Friday, June 20, 2014

On Evangelicals Who Become Catholic

Clearly Evangelicalism and Catholicism is a theme of this blog (and my life). I stumbled upon a new article this morning and couldn't help passing it on. In this article, "I hated the Idea of Becoming Catholic", a Southern Baptist seminarian describes why he suddenly decided to become Catholic. He did so about a year after I became Catholic. I never really operated fully within the Southern Baptist "world", but think I had and have some sense of it. (In my amateur attempt to understand and explain it, the various spheres within evangelicalism all flow into and intermesh with other spheres but not every sphere overlaps with every other one. I was sometimes in spheres that overlapped with various Southern Baptist spheres.)

I guess I want to comment on this guy's story because it showcases a trend that I would like to think I am part of. As I've noted before, Catholics in the USA are still more likely to become Evangelical Protestants than vice versa. But there is a paradigm in which serious and committed Evangelical Protestants become Catholic because they see this as a natural and necessary development or outflow of the commitments they have already made.

Related to this story is this open letter to evangelicals written by Brantley Millegan, who had just started blogging about becoming Catholic right around when I was deciding I also needed to move in that direction. You can read more about Brantley's conversion story here.  I couldn't agree with his letter more, and would encourage everyone to read it. In short, it says: "we need you!"

In my view, Catholics have moved between two extremes in how they interact with Protestants. One more traditional view might be termed "triumphalist". In it, the glories of the Catholic Church are showcased together with condescension or disdain for everything else. The other extreme might be termed "indifferentism".  This relativistic approach thrives most when Catholics no longer retain a living faith. In indifferentism the religious truth claims of all Christians, and all people, in general are treated as if their truth or falsehood did not matter at all under the presumption that this allows us to all get along together. There is certainly nothing wrong with getting along together, but it is hard to sincerely hold this position for long if you really believe that religious truths are...true.

Brantley's letter shows an approach that avoids both of these pitfalls. In it, he writes as a Catholic who can affirm our Church's teachings with complete sincerity. At the same time, the emphasis is on humility, and on what Evangelical Protestants have to contribute to the upbuilding of the Church. The nature of the Church did not change in the 16th century, but the Catholic Church has been missing something ever since then. A triumphalist never admits that division causes pain and insists that the Church is as strong as ever even after amputation. (I think of Monty Python and "tis only a flesh wound!"). Stretching that analogy, an indifferentist would politely smile and nod at the suggestion that perhaps the brain or heart of Christ's body could better function as a foot and vice versa.

The Spirit has allowed many charisms and gifts to find expression, even outside the full, visible unity of the Catholic Church. I sincerely believe, though, that all of these incredible gifts would function most efficaciously if they could all be expressed within the full, visible unity of the Catholic Church, with its Sacraments, its links back to the apostles, and its bonds of love, communion, and visible cooperation throughout the world. Perhaps more than anything, evangelicals may not realize how life-giving it can be to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.

Anyways, I encourage anyone interested to read the Open Letter to Evangelicals. Peace.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Update: Electricity, Internet, Kindles, etc.

Internet Paradox

Back before Easter we finally had an internet system installed here at St. Fidelis. One would think that that would result in more blog posts, but it clearly has not. Before I usually could only use the internet on Tuesdays when I went into town. I would therefore sometimes plan on posting something then and would feel pressured to finish writing something on Monday night. Now I can post anytime, so I can write anytime, so I don’t write.


One of my college friends, Taylor, came here shortly after Easter. It was great. We visited a nearby island that I had never been to, and I enjoyed showing him around some of the nearby places here in Madang. As I'm never too good about taking pictures, interested people can be directed to some of Taylor's pictures of the trip here


One bonus to Taylor’s visit was that he could carry over a kindle that I ordered on behalf of Fr. Marceliano, one of our Filipino priests. Right now Amazon basically owes me a commission as a salesman, because Fr. Marceliano is very enthusiastic about his kindle and refers to me as “the expert” when explaining it to others. Needless to say, there are few bookstores here, so it’s a big deal when serious readers discover that there is such a thing as an e-book and that they could theoretically start reading any one of tens of thousands (millions?) of books within a matter of minutes.

This isn’t to say that I don’t share everyone’s love of paper books. It is just sometimes incredibly nice to have an alternative to paying exorbitant international shipping rates to read something you’ve suddenly become interested in.


About five weeks ago there was a landslide in the highlands that cut this province off from the hydro-power dam that provides most of our electricity. It then became the norm to receive power for only about 4-6 hours a day. This did not mean that we were without power that whole time, because we do have our own backup generator. However, to conserve fuel, we do not leave it on all the time and there were significant gaps. For one week some other staff were gone and I was in charge of switching everything from grid power to the generator and back again.  I am now glad that we are back to the norm of having grid power for most of the day on most days.


It is probably fairly normal for college students to change rooms every year or so, and before coming here I had been a college student for about six years in a row. Despite this, it still somehow strikes me as significant that the last time I had lived in the same room, sleeping in the same bed, for this many months in a row was when I was in high school.