In this space last month we saw a few examples of who started some of our separated brethren’s churches. This was not an attempt to disparage any individuals in those denominations. In fact some of those denominations will exhibit an attitude and behavior which is more befitting a Christian than those in the one true Church. We must not reject all their actions out of hand. The Scripture tells us to “test everything; retain what is good.” (2Thes 5:21) If some other denomination has a better practice than we do, we should adopt it.
The Mormons, despite their loony theology, are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. They don’t have any annoying personal habits. They don’t touch alcohol or tobacco. They are devoted to their family, are always friendly, never loud or rude. Their young people are so clean-cut you want to let them in your house even though you know they peddle spiritual poison. Just imagine if all Catholics were as mild-mannered, cheerful and friendly. Just imagine if all our Catholic young people were willing to spend two years doing door-to-door missionary work. Our Churches would be packed with people who would just want to be around us.
The Amish may be an eccentric bunch (they don’t use electricity and still ride around in horse drawn buggies) but they are devout Christians. They reject modern appliances because they don’t want bad influences on their families. With the explosion of hard-core pornography on the Internet and the not much softer versions on television, there seems to be a wisdom there. They don’t want cars because it might lead them to the sin of pride. That may be considered extreme, but to paraphrase a quote about politics; moderation in avoiding sin is no virtue, extremism in defense of Jesus Christ and his Church is no vice.
Many Evangelical Protestants have fallen into the “I don’t like your Church so I’ll make my own and make myself Pope” trap. Even so, many of these congregations are really on fire for the Lord. They know the Bible inside and out and really use it as a guide for daily living. They have no qualms about sharing their faith with others. They seem to be truly joyful at the idea of bringing others to Christ. Why can’t we be like that?
The Quakers may interpret Scripture by the authority of their “inner light”, but they treat all men as brothers in the Lord. They were the only group to feed the starving Irish Catholics in the famine of 1849 with no strings attached. They still use “thee” and “thou” which, although not used in modern language, at one time were forms of address for a close friend or equal. That is the reason they call themselves “The society of Friends”. We as Catholics should be embarrassed that any other denomination has better examples of brotherhood and charity than we do.
Other denominations may follow the Lord imperfectly (the Mormons don’t even know His true natures) but they follow Him with zeal. Other denominations are considered weird and different by the more worldly.
We should be embarrassed that we are not considered strange too. If we are completely indiscernible from someone who, although law abiding, has never set foot in a church or cracked a Bible, then we are failures. We as Catholics should talk differently, act differently, dress differently, and think differently than the rest of the world. If we use the same worldly disparaging remarks about our neighbors; if we use the same rude gestures or fail to act meekly; if we dress our little girls in the same immodest shorts and lipstick; if our boys have the same show-off body-piercing and tye-dyed hair; if we think in the same terms of always coming out on top, rather than humbly thinking of others first; if we vote for the same pro-abortion politicians, then we are no different from the rest of the world.
We are not called to be different for difference’s sake. Our Lord knew that if we followed Him with our whole heart, nothing would be the same for us. Our call to follow Him will make us different from the rest of world. Other denominations who only know part of the truth have accepted this difference as a cost of discipleship. We who have access to the fullness of the truth should accept the challenge even more so.
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Published by The Minnesota St. Thomas More Chapter of Catholics United for the Faith, June 2001.