Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Joys of Protestant Ladies

The other evening I was sitting with an interdenominational ladies group with some of the most amazing women I have ever met (not being invited, but by a fluke of a car mishap was with one of those who HAD been invited.) These women are very prominent in Christian circles-- a couple of them have been on Oprah, one is in the midst of choosing which movie production company is going to put her life story on the big screen and one is a Christian talk show host. Big names.
So, the eight ladies were sitting around a table at the Nashville Olive Garden when I arrived and meekly took a seat. (For anonymity sake I changed the place.)
For some strange reason, I was introduced as, “This is Teresa Beem, she is Catholic.” That felt a little awkward as everyone else at the table was Protestant and why that would be my most important identifying mark I don’t know, unless the woman who introduced me was actually wanting say “Here’s a Catholic, girls... Let’s get her saved!” 
After ordering, I was taking my first bite of the garlic bread sticks when I was confronted by the hostess, “Do you pray to Mary?” Gasps from the women made her calmly justify her question, “Well, I think it’s interesting that someone would choose to be Catholic.” (They all knew that I was raised Seventh-day Adventist.) I swallowed the bite whole and stuttered around with an answer. 
The lady sitting next to me, thinking she was doing me a great favor by getting me out of the hot seat, changed the subject. However, I really would have liked a little more conversation in order to explain the Catholic position better. The rest of the evening was discussing the upcoming Christian Women’s Conference. 
As I was leaving, the lady sitting to my right put her arm around me and with a look of pity in her eyes tried to encourage me with, “You just keep reading your Bible, sister. Keep reading your Bible.” 
Perhaps I am being paranoid, but I sensed she was unconsciously patronizing me and assuming I HADN’T read my Bible---after all in her estimation, I couldn’t have if I had become a Catholic.
Honestly, I wasn’t offended or hurt or angry. As I thought about her response over the next couple of days, I started to become frustrated. These ladies would have been utterly shocked to know I became Catholic BECAUSE I read my Bible. That doesn’t compute with Protestants. 
How do we, as Catholics, begin to disabuse our dear Protestant brethren of the idea that Catholics have rejected holy scripture? How do we let them know we love and respect the Bible and rather than discard its teachings, we hold to a different interpretation of them--the OLDEST and authoritative interpretation? 
What do I want to do, start a war, you ask?    No. 
It is time, though, that Catholics break through the misunderstanding that Protestants have about our faith--AND WE HAVE ALLOWED them to have. This is more our fault than theirs!
...And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" Romans 10:14,15

Catholics, I think, are completely unaware of the tremendous beauty of their own beliefs. They do not realize how Catholicism could lift EVEN Protestants--lovely, God-fearing, faithful Protestants--from the slavery of their misunderstandings of theology. Protestants have good news for sure! But we have the the fullest, the BEST news of all. Do we not know it? Do we not believe it? Do we not live it? Is that why we cannot share it? 
Time for that to change.