the writers of the bible weren't inspired by God, then maybe what is recorded about Jesus' life and what he said are half-truths and lies...

Anonymous said...

Sir, if you don't believe that every word of the bible is true and that everything we read there is completely 100 percent inspired of God, then you are calling God a liar because He is the one who has allowed us to have our bible. Sure men have misenterpreted over the years, but that doesn't change the fact that God is in complete control of everything.If you truly believe what you're spewing, then i would seriously doubt your salvation and I would pray that the words of heresy you speak would have no effect on any person for all eternity.

Anonymous said...

"So to embrace all things as "Thus saith the Lord" is to embrace a plurality of viewpoints. And how does that hold for those "absolutists"? Not well."

-The words of the sharped pencil

So let me get this right Ryan . . . are you saying absolutly that there are NO absolutes? Very profound.