Tuesday, June 12, 2007

For My Protestant Brothers and Sisters

I would love to hear your thoughts on this short post by Fr Longenecker.

I think he's largely right, frankly. Some of my own push back has to do with the reason for the Evangelical Protestant to go, and the idea - I have forgotten where I recently read this - that when such missions are undertaken, we are the ones being evangelized - we are "evangelized by the poor."


truevyne said...

Dear Scott,
I responded on his blog. Just 'tween you and I, could it be that he lost his charitable assumption somewhere in that post? Maybe it's there, and I couldn't see it.

Scott Lyons said...

Thanks for responding, True. I was initially responding to his basic problem with the idea of Protestant missionaries trying to convert Catholics because they believe that Catholics are not saved. But I understand exactly what you're saying. And I agree.

There is something beautiful about missions - regardless. And there is something, even - no matter how misguided I see it, no matter how offensive it is to me personally - for Prots who believe I am hellbound as a Catholic to try to proselytize me. (Though I'll simply be frustrated and saddened by the encounter - and the beauty of it varnishes quickly depending on the love or loathing found in the missionary.)

Most short-term trips are spent in activities like building a church, digging a well, or providing medicine. And while they might support full-time missionaries in the area who do proselytize Catholics, I can't imagine much of that happens on these trips.

Ideally, I'd love for a Protestant Christian to encourage a Catholic to be Christian and Catholic. But we simply don't live in that world.

My brother and his family are about to head down to the Dominican Republic where he has gone the past several summers. I don't think what he does there is wrong - I don't think this action is wrong. I think if he were to attempt to undermine the Catholics' faith simply because they were Catholic, we'd have a problem. And just because a country is "Catholic" does not mean it doesn't need evangelizing. Indeed, the Church herself has said that we must begin our evangelization within the Church herself.

I've been reading Fr Longenecker's blog for some time and respect him deeply. He's a convert to Catholicism. I think for us converts/reverts, sometimes it's easy to become frustrated, to a fault, with what used to be what we were about. Not that we are not grateful for our heritage, but that we are hurt by those still within it once we "leave" it.

If that makes sense?

Not an excuse, just an observation. Lord Jesus have mercy on us sinners.

reid said...


I can understand the frustration, even anger, at someone else believing that "my kind" (whatever church or denomination that may be) needed to be evangelized. There was a time when I was ignorant of the Catholic church and would have even gone so far as many of my protestant brothers, placing the doctrines of the Catholic church outside the pail of Christianity. I'm not saying that currently I'm well versed in Catholicism, but I know more now than before. But apart from my friendship with you, I don't know that I would have made any progress. Just goes to show the importance and power of relationships.

However, aside from the Catholic church, I think there is an assumption by many in the evangelical-protestant world that the traditional or mainline denominations have gone off the rails and need to be evangelized. After all, how in the world could someone in a traditional church/denomination that ordains and marries homosexuals, and baptizes infants be a real Christian?

truevyne said...

Dear Scott,
You know that it's not that I don't have a clue about p.e.'s believing Catholics to be hellbound. It irks me to no end, and I find myself defending my brothers and sisters in Christ across many denominations. I think the denomination I came out of is worstof all towards Catholics. I wish we lived in the world you described too where we all encourage one another to become what Our Father made us to be. I think I'll read more of Fr. Longenecker's blog. Chances are very high that I'll enjoy it. In a way, I'm glad he brought up the subject.
I REALLY struggle with the evangelism and methods of teaching children in my own p.e. churches. I sincerely pray p.e.'s would open themselves up to the Catholic ways with children I've grown to love.

Dan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott Lyons said...


Of course that assumption needs to be challenged. But not because ordaining and marrying homosexuals isn't wrong - it is. But it needs to be challenged because Evangelicals make every little issue into a kingdom-of-God admissions exam. Every disagreement should not be considered a difference that might consign another to hell. If the issue is a rejection of God or of His revelation, then we drop to our knees and pray for mercy for ourselves and for our brother or sister.

In other words, if motivated out of love, I don't have a problem with disagreements between an Evangelical and a Catholic (e.g., infant baptism). I have my share. My problem has to do with the Protestant mindset, which makes every disagreement into an issue of salvation rather than an issue of catechesis (education).

When Catholics look at Evangelicals they see brothers and sisters in Christ who they long to have experience the fullness of the faith. When Evangelicals look at Catholics they see cultists and apostates who need to be introduced to Christ.

(And forgive my great big generalization - I know it isn't true across the board, but it is true of many Evangelicals I know.)

Anyway, that is one of the big problems as I see it. It is not a problem of "Who's right?" so much as it is a problem of our differing views of what it means to be wrong.

Scott Lyons said...


Of course, there is much that Catholics can learn from Evangelicals as well. Such was one of the teachings that arose out of Vatican II.

reid said...


Please forgive my comment, "After all, how in the world could someone in a traditional church/denomination that ordains and marries homosexuals, and baptizes infants be a real Christian?" It was meant sarcastically. That was just silly.

Since we are making generalizations (e.g., "And forgive my great big generalization") I think that in many cases of disagreement between believers, be they Catholics and evangelicals or just two Presbyterians, the motivation is to be right. If I'm right then being right strokes my pride. So I see the issue of dealing with differences as foremost an issue of humility. Without it, we lack any hope of moving in the right direction. This is true for the non-Catholic and Catholic as well.

reid said...

I'm trying to quit - quit generalizing that is. For me generalizing is code for "This is what I'm like!"

Scott Lyons said...


I knew the comment was sarcastic, but I felt I needed to address it nonetheless. I hope I didn't mangle the issue too badly. And, Hey! I'm all for stereotypes and generalizations. : )

So I agree with you - in a conversation humility must be embraced lest we become more concerned about who wins, or who's right. I'm not saying that's not a problem. It can be huge. But I still don't see it as the major problem here. (Certainly we care about being right, but that concern doesn't have to have anything to do with pride, but simply with a desire to be faithful. We certainly don't want to be wrong!)

What's at issue, I believe, in this conversation begun by Fr. Longenecker, however, is not so much about Who's Right? (whether the Catholic in Latin America or the Evangelical there evangelizing him) but about what it means to be wrong. In other words, a Catholic does not see an Evangelical as hellbound even though he thinks him wrong (concerning the sacraments, for example). But most Evangelicals will think a Catholic both wrong and hellbound.

That's what I think the problem is here. Now, it may bring up the issue of pride - my feelings are hurt that my brother thinks I'm not his brother. But some of us are beyond that offending our pride. Not me, but some. : )

(I think that's the frustration that Fr. Longenecker is venting - that Catholics are presumed guilty. That's not to say that we don't think the Evangelical is wrong about a great many things, but we don't view it as it being a "wrong" that will require of him his soul.)

Perhaps, in response to the Evangelical's implication/evangelization, a godly Catholic would simply say that the Evangelical may be correct and spend several hours in prayer for mercy for his own soul before the Blessed Sacrament. : ) Unfortunately, I am neither that humble nor that faithful. Nor willing to drag three small children into church by myself for prayer.

So perhaps the question goes back to your initial observation: How do we change the Evangelical world's conception of Catholics? It will only happen through Catholics showing the love of Christ, Christ more perfectly formed in us - or us, more perfectly united to Him (however you want to view it). But even that won't be enough for most (see Mother Teresa).

(That parenthesis is my own sarcasm.)

Talk to me, brother.

reid said...

I think I’m beginning to see what you mean by “wrong.” I didn’t get it the first time. But, lest I presume too much, let me restate what I hear you saying. What I hear is that we shouldn’t turn wrong into WRONG; wrong being a difference we can live with as brothers versus WRONG being something that, by definition, keeps us from being brothers. Is that it?

So perhaps the question goes back to your initial observation: How do we change the Evangelical world's conception of Catholics?

I don't think it's your job or responsibility to change anyone, just to love them!

Scott Lyons said...

Yes, Reid, that's what I mean.

And you're right, it isn't my job to change anyone's view of Catholics, but to love and pray for those who view us as enemies to the faith.

But it does break my heart.