Last night, I had one of the most beautiful worship experiences I have had in a long time. We played at a Catholic youth festival in Louisiana, and afterwards we stayed for "adoration." Wasn't quite sure what that was, but we ended up kneeling in silence in a field for like 20 minutes with thousands of young Catholics, all holding candles. It was amazing. A procession of priests came walking through the candlelit masses holding a big golden cross and then they put this other golden thingy in the altar (forgive me for my ignorance of any of the proper terms, and for my use of the word "thingy"), and we all just sat there and adored Christ together in silent reverence for a long time. Honestly, it made me want to be Catholic again.
I say again, because I tried to become a Catholic a couple of years ago. I failed. The priest I was talking to at the time told me that I had to believe in everything if I was to convert, and I was like, "Whoa, man, come on now. I don't believe 'everything' of 'anything.'"
Still, I sat there in the candlelight last night wishing that I had the faith to believe in everything. Because it is all so beautiful. It really is. I grew up Protestant. More specifically: evangelical. I don't feel that that word accurately describes me now, but it is my heritage.
The thing about evangelicals is that they tend to take everything so literally. I can just imagine the evangelical, 17 year old me sitting there in that field and praying in tongues because I was afraid that some sort of Catholic idolatry demons would possess me. I would have been freaked out that all of them were staring at those golden thingys because I had no mystery or metaphor in my faith. God was a big powerful guy "up" there. So a bunch of people bowing down before a golden image… Well, that sounds like idolatry.
I didn't really understand everything that was happening last night, but that was part of the beauty of it. That heavy and intoxicating aroma of the incense. The bending flickering flames of the candles in the wind. The bold colors of robes and crosses and crucibles. The use of different languages. It was Heaven crashing into earth.
A lot of Protestants don't think of the first 1500 years of Church history as part of their story. They seem to think that the disciples wrote the Bible and then the Catholic church just worshiped idols and killed people for 15 centuries until Martin Luther and Calvin came along and the Church got back to Christianity.
I'm sorry to tell you this, Mr. Evangelical, but without Rome, you have no Christianity. You have no Bible. You have no theology. You have no story.
The Church today is severely splintered and fragmented, and that should break our hearts. But healing needs to start somewhere. That's why I wanted to tell you about my experience. Because perhaps for a few of you, you can think about your relationship with the "other", no matter who that might be. But most of the time, the "other" is exactly who has the most to offer us. And any loving movement towards the other is a movement towards healing, unity, and peace--all things we desperately need.
ps. I will be deleting any foolish, ignorant, or divisive comments about Catholic theology. Protestants would do well to actually study the theology before speaking about it (ie. idolatry, Mary...etc)