Friday, July 29, 2011

Non-Denominational Christianity and Why I Like it

So, there is many a person out there that is well aware of my deep adoration for Catholicism. I have an intellectual and spiritual reason for holding fast to the Church's claim to the fullness of truth. But no matter how many times I attend mass at the same church, I am endlessly and always awe-struck by the inherent beauty of it all. It is not the songs, it is not the ceremony, it is not the homily that strikes such a chord with me. Deep underneath the ritualistic trappings of the mass is an holistic approach to faith and spirituality. Not only is the physical Church united with the spiritual body of Christ, but we are every day (yes, every day, not just every Sunday!) continuing, reaffirming, and reenacting Christ's passion. His sacrifice was once, sufficient, and eternal, but we daily renew it and celebrate what He did. Make no mistake, though, outside the Catholic Church there is another physical body that inspires awe.

This is a body that goes under the general nom de guerre of "non-denominational Christianity." Mind you, non-denominational Christians tend to just label themselves "Christians" (my own linguistic and cultural argument against such a practice should be reserved for another time), and most non-denominational congregations could be lumped into their own respective pseudo-denominations. But inherent in all of them is something else entirely. Forget dogma and doctrine, forget trappings and ritual, forget sola scriptura versus Sacred Tradition and consubstantiation versus transubstantiation versus denial of the Real Presence. Forget all that. Where Catholicism has beauty and majesty that soars above and beyond what any rational thinker of the twenty-first century would call necessary, I have yet to find a non-denominational Christian that lacks in innocent love for what they hold to be universal truth.

Two of my best friends in the world are non-denominational Christians. We actually developed our friendship to a large degree through long hours of intense theological debate over coffee. Seriously. Weirdest start to a friendship ever. Though I disagree (a LOT) with what they hold to be true, and have had occasion where my disagreement has almost spilled over into insult, I have found in them the same innocence that I have found in every non-denominational Christian I've met. No matter how hokey their pithy sayings are, ("What has Jesus done for you today?") or how annoying their soft Christian rock sounds to me, or how pushy they some times appear to be, there is an innocent and longing desire within them to know that you have accepted at least a kernel of universal truth. And this really is, deep down, not an arrogant "soul quota" they are trying to fill. They genuinely care about your salvation (my comments on this, also, should wait for another time). As annoying as it is, it's quite touching.

I guess, despite Catholicism's rigid stance against "once-saved, always-saved", there is a tendency within the laity's thought in Catholicism to think "I was baptized and confirmed. And I will confess on my death bed. All's well," so we don't ever think about our friends' and family's salvation. We harden ourselves to the task of evangelizing, not just to non-believers, but to each other. When was the last time I was pulled by the ear to confession because my mother/aunt/sister/grandmother caught me lying? When was the last time a friend held a rosary close to his/her heart after I told them a problem and told me they would pray the Efficacious Novena of the Immaculate Heart of Mary with me? When was the last time I did these things for someone else?

At the end of the day, though they are "saved", my non-denominational friends have more at stake because they let themselves care so deeply. And I, with full knowledge that, though baptized, I can still choose to go to hell, arrogantly assume that I can waltz right into heaven because I have the BRPG--Big Red Phone to God (confessional, bitches!). It's completely backwards from an intellectual standpoint. And it makes me envious of my non-denominational friends.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if Catholicism was reinvigorated with that same innocent wonder we had so many centuries ago when the miracle of the transubstantiation was performed, and we truly went out of our way to purge ourselves of sin to make ourselves worthy enough to accept Christ's sacrifice? This kind of wonder, this kind of care, though it may seem arrogant, is perhaps one of the most humble mindsets possible. And though Catholicism chases its adherents with the Big Stick of Catholic Guilt, do we let ourselves be cowed by it? Or do we shrug off the beating we have received for so long?

I think I'm tired of shrugging off the beatings. I think I've been tired of it for a long time. I don't really know how I want to conclude this blog entry. But our non-denominational Christian brethren, our seventy-six-times-removed-cousins-in-Christ, have given me something to be envious of. And if the Catholic Church is smart, the Vatican would encourage such envy, and then watch the blossoms of faith spread like wildfire.

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