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All Catholics now?
As an evangelical for 20 years, I believed the usual lies about Catholics. How God overcame my prejudice to lead me to Mass Nov. 11, 2007, where I experienced a sudden illumination comparable to the “born-again” experience I’d had in 1987 is a story I hope to tell someday. My purpose here is simply to establish my credentials for speaking some unpleasant truths, then some amazing recent breakthroughs.
If you are Catholic, you may or may not know that most — not all, but most — evangelicals do not believe you are Christians. I’ve known home-school groups whose Statements of Faith exclude Catholics because we do not subscribe to the “Five Solas” — the pillars of Protestantism. A Catholic friend who attended an evangelical Bible study for six years was devastated when her devout Catholic dad died and her friends said it was too bad he was never “saved,” thus revealing their true feelings about her.
Though these are typical stories, as a longtime evangelical author/speaker/blogger, I naively assumed that I might be spared this backlash because my readers knew me so well. Yet when I announced my Catholic yearnings, while some were mystified or even curious, many were fierce in their judgment that I was destined for hell.
For four years, I have continued to write for an audience of evangelicals and Catholics, sticking largely to the encouragement and practical help I have to offer as a Montessori teacher, mother of 12 (including adopted kids with special needs), grandmother of 13 and a lover of Jesus who wants my children to love Jesus too.
Even as an evangelical I had something important in common with Catholics. As part of a movement among evangelicals who’d ditched birth control to leave their family planning to God, I wrote and spoke often about what it means to be not just anti-abortion but pro-life.
Families like mine — populating churches with parking lots crammed with 12- and 15-passenger vans — found encouragement from soul-searching leaders like R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who wrote in 2008:
“For many evangelical Christians, birth control has been an issue of concern only for Catholics. When Pope Paul VI released his famous encyclical outlawing artificial birth control, Humanae Vitae, most evangelicals responded with disregard — perhaps thankful that evangelicals had no pope who could hand down a similar edict. Evangelical couples became devoted users of birth control technologies ranging from the Pill to barrier methods and Intrauterine Devices (IUDs). That is all changing, and a new generation of evangelical couples is asking new questions.
“A growing number of evangelicals are rethinking the issue of birth control — and facing the hard questions posed by reproductive technologies. Several developments contributed to this reconsideration, but the most important of these is the abortion revolution. The early evangelical response to legalized abortion was woefully inadequate. Some of the largest evangelical denominations at first accepted at least some version of abortion on demand.
“Thus, in an ironic turn, American evangelicals are rethinking birth control even as a majority of the nation’s Roman Catholics indicate a rejection of their Church’s teaching. How should evangelicals think about the birth control question?”
What may surprise Catholics — especially any who’ve chafed under the judgment of their evangelical neighbors and friends — is that the sleeping giant awoken by the administration’s broken promise on the conscience clause included not only the 160 Catholic bishops whose letters were read to Catholics nationwide, but evangelical leaders like Mohler.
In fact, by Feb. 12, the Family Research Council announced that 2,500 pastors and other evangelical leaders had signed a letter condemning the administration’s contraception mandate. In response to the president’s so-called “compromise,” which was basically a play on words changing nothing, Southern Baptist Convention’s Richard Lamb said:
“What our forefathers protected is freedom of conscience, freedom of religion. That is — the freedom to propagate our faith, to take our faith outside the walls of our home, outside the walls of our church and to have Catholic and Baptist charities, and Catholic and Baptist hospitals, and Catholic and Baptist schools that seek to educate within a worldview that is Catholic or Baptist or Lutheran or whatever. … And we are not going to sit by and allow our God-given rights — which are acknowledged, recognized and protected by the Constitution — to be atrophied and to be neutered and to be confined and restricted by the Obama administration.”
This degree of unity throughout the faith community is amazing and it offers great hope for the future.
Rick Warren, pastor of 20,000 at Saddleback Church, who delivered Obama’s inauguration invocation, twittered:
“I’m not a Catholic but I stand in 100 percent solidarity with my brothers and sisters to practice their belief against government pressure.
“I’d go to jail rather than cave in to a government mandate that violates what God commands us to do. Would you? Acts 5:29.”
After years of Catholic politicians who claim to be devout while flaunting their faith, is it any wonder our friends misjudge us? Now they can see the Catholic Church rise to defend religious liberty for itself and for all. Now is the time to talk to your friends and neighbors, to answer their questions honestly and openly and to let your light shine in a world becoming increasingly dark.
They are listening. As Mike Huckabee, Baptist preacher and former presidential candidate said:
“I remember very vividly when John F. Kennedy said that ‘we are all Berliners’. Well in many ways, thanks to President Obama, we are all Catholics now.”
Curtis, who blogs at mommylife.net, is a mother of 12 and author from Lovettsville.