And I’ll do it publicly here.
Because, after all, I’m a Protestant and- on paper at least, even if its seldom practiced in most congregations- I believe in corporate confession.
I don’t need to duck inside a little private booth (note to Protestants: most Catholics haven’t used those in a long while, no matter what you saw in Keeping the Faith) to have a priest mediate my confession and prayer for absolution to God.
I can do it all by myself. With and in front of others.
There doesn’t need to be anyone who comes between me and God (note which noun comes first in that subordinate clause).
Which just nicely guarantees that very little communication, to say nothing of confession, passes from me to God.
While famous corporate confession from the Book of Common Prayer:
“…We have offended against thy holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders…”
is incredibly pointed and powerful, I daresay it’s salvific sting would be felt more keenly if I had a confessor forcing me to own up and articulate exactly how what I’ve ‘left undone’ in my life and relationships that’s deserving of the label ‘sin.’
I’ve already shown my hand without actually fessing up:
I’ve got to confess.
I’ve got a serious case of Catholic-envy.
A virus that was perhaps latent within me since John Paul but has flared up to near-fatal levels by the arrival of Pope Francis.
While my own denomination continues to sever itself over North American issues of homosexual ordination, I’ve got to admire (if not agree) with a tradition that at least has the logical consistency to demand celibacy of all its clergy, gay or not. In a denomination severing itself over issues of homosexual marriage while about 1/2 of its members- let’s not talk about its clergy- divorce, I’ve got to admire (if not agree) with a tradition that has the logical consistency to teach that marriage is a lifelong covenant. In a denomination that is inescapably ‘American’ I’ve got to admire a tradition that is thoroughly ‘universal’ even while it universality means its rate of change seems incredibly slow to this American.
But really, like so many others, Pope Francis is the reason for my Catholic envy.
How I wish my own tradition had a globally recognizable leader in whom the life and teachings of Jesus were so palpably and incarnately demonstrated.
Just check out this picture. If not worth a thousand words, it def rates a short homily or a Broadway billboard:
The other Francis was right.
You don’t need evangelism when you’ve got leaders like this who are like a flesh-by-numbers display of the Gospel.
Had I not already signed on to a particular Jesus tribe and were, right now, ‘seeking’ a place to follow him, I gotta confess I’d give our Romish brothers and sisters a try.
Which but leads me to another confession that IS corporate for most my Protestant tribe:
Why are we not Catholic?
Or rather, in what ways are we still meaningfully Protestant?
I don’t know what church you attend or denomination you belong to but, chances are, you’re not ‘protesting’ anything anymore. Even if you are protesting things, odds are good it’s got more to do with ‘social justice’ or ‘the conservative agenda’ and little to do 16th century theology.
After all, the main points of contention that compelled Martin to post his 95 Theses have long since been reconciled.
Abuse of indulgences? Check.
Scripture and liturgy in the vernacular? Check.
Justification by faith alone? Double Check.
Every year it strikes me as odd that Protestant churches actually celebrate Reformation Sunday.
Even if you agree with Luther’s vision of Christianity, schism isn’t something to celebrate. That’s like celebrating your parents’ divorce- I know firsthand that even when the separation is necessary it’s still tragic.
You’d think it strange if I offered prayers every late October celebrating the rupture of family wouldn’t you?
I’ve spent a lot of time in Latin America, a region where the United Methodist Church is all but unknown so small is its population share. There, the Jesus family is divided into 2 homes, Catholic or Evangelical (usually meaning ‘Pentecostal’). Truth be told, I’ve got a lot more in common with the former there than I do the latter. In terms of worship, theology and how mission and service are to be done.
I wonder, given the changing contours of post-Christian America, if our future is to be found in Latin America?
Do our increasingly diverse cultural options make it necessary to winnow down the Christian options to two basic choices: Catholic or Pentecostal?
Could it be the Protestant affection for Pope Francis is a harbinger of things to come?
By the way, here’s a great article from First Things that echoes.
Queen’s to you:
Why are you Protestant?
Why are you not Catholic?
And does your reason trump the cause of Christian unity?