Ending the Catholic-Protestant Divide
by Aneel Aranha
King Solomon was the third King of Israel. He was famed for his wisdom, and many people came to him for justice from far and wide.
One day, two prostitutes came before King Solomon, each claiming that the child they brought before him was hers. They had both recently given birth to a child but during the night one of the prostitutes rolled over her child and killed it. She exchanged her dead baby with the live baby of the other prostitute while she slept. When the other prostitute awoke, she found her baby dead but realized, upon close examination, that the dead baby was not hers.
So who did the baby belong to?
King Solomon ordered that a sword be brought and the baby be sliced in two, with each woman given one half. One of the prostitutes nodded her assent, saying she believed that justice was being done. The second woman, however, screamed a protest saying that the other woman could have the baby, but not to kill it. Solomon promptly had the baby given to her.
I heard this story as a child and I don't remember being particularly impressed by it. What person, no matter how miserable he or she was, would have it in their heart to have a little baby cut into half, I wondered. But after I returned to the faith, I realized that not only did a lot of people have it in their heart to do so, they went about it with great enthusiasm. I refer, of course, to us Christians from all sides of the divide who use the sword, which is the Word of God, to cut the baby, which is the body of Christ, into little, little pieces!
It is not hard to see why. There is tremendous pleasure — and power — you get from wielding this particular sword, and the temptation to do so is often overpowering, even when you don't quite know how to use it. Or, perhaps, especially when you don't know how to use it. I must confess to being tempted to do so myself on several occasions. When I first started reading the Bible, for instance, I remember coming across several references to Jesus's brothers, which disturbed me greatly, because I knew that Catholic dogma stated that Jesus had none and here it seemed "obvious" that he did. I promptly went to Jesus and asked him outright, "Jesus, did you have brothers?"
"How does it matter?" he asked quietly. "Would you love me less if I did?"
The questions threw me entirely off balance. "No, I wouldn't," I answered finally. "I just wanted to know the truth."
Jesus merely smiled.
That smile shamed me. He knew it wasn't the truth I wanted. What I was really looking for was a sharpened blade to cut down my opponents. Which is what a lot of us Christians use the Word of God for. We ignore the prime commandments to love God and love our fellowmen and focus on things that will lead us to widen the rift between us and hate each other more. And we do it in the name of truth!
This isn't to say that truth is not important. It is. There are truths that I hold dear to me. And I will die for some of them because I believe that there are truths worth dying for. But I do not believe that there is any truth worth killing for. God's Word does not tell me otherwise. There is nothing in the Bible that says I should take you out into a dark alley and pound the truth — or what I believe the truth to be — into you so that you may be saved. Or that I should savage you in an argument, leaving you wondering if salvation requires erudition or faith in Jesus.
I rarely getting argumentative on issues of theology; it tends to be unproductive. If asked what I believe to be true, I state my beliefs. If asked why I believe what I believe to be true, I explain the reasons for my beliefs. But only if the questions are asked with a desire for understanding, not confrontation. If the latter, I simply mumble something about how Matthew 7:6 makes for a good answer and walk away. I have enough forums to state my views if I am inclined to do so and it is then entirely up to the people who choose to read what I write, or listen to what I say, to accept what I say or reject it. I am happy if they do the former, and though I might be a trifle disappointed if they do the latter, I don't let myself get unduly upset; I see no reason why I don't have to get along with somebody because he happens to disagree with me.
Holy Spirit Interactive is one of the forums that I use to state my views and thus far has been a superb forum. It is Catholic and unashamedly so. So am I and so are most of the writers who write for it. We all write about issues related to our faith. But the reason we write is not to cut down our Protestant brothers (for whom we have the deepest affection), but merely to teach Catholics about their faith. Blind faith is not something God asks us to have and it is important to know why we do what we do and why we believe what we believe. This often has to be taught. If there is something that others can learn about our faith, they are welcome to find out about it here. It might give them more understanding of the immense body of knowledge the Church has gathered over 2000 years, and also let them know that much of the prejudice that they have inherited is unwarranted and needless.
There is no shame in learning from us, just as there is no shame in us learning from them. I have learned a lot from my Protestant friends over the past several months and so, I am sure, has the Catholic Church over the years. We can learn a lot from one another if we can only stop the ungodly hatred that flows through our hearts and come together in love. We do not have to resolve all our differences to do this; we share enough in common for the differences not to matter. All we need to remember is that we are all one family, parts of this huge wonderful body of Christ, and there will be so much of healing that we can bring to the world if we can come together in love. It is simply doing what Jesus asked us to do, after all. Love one another, he said. And if we do, then the song we sing about them knowing we are Christians by our love will be more than a series of words strung together by a pretty tune. It will become a truth. A truth worth dying for.
May the Spirit be with you.
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Copyright © 2004 Aneel Aranha
. All rights reserved. Image 'The Judgment of Solomon' by Sanzio Raffaello; 1518-19 from the Web Gallery of Art. All rights reserved.