In my part one, I mentioned that the firestorm of debate that the HHS Mandate has created encouraged a number of conversations with people who are not Catholic or Christian…with atheists, with Satanists, with agnostics…with those who outright hate organized religion and those who are just suspicious of it.
Some of those conversations have been openly hostile, others have been vaguely mocking, and a few have been even curious, but there’s one thing they all have in common. They all have made (faulty) assumptions about why I am a Catholic.
So, I’m here to set the record straight…
You’re Only Catholic Because You’re Afraid You’re Going to Hell
This is a pretty common argument from those who reject religion outright. Here is one example from a discussion with an old college coworker (who at least at that time was a self-professed Satanist) on his blog:
The Catholic Church holds itself as the moral standard bearer for the world because it gains its authority from the divine. These rules are not up for a vote or appeal. If its rules are not followed, the sinner is punished in the afterlife. This is coercion not unlike someone giving orders at gunpoint. It negates the possibility of free will.
Or this comment on one of my Facebook posts by a really close friend. We usually avoid religious discussions, and though he likes to poke fun and provoke me, it’s all in respect and love (I hope).
Well I was going to get a vasectomy but knowing the Church is against it and that Jesus won’t let me into the kingdom of heaven if I do, I’m just going to abstain going forward!
It’s a pretty common argument that assumes that the reason I follow the Church’s teachings or even believe at all is based on my fear of eternal consequences if I don’t.
Just like the “You’re Only Catholic Because You Were Raised That Way” argument, this assumption has some basis in truth, but is missing a much bigger picture. In honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s an analogy that explains that bigger picture…
I love my husband very much. We’ve been married for 8+ years and while it hasn’t always been a Hallmark commercial, I can’t imagine walking this journey of life without him at my side. There are times when I disagree with him (usually loudly and vehemently), but the commitment we have made to one another in love is greater than even our most outrageous arguments. It is that commitment and love that has me biting my tongue when I want to yell at him (though if you ask him he may question whether or not said tongue biting has ever happened!). It is that commitment and love that helps me submit to his requests that I please stop going to Starbucks 3 times a week (mmmm….white chocolate mocha). It is that commitment and love that reminds me to make the bed each morning – just because it’s something he likes (I never see the point – it’s just going to get unmade again at the end of the day…seems like a waste of time).
I don’t treat my husband with love and kindness, listen to and submit to his requests, and sometimes keep my disagreements to myself just because I’m afraid of the consequences. I do it because I love him. I lived in a relationship in college in which everything I did was based on fear of him breaking up with me. I changed who I was, what I did and always walked on egg shells because I was petrified he might end our relationship. It lasted exactly 3 months – because that kind of fear cannot sustain a real relationship.
Well, that and when he ultimately broke up with me he told me that he thought I had a lot of growing up to do – he thought we should remain friends so that he could be my Jedi Master and I could be his young Padawan learner. His breakup line reminded me of the time he told me that dancing with him was like when his grandma used to give him a warm glass of milk when he couldn’t sleep, and I decided the end of this relationship wasn’t something to mourn 🙂
I digress – my point is that my relationship with the Church is the same as my relationship with my husband. I follow Her rules, submit to Her teachings, try to understand when I disagree, and engage in Her rituals and sacraments out of love, not fear. I love Christ and want a relationship with Him and His Church. I just can’t imagine walking through this journey of life without my faith underscoring it all.
Now here’s where the bit of truth in this assumption comes in…if I were to treat my husband like crap, constantly argue and pick fights with him, disobey his every request and never reach out in love or kindness, there’s a good chance we would end up divorced. If I choose to reject Christ and the teachings of His Church, if I never spend time developing my relationship with Him and constantly berate and blaspheme Him…well, there’s a good chance I may end up in Hell. But this not what motivates me in my faith; if it were, I’m certain our relationship would not have survived all the struggles, heartache, and obstacles of the past 31 years.
So to my husband, to my Savior and to my Church…Happy Valentine’s Day. I love you and can’t wait to see what the future holds for us.
Up Next…If You’re Catholic, You’re Uneducated, Delusional, Unenlightened, ___________ (Fill In the Blank)
I am really enjoying this series of posts. I have been a Christian most of my life and have heard both of these arguments. Since becoming Catholic, I have also heard these arguments and I’ve never really had any good counter-arguments. You could say that I’m not very quick on my feet when I get drawn into these kinds of conversations. After reading these posts of yours, I now feel like I have at least a few good rebuttals in my arsenal for the next time I’m confronted by these sorts of arguments. So thank you!
Thanks Valerie – I’m glad you’re finding them helpful.
Happy SAINT Valentine’s day. Let us not forget that today February 14th is originally dedicated to a man who gave his life for the Church. I’m on a personal crusade to bring the “Saint” back into this day.
You got it Fr. Paul! My crusade is for the apostrophe … it’s a grammar and theological win 🙂
So, Happy Saint Valentine’s Day to you 🙂