They will not discuss Catholicism with me, for terror of being deceived and that I will cause them to "wander after the beast" and receive the 666 on their foreheads. They actually believe this with all their hearts. And even the more progressive Adventists in my family who are not sure all the SDA "truths" are actually truth, are skeptical and distant. Which breaks my heart because we were at one time, the SDA version of the Osmonds--we were close, sang together publicly.... we had so much fun. Now there is tension and a whole list of censored topics of conversation--to keep me muzzled.
I know they are terrified of my Catholicism. They are hurt and confused. They know, without a doubt, that Catholicism is a child-abusing, alcoholic, Bible-hiding, truth-oppressing, idolatrous cadre of the devil's tyrants. But they think lots of Catholic people are nice!
So, I have constructed a little world of my own in my head which one of them actually has the courage to ask me something about Catholicism. I practice what I will say for I know I will have one shot of about twenty seconds and then they will interrupt and loose focus. I have to hook them in the first few sentences or the opportunity will be lost--the opportunity to lavish on them the love I have received from the Catholic Church and its doctrines. The peace I have received. The courage I have received. The grace I have received.
I guess that I don't have enough faith. If Christ wants to give them the super grace to listen, He can do it and that is what I pray for. I don't want to convert them, just help them give up their fears of Catholicism--to quit seeing us as the "bad" guys. My heart is for Christian unity with them.
Where do you start when up against such misinformation?
In my fantasy world, I would have time to go back to the beginning and show them how everything in the Old Testament was building towards the Messiah. From Genesis onward, the world was being prepared for the mystery of the Incarnation and God with Us. Israel and the Patriarchs were given little pieces, the Moses and the Jewish law--all pointed towards the fulfillment of all--to Christ. God told David that his kingdom would be forever and through his genetic line the Messiah would come.
When Jesus did come, He was constantly being referred to as Son of David, thus fulfilling that promise that David's kingdom would have no end. Jesus established the Kingdom of David and of Heaven here on earth. It came as a seed that would one day become a great tree that encompassed the whole world.
Catholics believe that it was a visible kingdom; a kingdom with God-appointed, God-anointed leaders. The Kingdom of Heaven was there to deal with problems (as Christ commanded that the church be the final say in disputes, Matt. 18: 15-18) it was to be the salt and light shining to the world. He placed Peter in charge, giving him tremendous power--Matt. 16: 18-- just as He put Moses in charge of the Old Testament. The New Testament is establishing an organized religion with leaders: pastors, elders, deacons, etc....
I know organized religion isn't popular--but the Bible clearly sets one up and tells us to be obedient. (Heb. 13; 17; John 15: 20; Acts 16: 4; I Peter 2: 13; Rom. 13:1, 5; 2 Thess. 3:14; James 3: 3; Rev. 3: 3). Over and over the Bible is full of themes of our expected obedience to God's chosen leaders. Children are to obey parents, wives are to obey husbands, slaves to obey masters, and we are all to obey civil law as well as religious leaders. Our culture teaches that God's "rights" are what we should focus on and fight for. However, we never have the right to disobey God's chosen leaders.
What about rotten, stinkin', mean, ornery, blaspheming leaders, are we still to obey them?
Do children still have to obey parents, even if the parent is wrong? (or is perceived to be wrong in a child's eyes?) Do we still have to obey civil authority even when we disagree with Obamacare or traffic lights or government-sponsored wars? Yes, if we have no other choice....
Look for a moment at Israel. It's religious leaders were hardly good; Jesus repeatedly called them a brood of vipers and hypocrites. Yet Jesus said in Matthew 23 that because they sit on Moses seat, "you must obey them and do everything they tell you." And Jesus KNEW that His appointed leaders were placing additional laws on them that He had not given them permission to do. Look at verse four, "They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them."
Christ was aware that life isn't fair, at least this life on earth. But we still must obey even the worst of leaders if they are true God-appointed shepherds. Look at the rotten Samson, Saul, David, and the list of ungodly Israel and Judah's leaders in the Old Testament. Some of them made babies to pass through the fires in idolatry to Molech. God's leaders often go astray. Even Jesus disciples were cowardly and one was a thief. On earth, God's kingdom is not governed by the perfect.
I Peter 2: 18-21, "Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you,leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps."
Well, I would have lost my family long ago.... but this is how I would begin. I would need hundreds of hours to explain how Catholics think and how their religious worldview is vastly different from Protestants....
I would tell them about the most brilliant theological minds of all times being Catholic: Sts. Alexander, Anthony of the desert, Ambrose, Anselm, Augustine, Athanasius, Aquinas.. and those are just the A's! I would talk about the juxtaposition of the mystery and reason I find there, the beauty of the rituals that bring me always humbly to the foot of the cross, the strength and weakness, the unity...
The doctrines are why I am Catholic. But the more I study and believe their Biblically supported doctrines, passed down through the centuries which were given to the church by the Apostles,--I find that I see more and more Catholics who are quietly devoted to the Lord. I overlooked them before because they were not demanding my attention. They were invisibly serving the Lord and making visible things happen without need of recognition. And how exciting, wonderfully biblical, challenging and grace filled it all is. More than anything else, Catholicism is Christ--the all in all.