"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Here it comes

     Our youngest granddaughter, now in 2nd grade, is being primed for her first communion. She is starting to ask me theological questions again:
     Grandma, are you Catholic? 
     Have you been baptized?
     Then you're Catholic.
     What are you? Are you a Jew? 
     I'm a Christian.
     But, like, what are you?
     A Bible-believing Christian.
     We believe in the Bible. Do you believe in the Pope? 
     I respect him. I believe in Jesus Christ.
     The pope is like a little Jesus. 
     Yes, he is. We believe in the Bible. Your church believes in the Bible plus the pope.
     Do you take communion?
     Do you believe it's the real body and blood of Jesus?
     No. Jesus told us to take it to remember Him. [Should I add that at the Last Supper when Jesus held the bread and the cup in His hands, they could not have been elements of His literal body, which was still very much alive and intact or His blood, which was still coursing through it? I don't think he meant to eat Him literally but figuratively, to take Him in and have Him become an intrinsic part of us. "Symbolic cannibalism?" Why not? Jesus says, "If you do not eat my body and drink my blood, you have no part in me!" and the early church seems to have taken the Eucharist literally so I am not opposed to that understanding.]
     Is it real bread and wine?
     In our church, real bread and grape juice. The important thing is to remember Him.
     What is the difference between what we believe and what you believe?
     Well, for one thing, the Bible says Jesus had brothers and sisters.
     No, he didn't! They weren't God!
     No, they weren't. They had the same mother but a different father, Joseph. Your church teaches that they were only nephews and nieces or cousins. But the Bible says "brothers" and "sisters."
     Mary was born without original sin.
     The Bible says she was a sinner.
     She sinned but she did not have original sin. [She knows her catechism! According to Catholicism Mary does need a Savior--but Jesus saved her by cleansing her before she sinned.]
     How do I say that backing the immaculate conception up one generation diminishes the uniqueness of the only sinless One, the only begotten Child of God, the only person in history conceived by the Holy Spirit? How can I communicate to a 7-year old that such a belief is heresy, that it only gets in the way and obscures His glory and that God is a jealous God and does not share His glory with anyone, even His son's mother? How do I point out that nothing in the Bible, nothing about sin or salvation, requires such a doctrine?
     My beloved grandchild is getting agitated. I am feeling nothing but calm as I inwardly ask God for wisdom. I do not want to hurt the faith of this little one. I only want to gently keep pointing her back to Jesus, the enfleshed Word of God, as revealed in the Bible, the written word of God.
     In the background her mother, my daughter, whom we raised evangelical, catches only a few of her daughter's words and says, "Mom, she gets some things mixed up. You can correct her ideas from the Bible." And I think, She doesn't have these things mixed up at all. She's tack on. This is Roman Catholic orthodoxy. Are you sure you are okay with my correcting that? Because if I do, I will be putting her crosswise with what her school teaches her, what her church teaches her and what you teach her. 
     I love my daughter. I love my granddaughter. I consider it an honor to share what Scripture, which both the Roman Catholic tradition and my evangelical tradition hold sacred, speaks to these matters. But Sweetheart, don't think it won't shake her little foundations and cause her anguish, because she loves us both. It will open a chasm between us and she will have to choose whether to cling or jump. I am sorry that's the case because the Lord we both worship wants us all to be one.   

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