Life, As I Find It
After joining the ranks of the Catholics, it was my hope to avoid the smug former-smoker arrogance that sometimes comes with such a dramatic change. You know what I mean: the I-used-to-be-so-stupid-and-now-I-see-the-Light attitude that is, in and of itself, irritating. (In my slow journey to the Church, I picked up a couple of well-meaning books written by former Evangelicals who exuded that very attitude. They were not helpful.) So, here’s my disclaimer: any comments I might make about Evangelicalism or Protestantism are meant to be good-natured and wry, or as close to an objective comparison as a non-academic can manage. You have my permission to call me on it if I sound otherwise.
Frankly, I doubt I would be much of a Catholic now without the benefit of all I’d been taught by Protestants as I traveled this way. I know that had I followed my father’s lead as a Catholic I wouldn’t be Catholic at all. (For him, it was a cultural identity, something handed down to him like an old coat he didn’t really want – if even that.) Any spark of faith in my life was fanned by my very-Protestant mother, faithful relatives and, in my formative years, the good people at Grace Baptist Church in my hometown.
Grace Baptist was founded in 1964 by Pastor Jack Dean who, with a group of dedicated Christians, sought to evangelize the new suburban development of Belair-At-Bowie (now just Bowie) 15 miles east of Washington, DC. The founding families were die-hard Baptists theologically and socially – gracious folks who brought the call to “accept Jesus into your heart” together with great Southern food and punch (no alcohol, ever).
I don’t remember ever hearing any hard-core anti-Catholic sermons. Catholics were simply that other group who were sort of Christians – but not really. It was our job to lead them to Jesus, given the chance.
I learned a lot of good things at Grace Baptist Church. So much that I remarked to someone from that church how my formative years as a Baptist actually prepared me to become a Catholic. I don’t think she was comforted by the thought at all. But it led me to reflect on how that happened.
One of the hallmarks of being a Baptist was the respect for the Bible I developed. We had Bible drills to learn its books and characters, timed competitions to see who could find a verse the quickest, we were told to do daily devotions and given memorization techniques to recall the most important passages (for evangelistic purposes). The Bible was proclaimed at every church occasion. Dog-eared, highlighted, annotated, and cherished – that’s what my Bible was. It was a fundamental part of being a Baptist. I never heard the phrase sola scriptura. We simply practiced it.
Now, as a Catholic, I marvel how Catholics seem to have surrendered the Bible to Protestants, as if it was their book. Yet I have found more Scriptural evidence to support Catholic theology than I ever found to prove Protestant theology. I’ve also noticed that all the verses in the New Testament we, as Baptists, found so troublesome are clearly resolved in Catholicism. The Bible truly is a Catholic book. I only wish more Catholics thought so.
This is only the start. With permission, I’d like to spend more time on my life as a Baptist and how it eased my way to Catholicism.
Art for How Being a Baptist Prepared Me for Being a Good Catholic (Part I of IV): Still Life with Bible, Vincent Van Gogh, 1885, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.