CFOYC, part 3, salvation, other religions, and getting along with the natives
If there’s something that the non-Catholics are wondering about Catholics, but are afraid to ask, fire away, with the caveats on topics from last time. If I don’t know, there are a bunch of people reading this who would.
Meh. I had a nicely glib and upbeat version of this one started. The Catholic notion of salvation is one of the big reasons why I’m a practicing Catholic. I read Nostra aetate in college, anticipating hating it, since I grew up with the pre-Vatican II version of relations with other denominations. What’s in it is truly Good News–salvation is something that’s revealed through truths in many other religions and denominations. And those who through no fault of their own who aren’t even Christian can be saved through the justification of grace (which is a free gift from God), and a desire to lead a moral life, free from sin. The real documents of Vatican II–as opposed to things in the spirit of–are truly wonderful and upbeat. The optimism and hope in them is one of the most uplifting things I’ve ever experienced.
Obviously I believe the RCC is true. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be Catholic. For me, it represents the fullness of Truth, insofar as we’re able to perceive it in this life. Other people find their Truth with a capital “t” in other places. If my path is true for me, and yours is true for you, maybe we’re seeing little pieces of something bigger than either of us. I like the fact that Catholic theology allows for this, and at the heart of the matter, salvation and who God decides to give that grace to is a complete gift and mystery. Asking a Catholic if they’re saved will probably get you a puzzled look in response. The right answer is, “I don’t know!” or “God only knows.” There’s no positive assurance, but there’s hope in God’s limitless mercy. This is stuff that keeps me coming back, Sunday after Sunday through all the bullcrap people like to sling at each other in the name of orthodoxy.
So why am I emo tonight? Fast forward to present day. In this country, we’ve got two sides, both becoming more and more entrenched. On one side, we’ve got fundamentalist evangelicals–the “Jesus Camp” types–who believe they’re right, come hell or high water, and all must accept their take on Christianity to be saved. On the other side, you’ve got the EWTN types, who I think are a direct response to the fundamentalist Protestant hegemony. Their response to the fundamentalist Protestants is to become more Catholic than Rome. Or, rather, to foist their view of Catholicism upon the rest of us. And since they’ve got money and mass media outlets, they become the status quo. (Watch their daily Mass sometime…the message they’re portraying is slick.)
Thing is, if all of Christianity suddenly became non-denominational Protestant megachurch or Catholic, I think the world would be a poorer place. You wouldn’t have the Orthodox, with their ornate liturgies and icons. You wouldn’t have the Lutherans’ four-part hymns and middle-America sensibility. Forget the Methodists’ social justice and quasi-Anglican ways. And even though evangelicals can piss me off, Christianity would be missing something if they were gone.
The RCC has always been about unity in diversity. I wonder if Christianity as a whole can learn from this, instead of the zero-sum game it seems so hell bent on playing.