The following post is a reply I put on a post on adoptingjames blog. He liked one of my posts and I have been reading some of his blog now. I thought his discussion on the differences between Catholicism and the other Christian faiths, as well as the follow up replies interesting. So I put in my two cents. . . actually more like a buck fifty it’s so wordy. Anyway, thought I would post it here as well and see what others thought. .
I would like to respond to this post as a very respectful outsider. By outsider I mean that I do not prescribe to the Christian faith in any of its many denominations. It can be difficult for me to discuss my personal beliefs because often times these discussions turn into others quoting verse after verse of scripture to show me how I am wrong and to try and “save me”. Once I tell someone that I don’t prescribe to their particular path of faith they stop listening to me because they are so busy trying to prove their point that I need to be saved. If they would just listen to me as much as they are listening to themselves, they might see that we are often times saying the same thing, we are just expressing ourselves in different ways. I feel that people can spend so much time focusing on the differences between various faiths that they become unable to see the similarities.
This discussion about the differences between Protestant and Catholic Christianty is a perfect example of my point. Yes, there are some fundamental differences between the two; but aren’t there just as many differences between Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterian, Anglican, Non-denominational, etc? One of your responders, WHeinemann stated, “Being a Christian is a journey, not a destination. We are asked to encourage each other daily in that, not to judge the path they are on”, and I feel that is a very important point. Faith, like life, is a journey. All life eventually comes to end, and no matter where the path your journey through life has taken you, all lives and paths end at the same destination. Even if Protestants and Catholics follow different faith paths, isn’t the destination the same? Aren’t both faiths journeying towards Heaven with Jesus Christ and God?
Trying to put this into words is difficult because for me, faith is simotaniously simple and complex. I think faith is a blueprint for how to live a life that leaves a positive footprint on the world after a person is gone. Don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal, do unto others. . . etc; following that blueprint is where it becomes complex. Each life is unique. Each culture, society, each era of time is unique, and it seems too simple for me that there is a “one size fits all” faith for each unique individual that ever has or ever will be born on this earth. I think faith is supposed to act as a guide for whatever path your journey takes you as you make your way through life and end up in heaven with whatever name you call “God”.
Imagine life as a vast swath of woods and on the other side is a large mountain. At the top of this mountain is heaven and God, waiting for all of us to make our way through the woods and up the mountain, until we find ourselves at the top, in heaven with God. Each one of us has to make our own way to that mountain top. Sometimes we find ourself on a path already tread and cleared by those that have gone before us; other times we find ourselves having to clear our own way and remove our own obstacles. Many of us face the same obstacles, just at different parts of our journey. Some of us have to figure out how to move boulders before we have to learn how to remove fallen trees. Others have to figure out how cross a raging river before we have to figure out how to avoid a hungry bear. Most of us have to face all of the obstacles but at different times and at different places in our journeys. Just because I faced a hungry bear before I had to cross a river doesn’t mean I am ahead or behind any other person on this journey, it just means I am at different place and on a different path. But I am still headed in the same direction as everyone else. I am still headed towards the mountain top with heaven and God waiting for me.
Another characteristic of these individual paths is the language spoken. I’m using language as a metaphor for religion to try and express what I mean. So let’s say English is spoken on one path, Spanish on another, German, French, and Arabic, etc, on the other paths. Each one of these languages has words for the same things. Each language has a word for rock, water, grass, dirt, animal, food, etc. Each language has a word for the various obstacles each path faces. The difference, and what can cause “failures to communicate”, is the grammar and the fact that sometimes there isn’t a direct translation from one language to another. If you have taken a foreign language class in recent years, and have tried using one of those online translation tools, then you know that sometimes things come out, well, a little wonky. And if the computer doesn’t understand the context of what is being translated, then the meaning of the original text can be completely lost and the original intent is smeared beyond recognition. Which is what I hope does not happen here.
I realize that most, if not all of what I have written goes against the teachings of your faith. I am history buff and hope to some day finish my degree; and I find that I am most interested and intrigued by religious history. I found your post and the responses very interesting, and I really enjoyed the fact that while some of the replies disagreed with you, they did so in a non confrontational manner. That can be difficult to find when discussing religion. While I like studying the history of religion and how the various faith systems have evolved over time, I also try to find actual people who are comfortable exchanging thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. As I said earlier, this can be difficult to find because it often turns into an attempted conversion and sermon on how I am wrong. I am very secure in my faith and beliefs, I have learned to recognize when God is speaking to me. I truly believe that God is in all living things and speaks to each of us in a voice and language that is specific to the individual. And I believe that in the end, the differences between the many faiths in God don’t matter as much to God as the similarities.