Over on Twitter, someone reposted the anti-Catholic rantings of a special type of evangelical. One who is convinced they know the full and real truth, are not hesitating to share it, and fully into judging others and the faith of others. Any disagreement gets the old “read the Bible” (you pagan bleep that is going to burn, burn, burn). It generally is useless to engage such ignorant bigotry, and just mute them. Why it is pointless is a bit long and complex for Twitter, so you get to suffer through it.
I hope that I am remembering all correctly, as some of the information goes back decades and the lightning strike sort of scrambled things a bit. For anyone new, I was hit by lightning, they think all my memories are still in there but the root directory is corrupted, and some things are jumbled up. I also need to note that I am not a theologian, just someone who has been interested in the origins and more of the Bible and scripture since a child. I would also note that I was born and raised a Methodist, left said church in high school after a preacher refused to visit my dying grandmother as she had no money to leave the church; joined the Episcopal Church; then wandered a bit spiritually; and am currently a lapsed Catholic for all that I try my best to maintain the faith. Part of the reason for the lapse is personal and none of anyone’s business (other than a priest), and part has to do with the current Pope. I’m actually working towards not being lapsed, but it is an ongoing process. I’ve done comparative religion studies in high school, when I earned the God and Country award, and in college. I’m a sinner who struggles every day to do right and live up to my faith.
Let’s start with the Bible. In fact, let’s go back quite a ways and look at the language of the Bible. Different parts were written at different times, but at the time of Christ everything had been put into Aramaic as it was the language of the learned in that region and time, and the New Testament was again written in Aramaic. From there, scripture was translated into Greek, which was the language of the learned in the larger world. Only later was it translated into Latin.
Now, based on conversations with someone who’s goal as a priest was to study those ancient writings and was learning both Greek and Aramaic, the fun part was translating the Greek. The Greek language, at least of that time, was contextual which means the words around the word you were translating determined what it meant. For example, one word could mean brother, step-brother, brother from another mother, band-of-brothers type brother, or I think one other type of relation. Get the context wrong, and you get a technically correct translation that isn’t accurate.
So, you have chances for error when translating from the original source into Aramaic. You have chances for error when translating from Aramaic into Greek. You have a boatload more chances translating from Greek into everything else, and even today you can get debate that devolves towards fist fight by those trying to do so today. Don’t laugh, read the real accounts of some of the early councils and the fact that several of the fathers of the Church did indeed get into fist fights over theological points. This was long before the schism between Catholicism and Orthodox, and well before Martin Luther came onto the scene.
Translating into English, no matter the source but Greek made for the most fun, was yet another chance for error. I seem to recall a tale of a deliberate error of translation to curry favor with King James when he had scholars produce what is now known as the King James bible. Hate to say it, but things like that can happen. Even updating the English text to current usage is potentially problematic. I still remember when a new modern version of the Bible came out (Living Bible?) that had some rather interesting updates. Think that’s the best way to put it. My personal take is the more modern and hip you go, the less likely it is to be accurate or even theologically sound.
Now, which version and in which language are your reading the Bible? I mean the Catholic Bible has the books still in it that Martin Luther threw out. Some sects of Christianity still include the Apocrypha that all mainstream Christianity leaves out. I will note that to better understand Catholic theology, you really need to read the books of the Bible that Martin Luther threw out. Within that, you still have a heap of different versions (NAB, New Standard, King James, etc.) and each has a slightly different take on things for all that the key point remains the same.
I should make clear that there are a number of new translations into various languages that are quite good. The key is, they all are translating from the Aramaic, and the scholars are cross-checking each other as they go. It’s a way to cut down on the mistakes, because we are human and mistakes are sort of what we do best.
So, when someone screams “Read the Bible” I know up front they are not a serious person and are not making a serious effort at discourse or conversion. Frankly, it’s a Christian version of virtue signalling. They are also missing several key points to Christianity in my opinion. Clearly they jumped over the whole place not limits on the Lord thy God, judge not, motes in eyes, and such. They seem to have missed that they are not God, and that God is not bound by their rules on what he can or can’t do, and how he can or can’t do things. They are being extremely legalistic, and are also denying Grace exists. Just as there is no Grace, no forgiveness in the SJW clique, there is no forgiveness or Grace in the this type of argument. There is no love in this approach either. It is not my place to judge others; however, it is a duty to help those struggling with love and compassion. It may seem that I am judging this person and those like them, but I see this more as a bit of tough love.
Because, the real key point they are missing is that we are all Christians, no matter what “flavor” of Christianity we choose. We disagree with each other on different points, but we all accept that Christ was born to die for our sins, and that his death on the cross purchased for us eternal life. I think it may have been Reverend Key, an outstanding Methodist preacher and theologian, who first pointed this out to myself and others. Then again, he was also (I think) the person who taught me about the Miracle of Transubstantiation, and how Catholics and others believe in it.
This argument also misses that God is Love, and that God is both omniscient and omnipotent. Which is a state we really can’t grasp all that well. So, we use scripture and the parables taught by Jesus, we use direct revelation (the Commandments), and the guidance God offers us everyday to get a very imperfect and limited grasp of both God and the rules by which we should live. It’s also why we have miracles, as God can and does take a very direct hand in our lives on occasion. I’m living proof of that as I should have died more than once in this life, including when I was hit by lightning a couple of years ago. There were several aspects of that which add up to a miracle, an every day miracle if you will, but still a miracle. So, no, God who sees all of time and space at once is not sitting on a throne watching and waiting to see any imperfection as a reason to cackle and smite — it’s people who do that.
For God is Grace and forgiveness, not picky legalistic gotchas. So much so, that he gave his only begotten son to die on the Cross for us.
I’m also reminded of something a priest said to my RCIA class. A wise or good priest will never tell you where they think the recently deceased is going, even if they have suspicions. For with even the worst sinner, we can’t know if God did reach out with a miracle to let them change their minds and accept Christ in that last second of life. Again, we are not God and he is not bound by our rules and understandings. Nor do I think that since I now have problems with remembering and saying a number of common prayers (stupid lightning) that such will send me to Sheol, aka Hell. Part of Love is Compassion, and not only do I think that God is far more compassionate than we realize, I think he is not going to hold our worldly infirmities against us.
I view the legalistic clique in much the way I regard prosperity gospel. Not highly. And, all of the above is why I think it is usually useless to engage those doing this type of virtue signal. Because it is about the virtue signal, and not conversion or theology.
As for some of the specific points that troubled the person on Twitter, I’d like to take a moment to address some of them. Especially as some of them were things that may have bothered me when I started the process to join the Church. Never mind that some of the ornate and such still can offend parts of my Methodist soul…
A lot of ignorance and bigotry focuses around Mary, the mother of Jesus. Those that hate her, or hate that she is highly regarded within the Catholic Church, appear to subscribe to what I call the Empty Vessel concept. In short, they see Mary as an empty vessel, a rent-a-womb if you will, who had no further role in Christianity than that. They deny her agency if you will. Instead of a 13-year-old girl who bravely agreed to carry the Son of God (think stoning and other things that could have happened to a pregnant female not yet married), and made a conscious informed choice to do so, they see her as an empty-headed piece of meat. As for future role, you might want to go back and re-read the Wedding. When she asks Jesus to perform the miracle of the wine, there is an exchange where he asks is she sure as she knows where it will lead. To the Cross. Depending on translation, her reply is along the lines of ‘it is time.’ She was there at the foot of the Cross as he suffered and died. Far from an empty vessel.
Bit of an aside, but relevant: The book of Luke is the only book that talks about the childhood of Jesus. There is reason to believe that the author interviewed Mary before her death. Reread that book, and think about the tales only a mother would tell. Puts a little different light on it.
Despite what many think, Catholics don’t worship Mary as God. One of the better explanations came from a priest who pointed out that a lot of it is like a child picking out the “good” parent when they’ve done something wrong. Keep in mind that for all his life, Jesus was a good Jewish boy who loved his mother and would do almost anything for her. As such, we turn to her for intercession, a form of ‘Mom, I screwed up and did something bad, would you help me with your Son’ type thing. We pray to God, but we also will ask Mary to help us do it right and get our request through. The theological points can get complex, but Mary, being born free of original sin and being the mother of Jesus, serves as an intermediary to humanity. Someone pointing the way to her Son. The Way, the Truth, and the Light.
It is much the same for the saints. Short form: all saints are in heaven, and we ask them to help us get our prayers right and to remind us of what they did so we can do the same. They provide an extra voice for our prayers if you will, and can act as an advocate for us before the Throne.
As for Jesus having brothers, you might want to go back up near the top and the discussion of Greek. You might also want to consider that Jesus may have had stepbrothers as Mary might not have been the first wife of Joseph, who was much older than her. Catholic theology holds that she was chaste throughout her life. There’s not a lot in scripture about Joseph, including his history or even when he died. Food for thought.
As a final note, if you are so inclined, please say a prayer for that person on Twitter and all like her. In fact, say it for all of us, that we all open our eyes to God and his love, and that we hear, see, and feel his guidance and love for us. That we have love and patience with one another, and lead others to Faith by our actions.
Final aside: I rarely pray for specific outcomes on anything, especially myself. I’ve found over the years that I’m far better off leaving outcomes to God, as those tend to be far better than what I would have prayed for. Things are always better if we leave them in God’s hands.
Getting hit by lightning is not fun! If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, which include moving once we have medical issues cleared up, feel free to hit the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo, use the options in the Tip Jar in the upper right, or drop me a line to discuss other methods. It is thanks to your gifts and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.