My Parents’ Bizarre Response to the Child Molestation Accusations in the Catholic Church

church withmaninpewYou may recall from previous posts that my dad used to be the youth minister at my family’s church. He was great at it–way better than the youth minister who took over for him. I know because I used to visit during the retreats he ran, and they were awesome! Their itinerary was filled with fun and games and positive affirmations. But when I was in middle school, before I was old enough to join youth group, my dad stopped running youth ministry at our parish. I’ve always wondered why.

I assumed it was from lack of time. My dad, like me, tends to get involved in too many things. He works full time, he teaches religious education, he’s a lector and a Eucharistic minister at church, he’s involved in the men’s retreat group there too, and he even finds time to do volunteering every once in a while. I figured youth group was just one activity too many. So at the end of year picnic when I was in 7th grade, the youth group bade my dad farewell, and today, many years later, my dad told me why he left:

“There were too many youth ministers getting accused of bad things, and the church was getting sued and good people were losing their money. I didn’t want to risk that.”

I nearly flipped my shit. It doesn’t take much guessing to infer what he meant by “bad things.” There have been many accusations of child molestation in churches, particularly Catholic ones. Usually it’s priests who get accused, but youth ministers have had their fair share of accusations. I asked if that was what he meant, and he said yes, adding, “People want to get money from priests and youth ministers. They’re accusing good priests for the money.” This was followed by a rant about our sue-happy society and how that’s apparently affecting the church.

A priest my dad knew was once accused. He has since passed away. My dad always insisted the accusation was false–but I’ve always wondered. (To my knowledge, he was not convicted.) It’s hard to know what people do behind closed doors. Even if he is innocent, that’s only one person–not exactly a large sample of the population of accused. Yet my dad honestly thinks that the vast majority of the accusations are false.

While the number of false rape accusations nationwide is not a knowable number right now–we simply do not have the data to give a number with confidence–because of how under reported rape is as a crime in general, I have a hard time believing that the majority of accusations are false. In fact, while the percentage of false accusations is not knowable, the data we do have seems to suggest a low number, which is logical considering how rape victims are treated in this country.

It’s definitely not a situation fraught with wanted attention for a false accuser. Bringing a rape accusation to this criminal justice system involves a lot of questioning, some testing to put together a “rape kit” if the rape was recent enough, and a high possibility that there won’t be enough evidence to even have a trial of the accused. Rape victims are generally not believed, and even face a great deal of scrutiny regarding details that have nothing to do with whether or not a rape occurred. Questions like “What were you wearing?” and “Have you two had sex before?” plague rape victims to this day. Many victims, like in the case of Bill Cosby, are so worried about not being believed that they don’t come forward for YEARS, allowing the statute of limitation to expire, and making it impossible for the accused to be tried for the crime.

This is not to say that the innocent-until-proven-guilty model doesn’t apply to rape. It does, and should. It’s constitutional that everyone deserves a fair trial. With that being said, my dad was talking about child molestation–a situation in which, by definition, the younger party cannot give consent. When my dad suggests that the majority of church child molestation charges are false, I get very defensive, because we’re usually not talking about sue happy adults here, we’re talking about children. There have been many, many accused who have been convicted, often of serial rape, and who were moved from one parish to another by superiors who knew what was going on but decided letting more children get raped was worth it to keep another precious priest from being defrocked and arrested.

Something that I don’t see covered much in stories about this widespread child abuse and their cover ups is that the church has an incentive for moving child molesting priests around instead of punishing them. There’s a severe shortage of Catholic priests right now, which has been worsening for as long as I can remember. There simply aren’t many new priests coming in, and the old ones are dying, retiring, or leaving the faith.

My generation is possibly the least religious one in all of American history, and it’s part of a continuing trend of decreasing religiosity. Throughout my childhood, I was told to “pray for vocations” and young boys were encouraged to consider priesthood. Yet one could quickly see that for most children, unmarried life was not appealing. They didn’t even know about sex, and they still didn’t want to be unmarried. I for one always viewed priesthood and religious life–whether of a cloistered nun or even an non-cloistered sister– as lonely and unnecessarily strict. I wanted more freedom than religious vows allow. More than that though, I wanted to get married. I think Catholic boys, even religious ones, often do too. It’s part of the American dream, after all.

So when the church realizes it can’t get new priests easily, it clings desperately to its old ones. Even, sadly, to the disgusting child rapist monsters the faith organization has been protecting.

I love my parents. I sincerely hope that this delusion my father has about the rape accusations being mostly false is isolated to him. Unfortunately however, I’ve never seen any indication that that is the case. As long as the church maintains this idea, it will keep on protecting the accused from investigation, clinging to its priests instead of protecting children and youths. If you’re Catholic and you’re reading this, I implore you to keep your eyes open. Your parish priests may be perfectly wonderful people, your youth ministers the epitome of piety, and I hope that’s the case. But if you find out that that is not the case, don’t alert the pastor, or the bishop. Go to the police immediately, because as we’ve seen in recent years, the church authorities can’t be trusted to take this problem seriously.

As always, feel free to leave a comment. If you want to defend the church or argue against its actions, go ahead. Just be respectful to other people and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking

-Nancy

College Objects to Birth Control, Cancels Student Insurance Plan

Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In a previous post, I’ve discussed some of the issues that can occur when religiously affiliated colleges do too much to control the decisions of their adult students, often in an effort to prevent them from having any opportunities for premarital sex. When one combines that type of attitude with the Hobby Lobby ruling, all sorts of ridiculous things start to happen. Take what Wheaton College decided to do this summer for example: it’s no longer providing a student healthcare plan to students who need one because the school’s administrators object to providing contraceptives to students. You can check out a full article about it here, but here are some quotes.

Wheaton College has considered nixing student healthcare plans ever since last summer’s Hobby Lobby decision, which allowed religiously affiliated organizations to opt of out providing contraception through employee health care programs on grounds of faith-based objections.

It’s unsurprising that they used the Hobby Lobby decision as a way to do this, and it’s very upsetting. A lack of healthcare is definitely not better than healthcare that includes practices you don’t agree with. This is the same kind of thinking that led to the movement to defund Planned Parenthood: “We disagree with one thing they do, so let’s prevent them from doing everything else, the majority of which we do not even object to.”

What’s worse about this is that thanks to Obamacare, (the Affordable Care Act), the school did not even have to directly provide contraceptives. The article explains:

…it’s possible for the college to allow the insurer to take on the responsibility of students’ contraception, as part of an Obamacare provision.

“Really, all they have to do is fill out a form and send it to the federal government, saying they have this objection. Then, the insurance company will cover the cost of contraception,” Amiri explained during a phone call with Refinery29 this afternoon. Wheaton has declined to follow that channel.

The argument I’ve heard from conservatives about why they often refuse to fill out this form is that they see doing so as the same thing as signing a document allowing the person to receive contraception. I will give them that to an extent: that form does allow the person to receive contraception. However, the point of the document is to prevent the objector from having to provide it through his or her business, not to prevent the person seeking contraceptives from accessing them at all.

The position of the Obama administration, which I agree with in this case, is that a business owner objecting to providing contraception should not make it impossible for the employee (or in this case, the student enrolled in that plan) to acquire contraception.

To apply this to abortions, which is really what most people who object to contraception have a problem with anyway, this means that just because you object to abortions, (and your taxes don’t pay for them, by the way) doesn’t mean that no one should be able to have that procedure covered by their insurance. It just won’t come from the pockets of objectors.

For crying out loud, this isn’t rocket science. The government is actively trying to accommodate everyone by providing this opt-out option, and these conservative organizations are saying they’re violating their religion if they allow the people on their health plans to access contraceptives at all. They really aren’t satisfied unless reproductive healthcare is made unattainable, and they’re using accusations of religious discrimination and persecution to achieve that.

I want to give a big thank you to my fiance for telling me about the news that was the topic of this post. He’s been extremely supportive since I started blogging, and that means the world to me.

As always, feel free to leave comments. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful to other people and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

John Oliver on Sex Ed

John Oliver covers the sex ed situation in the US fantastically. Our youth deserve better.

“There is no way we’d allow any other academic program to consistently fail to prepare students for life after school. Human sexuality, unlike calculus, is something you actually need to know about for the rest of your life.”

Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

Breaking Engagement Traditions

Image courtesy of Graeme Weatherston at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Graeme Weatherston at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

When we got engaged, my fiance and I skipped some traditions. In this post, I’ll go over what we skipped and why.

First of all, my engagement ring is not a diamond. I believe the stone is aquamarine but I’m not positive. It’s light blue. (I’m the weirdest girl ever. I couldn’t be bothered to remember a thing about jewelry.)

I love it, and I’m actually relieved my fiance didn’t waste a fortune getting me a diamond, because not only do I know and understand that diamond engagement rings are way overpriced, I also think it’s ridiculous to spend a fortune on a one-time purchase that isn’t a necessary item. My mother refused to even be given an engagement ring at all, and I was really happy to learn that about her.

As requested, here’s a picture of my engagement ring:

engagement ring

For more on why diamond engagement rings are a scam (and really just the result of what was perhaps the most successful ad campaign ever) check out this video from CollegeHumor:

Engagement rings are a minor tradition as far as I’m concerned though, and we didn’t really skip it, just alter it. The big deal tradition that we skipped–the one my dad gave us some crap over–was asking the father’s permission.

My fiance and I had talked about getting married long before he asked me to marry him. It was something we both wanted to do, and we both felt this relationship would eventually be ready for that big step. We also feel that the decision to get married is completely up to the two of us–the members of the couple–and not our parents’ decision. So the question about whether or not my father’s permission needed to be obtained was not about whether nor not we could get married, but rather about whether or not skipping that tradition would offend my father. In the process of that discussion, I did something that offended my father even though it shouldn’t: I asked my fiance not to ask his permission. Because seriously, if what he says doesn’t really matter, why go through the motions of asking?

The way I see it, that tradition isn’t a matter of respect. It’s the remnant of a patriarchal culture in which women were the property of their fathers until they were married, when they became the property of their husbands. I’m not anyone’s property. I’m a person. So I said no; don’t ask him. We toyed with the idea of telling him ahead of time somehow, while simultaneously letting him know that we didn’t want permission. The idea reminded me a bit of this scene in Fiddler on the Roof, in which Perchik and Hodel (the couple) ask Tevye (the father) for his blessing on their engagement rather than his permission.

Spoiler: Tevye doesn’t take this well at first, but eventually agrees. In a half-baked attempt to take back his role as the patriarch, he says, “I’ve decided to give you my blessing AND my permission.”

But why go through that trouble at all for a silly tradition? Why partake in it? Why continue the patriarchal nonsense?

So we didn’t ask him. And when we went to my house to announce our engagement, my parents were shocked. My father, dumbfounded, started rattling off all the things he had done before proposing to my mother:  making sure he could provide for her financially, asking her father’s permission, etc. I had to remind him that my generation is coming of age in the worst economic times since the great depression, and that a lack of financial autonomy (and massive student loan debt) is the reality for the majority of us (average student loan debt is currently $30,000). If we waited until we were as financially stable as my parents were when they got engaged, we’d be well into our thirties. Then I explained my beef with the permission tradition. He never gave me any inkling that he understood, or that he respected our decision.

Which didn’t surprise me. My relationship with my father is rocky at best. He had an outburst today that nearly lead to a post, but I’m trying to give things time before posting about them–which is why I’m writing about this now, months after it happened. I don’t want to say mean spirited things because I’m angry.

What do you think about the engagement tradition of asking the father’s permission, or any other wedding or engagement tradition for that matter? Did any of you break traditions when you became engaged or got married? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful to other people and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

Advice to Parents Homeschooling in High School (from a Homeschooling Alumna)

I recently graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree. I’m still looking for work, but as far as homeschooling goes, on the surface I’m a success. I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately from parents who have recently decided to homeschool their kids during high school, and I want to reach out to those parents about this since I was homeschooled for most of my education, and I wish my mom had known some of these things when she homeschooled me. In earlier childhood years, homeschooling is much simpler. Here are a few things to know if you’re homeschooling for high school:

1) Keep records of EVERYTHING. 

HSLDA agrees with me on this (scroll down to the section on Record Keeping). There will come a time when you will need to prove that your child received an education. Down the road, your child will be looking for employment, or applying to college, or even just getting a driver’s license for the first time. Guess what? A high school diploma or official transcript counts as a form of ID when you go to the DMV. Regardless of whether you’re getting a real diploma or printing one out, save every essay, every quiz, and every test. Keep it all organized by subject. Keep track of what curriculum you used for each, and what textbooks you used.

Here’s where HSLDA and I disagree. I strongly believe that if you print out a diploma on your computer, you run the risk of the DMV telling you it doesn’t count. You run the risk of an employer questioning whether or not you received an education. When you apply to a college, you will have to provide high school transcripts, and in the competitive world we live in, when it comes to college applications, you’re going to be hard pressed to convince admissions councilors that your mom didn’t just give you straight A’s to be nice if you don’t have proof that you actually did school work.

I still have the records from my high school career. As I’ve said in previous posts, I used a school called NARHS, which is a school in Maine that allows homeschoolers to follow the requirements in the state of Maine, submit documentation each year to the school, and receive annual transcripts, and a diploma after they complete all the requirements. I highly recommend that parents consider NARHS or a similar program. It still allowed my mother a lot of freedom to choose what books/curriculum she used, and I’ve never had anyone question whether or not my diploma was valid. Furthermore, NARHS’ transcripts allowed me to apply to colleges with relative ease.

The only issue I had was when one college told me they wanted quarterly transcripts, which NARHS did not give (at least at the time. This was five years ago.) because they only reviewed academic work annually, not quarterly. The college refused to speak to me or my mom about this, and only relented when a representative from NARHS talked to them.

Most homeschoolers, as HSLDA notes on their website, do not go through a school, and have no such representative to speak for them. As you can see, even with an official transcript and diploma, I had a homeschooling related issue when it came to applying for college.

I can’t even imagine what that process would have been like without going through NARHS. Many application processes still aren’t homeschool friendly–and I applied to colleges five years ago, when homeschooling wasn’t exactly a new phenomenon. The Common App, for example, asked me for the name of my guidance councilor. What homeschooler has a guidance councilor? I put in the name of my NARHS contact person, but I’m told that most homeschoolers put in the name of a parent. (On a paper form this wouldn’t be a problem, but online forms like the Common App often do not let you proceed if you skip a question or give an answer it considers invalid).

2) You need to be open to the idea of not teaching your child every subject yourself. 

If you are homeschooling by yourself, in all likelihood, you will not be capable of teaching your student every subject. Maybe you’re inclined toward science and the humanities escape you, or vice versa (In my experience, it was usually the other way around.) Whatever the subject, we all have that one area we hated in high school because we sucked at it. When you were homeschooling for elementary and middle school grades, a quick reading of a textbook chapter might refresh your memory enough to explain a concept, but by high school, the concepts are much more difficult to grasp, and you probably haven’t thought about them in a long time. Please, don’t let your inability to grasp (or remember) something slow down your child. Here are some options to consider in order to give your student a strong home education in the subjects you cannot tackle adequately:

1 – Get a tutor. Have someone else come in regularly to teach whatever that subject is for you.

2 – Look into homeschooling co-ops in your area. You may be able to find a group with a parent who majored in music to teach music classes, or a parent who is a chemist to teach chemistry.

3 – Especially in his or her junior and senior years, community colleges are a wonderful option. My mom signed me up for a basic chemistry course at the community college, and that helped knock out a lab requirement. It’s a bit like taking AP courses because it can allow you to graduate from high school with some college credit. In fact, it’s somewhat easier than AP classes because there’s no special AP test to study for, just the regular testing and assignments that go with the course. I transferred 9 college credits into my four year college, which put me in the same place as a lot of students who took AP courses in high school.

I especially recommend numbers 2 and 3 for science lab courses. A few of those are generally required if you want to get into college. I can tell you from experience that lab courses are very difficult to do successfully from home.

3) KEEP YOUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT.

Is it more important that your student receives a good education, or that you control every aspect of that education? Every student has different needs. Homeschooling is not the best form of school for every student in every situation any more than public school is. Don’t get me wrong. I think homeschooling can be a great opportunity, and an excellent form of education. However, it doesn’t work for every student, or even continuously for every student. My mom did a lot of things right when she homeschooled me in high school, but she also did a lot of things wrong.

By the time she pulled me out of Catholic high school to homeschool me, something had changed. I was no longer of an age where homeschooling suited my personality or learning style. Even though I was inundated with copious amounts of homework in 9th grade, and the administration of my school was terrible, something new was happening–I was learning rapidly.

At home, my mother barely supervised me, and the result was that I only learned in subjects I had a particular interest in, which meant I wasn’t very well rounded academically. I was an excellent reader and writer, but I would pick what aspects of school interested me, and study only them. Without supervision, when I was told to study ancient Greece, I read the entire book of Greek myths my mother bought for me, but completely ignored any history text that explained actual historical events. As far as I was concerned, Zeus’ many extramarital affairs were far more interesting than actual history. I now understand why skipping the subjects I didn’t like was bad. When I got to college, there were enormous gaps in my knowledge because that was how my education had continued for years. When I had absolutely no choice but to do my least favorite school work, I looked for the answer keys my mom kept so that I could get it all done (in other words, cheat) quickly and go back to the subjects I enjoyed.

4) Be as picky as possible about your textbooks. Nope, pickier than that. No, no, even pickier.

Many homeschooling families are religious, and that’s completely fine. However, regardless of your religious background, you need to be aware that the vast majority of the popular homeschooling texts out there are written with a particular religious worldview in mind, sometimes (too frequently) with absolutely no regard for facts. Over the years I used all kinds of textbooks in every subject–books written by Mennonites, Evangelical Christians, and Catholics. Many of the things I read turned out to be partially or completely wrong. I had a health book that used an outdated food pyramid, told me women are not allowed to have short hair, and completely skipped over sex ed. You might belong to one of those above groups or none of them, but what ultimately matters is that the information you’re teaching your child is as accurate as possible. While it’s nearly impossible to completely avoid biased writing, if you can find a secular (that doesn’t mean anti-religious. It means neutral. It means not religious) text for as many subjects as possible (except religion if you’re teaching that. Use whatever you want for religion), especially for science, history, and health, please do it.

Also, find a health text that teaches comprehensive sex ed. How you discuss these subjects with your child is your decision, but there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Make sure what you’re teaching is as accurate as possible. I didn’t fully understand the concept of consent until I was in college, which was too late because it was after I had been sexually assaulted (I was in high school when that happened, and it was by another sheltered homeschooler.) There were other hideous gaps in my knowledge that I’m still filling–and I’m a college graduate.

Your children deserve the best education that they can get. It’s up to you if you  homeschool. Good luck.

Anyone have any other advice they’d add? Any questions? Anything here you disagree with? All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before commenting.

-Nancy

The Trouble with “Original Sin”

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the many things a person raised in Christianity–especially Catholicism–may accept without a second thought is the concept of original sin. You likely know what that is: the sin of Adam and Eve, when they allegedly disobeyed God and got thrown out of the garden of Eden. Supposedly, they ate some fruit God said not to eat; it allowed them to know right from wrong, and suddenly they couldn’t live in the garden anymore. That was their punishment. That, and also every human being from that point on would be considered a sinner, stained with the sin of the first humans, until he or she is baptized. If you’re curious about the way Catholics describe the concept, you can read about it here. (They call original sin a “contracted sin,” which makes it sound like an STI.)

Here are a few major problems with Original Sin:

1) It involves punishing people for the mistakes of their great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-etc. grandparents.

In any other context, this would not be considered OK. There have been some pretty awful people in this world, but it’s generally understood that the only person who can be held accountable for a crime is the person who committed it, not someone who happened to be born long after it occurred with some relation to the criminal. If Hitler were known to have children, or grandchildren, or great grandchildren, they would not be responsible for what he did. They would only be responsible for their own behavior. This is how civilized society works.

2) It means that babies–who probably have never done anything worse than kick their mothers in utero at this point–are born with sin.

They’re too young to even understand the concept of sin, so calling them sinners makes no sense, especially since even Catholicism also considers 7-years-old, not birth, the point at which a child is responsible for his or her behavior. (This is called the “age of reason.”) Except, of course, their great-great-great etc. ancestor’s behavior. That’s the baby’s fault.

3) The Adam and Eve Story is so ridiculous that many Christians, Catholics included, do not take it literally.

I mean, it has magic trees, a talking snake, and a human being being made out of another human’s rib (seriously, that’s not enough material.) It’s not exactly the most plausible story in the Bible.

My dad, who is one of the most devout Catholics I’ve ever met, once told me that Adam and Eve isn’t necessarily the literal story of creation as it happened, but rather something more like a parable that’s meant to teach a lesson.

(What lesson? That knowledge of good and evil is a bad thing? That God goes a little overboard with his punishments?)

My religious education (CCD) teacher told me something similar, and another Catholic-raised atheist, actress Julia Sweeny, was taught to think of Adam and Eve as “a poem on creation.” (I think I’ve linked to it before, but it’s so good it’s worth linking to again. You can check out her deconversion story here.)

Which begs the question, how could it not be a literal story if it results in religious doctrine? Either it provides a valid explanation for the doctrine because it’s true, or it doesn’t and it’s not. This is not a pick-two situation.

What are your thoughts on this? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

My Business Card Purity Pledge

Since coming home I’ve spent a lot of time cleaning my bedroom and getting rid of old items I don’t use or need. Some of the many things I’m having trouble getting rid of (even though they’re thoroughly embarrassing) are my diaries from when I was in middle and high school. I wrote in them sporadically, usually about boys, and I’m not entirely sure how my fiancé would feel picking up and reading the diary I filled with entries about my high school crush who never liked me back. As cliché and whiny as these diaries are, I did find one hidden gem:  a purity pledge I made between my junior and senior years of high school. I had tucked it between random pages of the diary, probably because I had no idea where to store it. Here it is:

Front

Front

Back

Back

I’m not 100% positive, but I believe I got this card at the Steubenville conference I attended that summer. The date that I signed is right around when I went, either during or right after the event. The best part? This supposedly binding promise to myself is on a business card. Someone went through the trouble of designing business-card-sized purity pledges that could be passed out like the much more-effective condoms of actual sex educators.

Despite the brevity of this particular purity pledge, I do have something to complain about when it comes to its contents. Ignoring the fact that it’s clearly meant to be a promise to myself AND God, whom I no longer believe in, there’s one particular sentence that doesn’t sit well with me:

“As a daughter of the King, I pledge now to live my life in a way that will guard my dignity, my purity, and my beauty…”

In a promise that’s generally understood to mean “I’m not going to have sex until I get married,” what are “beauty” and “dignity” doing in there? How does having premarital sex compromise a person’s beauty or dignity? Have I gotten uglier as a result of having sex? Do I no longer have dignity? This is especially disconcerting when one considers the definition of dignity:

“The quality or state of being worthy of esteem or respect.”

Does a woman surrender her dignity when she has sex? Is she no longer worthy of esteem or respect? Do people who have premarital sex not deserve respect?

With just a few words, this pledge becomes disturbingly dehumanizing. It ties a woman’s worth to the state of her genitals rather than to the fact that she is a human being with a brain, and feelings, and all the things that go into a person. Furthermore, in the process of trying to get young women to choose abstinence, it puts down the people who don’t.

Regardless of whether or not you think purity pledges are a good idea, this kind of language shouldn’t be included in them. It’s degrading, it’s sexist, and it’s wrong.

Have any of you made purity pledges? What do you think about them? Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

ABC’s What Would You Do Portrays Christians as Persecuted by Atheists

If you’re a big fan of ABC’s What Would You Do or are subscribed to Jaclyn Glenn’s YouTube channel, you may already know about this. Jaclyn explains it perfectly. I like this show, so I’m saddened to see it portray something so ridiculous that fits into the Christian right’s propaganda machine, and especially its persecution complex. Check out Jaclyn’s video.

I’ve just sent a complaint to ABC, and the video includes a link showing where to do that if you feel so inclined.

Thoughts on this episode, or the show What Would You Do in general? Feel free to leave a comment.

All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

An Atheist Explains why Catholics are Christians

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There are a number of Christian groups that claim Catholics are not Christians, and the more I encounter this nonsensical idea, the more I bang my head against the wall.

Disclaimer:  I was raised Catholic and am now atheist, so that’s the experience I’m coming from with this. The arguments I’m using do come from Catholic apologetics, but in this particular instance, I think they actually hold some water.

Here’s the definition of “Christian” I was taught:  a Christian is someone who is a Christ-follower.

Simple. Basic. To-the-point. I think this is an extremely inclusive definition, to the point where fringe groups that Catholicism doesn’t recognize as Christian, like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, still fall under the category of “Christian.” I think there can be some argument made for both sides when it comes to those groups,  but when it comes to Catholicism, there’s really no question about it.

To get into more specific details in order to narrow down a definition of Christianity, Christians worship the Abrahamic God, and use the Bible, both the New and Old Testaments, as their holy book. While not all take the entire Bible literally, especially certain parts of the Old Testament, Christians generally take the Gospel literally–it’s the story of Christ, after all. Christians believe Jesus is the son of God, and they believe he was crucified, died, rose from the dead, and will come again someday when it’s time for the world to end.

You will get some variation on things like the Eucharist (literal flesh and blood or a sign?), Mary’s virginity, creationism vs. actual science, religious icons, age of Baptism (adults or babies?), the garden of Eden (was it literal or figurative?), is there such a thing as Purgatory, and position on social issues like abortion, access to contraception, marriage equality, etc. There’s a pretty long list of differences. But if there’s one thing all Christians agree on, it’s Jesus. Jesus is the savior. Jesus is the reason for the season, and all that hooey.

Catholics believe in all those things. Catholicism is the trunk from which Protestantism branched out. To call Catholicism “not Christianity” is like calling a root “not part of the tree.” That’s such a Catholic thing to say that I’m a little embarrassed to write it, but I think in this case the analogy stands. You can read about Martin Luther and Henry VIII. The Protestant Reformation brought about the many branches of Christianity we see today. The Anglicans, (also known as the Church of England) hold a worship service that’s nearly identical to the Catholic mass. The Lutheran services are pretty darn close too (I’ve been to one). This is because their faiths branched directly off of Catholicism, and they retained a lot of the same practices and rituals. Then other churches branched off from them, and with each new branch that got further and further from the earliest one, new traditions were added and old ones were rejected. That’s why you can go to a megachurch and watch the preacher on a big screen between Christian Rock songs, you can go to a Pentecostal church and watch people “speak in tongues,” and you can visit the Amish and leave the 21st century behind. Christianity is practiced in vastly different ways from church to church, but they all believe they’re following Christ, so they’re all Christian.

This is the point where Catholics generally state that Catholicism is the form Christianity founded by Jesus, and its traditions have been carried on by the apostles through the priests and the hierarchy. I am among those who wonder whether or not Jesus even existed, but regardless of whether it was founded by Jesus or just a group of human beings, everyone generally agrees that Christianity had a beginning. It had early adherents. It had to start somewhere. Before the reformation, there was just “Christianity.” There was no need to have a separate name like “Catholicism.” There were no “Catholics” in 300 AD, or 500 AD, or even 1000 AD because it had always been one group (I’m oversimplifying a bit to skip the orthodox churches, but you get the idea.) Once the split happened, there needed to be a unique name for the religion that stayed as it had always been.

While I’ve made plenty of posts bemoaning the Catholic Church’s refusal to keep up with the times, their rigidity really helps this particular argument. If you’ve ever sat in a western civilizations history class, you’ve probably learned about the church hierarchy as part of your study of medieval times. And you know what? The church has the same hierarchy today, the same structures, and the same basic rituals with only minor changes (like saying mass in the vernacular instead of Latin). All in all, Catholicism is as Christian as the Anglican church, and its people are as Christian as the Baptists, the Methodists, the Lutherens, the Evangelicals, the Amish, the Mennonites, and the whole kit and kaboodle.

Don’t get me wrong. I despise the Catholic church, and wish they would get with the times and stop raping children and covering it up, but if there’s one thing I’d like to impart to its critics, humanists included, it’s that they are definitely, without a doubt, Christian.

Have any of you encountered this “Catholics aren’t Christians” idea in person? I seem to only encounter it online, at least where I live. Feel free to leave a comment. All opinions are welcome. Just be respectful and think things through before posting.

Happy thinking!

-Nancy

When Christians Aren’t Biblical Literalists: a Video Recommendation

One of my favorite YouTube channels is Blimey Cow. Yes, they’re Christian. They’re also former homeschoolers, so they get me. They’re pretty down to earth, and they seem to genuinely use their brains. Their content walks a fine line, avoiding topics that would offend most liberals and conservatives alike, and I generally get the sense that regardless of what their religious beliefs are, they like to observe the way things genuinely are, things everybody knows are there, and talk about them. I get the impression that they aren’t literalists when it comes to the Bible. Sometimes their own religion isn’t off limits, and I appreciate their openness to talking about that. Their latest video is a great example. It’s called “Five Awkward Things in the Bible,” and I think the points they make are spot on.

If you’re a homeschooler or know any homeschoolers, they’re known for their “You Might be a Homeschooler If” videos. Here’s the first one: