“So, Catholics are just like Christians, only they add stuff. Is that right?” I stared at my teenager. Was she joking?
Angela understood the concept of Christian unity; but she lost an important specific—Catholics are Christians. Her dad and I taught her this, but even the most diligent teaching gets derailed, if we’re not diligent to reinforce it.
I understand how she got confused. I hear the same anti-Catholic rhetoric that she does. From “it doesn’t take all that to please God,” to Catholicism as “the Pagan whore of Babylon,” and a “Godless theology of hate.” [From, “Should Christians Support Israel?”, John Hagee, 1987]
As far as Catholics adding things, I told my daughter, there are striking similarities between Catholic and Jewish traditions. The Catholic 40 days of Lent, for example, mirrors the Jewish 40 days of Teshuvah. Catholics say that their faith traditions were handed down directly from St. Peter, a Jewish disciple of Jesus. The similarity in traditions makes a good case for that.
Protestants say that Catholics add stuff. Catholics say that Protestants take away stuff. For all of our differences, however, we agree on one fundamental truth: Jesus is the Son of God.
The Bible says, “If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.” (1 John 4:15, NIV)
No matter how you slice it, that makes Catholics and Protestants brothers and sisters in faith.
“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (1 John 4:20-21, NIV)
After that incident with my daughter, I turn to the calendar to remind me to reinforce unity through education. We’re using the opportunity of the Lenten season to explore the rich heritage of our Christian faith, and the multitude of directions that God leads his children within that faith. Do you teach your children to embrace believers who follow traditions and practices that differ from your own? Or do you teach your kids to separate from them, because they are not real Christians? Or is it somewhere in between?