I have tried to write this story several times. Every time I start, I get distracted. Something comes up. I can never quite put it down on paper. Maybe that’s just life with two kids, living with in-laws and working at a fairly new job. Nevertheless, it is a story that needs to be told . . . eventually. I’ve told some people directly and I’m sure many others have heard it through the grapevine. I would be surprised if anyone who reads this blog hasn’t heard the “what” of this story—but I doubt anyone understands the “why.” I’m under no illusions that this series of posts will put everyone’s fears to rest. At the very least, I hope each reader will try to understand my perspective. That is what I did. I tried to see things from another point of view and I ended up agreeing with it.
I grew up in what I sincerely believe to be the strongest Christian home in the South. I was in church three times every week: Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday night for prayer meeting. I am ever grateful to God for allowing me to grow up in such a strong home. I remember being three years old and climbing up onto my parents’ bed asking them to help me pray the Sinner’s Prayer. I remember being somewhat impatient as I waited for the part where I asked Jesus into my heart.
From that point on, I knew I was saved. I believed in Jesus, confessed that I was a sinner and prayed to Him daily. I went to the Christian school run by the church we attended. I attended the Awana Club. For as long as I can remember, I have always taken my faith in Jesus very seriously. And that is why I find myself where I am today.
That is not to say I have never struggled. Quite the contrary. My entire life has been a struggle between doing what I want to do and doing what God wants me to do. Far too often I have taken the lazy road, knowing I could fall back on God’s forgiveness and grace.
I have always had a drive to make the most well-informed decision possible. I don’t like to give an opinion until I am absolutely sure that I am right. Often, I find that trait can be a detriment, as I spend too much time looking for evidence, when I am fairly certain of the answer already. Other times, however, I have found that an exhaustive search can turn up new evidence and result in a changed perspective.
I have never really doubted the Christian story. For as long as I can remember, I have believed in God, who sent His son to earth to die for our sins. I have always known that I am a sinner and that I have no hope of heaven without the blood of Jesus. I have never once wavered on the idea that the Bible is the holy, inspired Word of God.
Many times during my childhood, I recall hearing preachers saying, “don’t simply believe what I am saying. Read it for yourself in the Bible.” That is the philosophy I continue to believe to this day. No Christian teachings should contradict the Bible. It also fits well with my innate sense that I can never stop gathering evidence.
I have always had an interest in church history. Specifically, I was always curious where things went wrong. As I understood it, Jesus founded the Church, which grew for several hundred years. At some point, it became corrupted with all sorts of unnecessary rules, beliefs and hierarchies. It got so bad that what was recognized as “the Church” was no longer even really Christian. Then, in the early sixteenth century, Martin Luther showed up. He began reading his Bible and came to the realization that the Church was doing it all wrong. With a little help from his friends, this former priest was able to reform the Church, separating the true believers from those who blindly followed the hierarchy. Nearly five hundred years later, those who broke away during the Reformation are the true Christians. Those who remained beholden to the Pope—though their religion bore many resemblances to the incidences of Christianity—were merely superstitious unbelievers.
The question that kept coming up, however, was, “when did the Church become un-Christian?” They took books out of the Bible, they pray to saints, they worship statues and they believe in transubstantiation. It was clear to me their religion was not Christian. I just wanted to know how early Christianity morphed into something else entirely, only to be revived in the sixteenth century.
Maybe that was a thread I should not have pulled on, for it unraveled the whole sweater for me. For several years now I have been investigating the history of Christianity. I wanted to know both sides of the story, so I went straight to the source. Strangely, the more I read about the Catholic Church from the Catholic Church, the less it resembled the un-Christian organization I had heard about growing up. Eventually I found myself on the wrong side.
I didn’t set out to convince myself of the truth of Catholicism, but that’s what happened. It was a frightening thing when I realized I could not simply un-believe the new things I had learned. I tried to poke holes in my new beliefs. I tried to simply ignore it, hoping it would go away. I tried to wait it out, hoping it would fade as some sort of passing interest. Nevertheless, it persists.
It is a very difficult thing for me to disappoint nearly everyone I know. Having grown up in a very Christian—yet very not-Catholic—home, having attended an independent Baptist church for most of my life, having graduated twice from the world’s largest evangelical Christian university, nearly everyone I know is an evangelical Christian. Nearly all of those evangelical Christians would be deeply disappointed to find out a friend or relative had left Protestantism altogether for Catholicism. Yet, here I find myself, making an announcement that is sure to bother nearly everyone who reads it.
I believe the Roman Catholic Church is the true church, founded by Jesus Christ.
Let me be clear what I am not announcing. I am not announcing that I no longer believe in God. I am not announcing that I am some sort of relativist. I am not announcing that I no longer believe the Bible is the true and inspired Word of God.
I am in no way denouncing my Christian upbringing. That is something I cherish. I cannot emphasize enough how much I appreciate the faith that was handed down to me from my parents. The Christianity that I learned from them is the Christianity that I continue to keep. That is not to say that I haven’t changed my mind on a few things, but the core beliefs remain.
My family has been attending a small Catholic parish ever since we moved out west last year. In order to convert to Catholicism, one must go through a process known as the Rite of Christian Initiation in Adults, or RCIA for short. We missed the window for RCIA last year, which runs from September until Easter. This year, however, we have inquired about the process.
This is the first in a series of posts designed to help my evangelical friends and family understand how and why a conservative protestant Christian would want to convert to Catholicism. I know it may not be easy to read—I will assure you it has been very difficult to write—but I believe it has a chance to open the door to genuine understanding between us.
I plan to write about the topics that persuaded me to believe in the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. Namely, I will be writing about the nature and origin of the Bible, the Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence of Jesus in Holy Communion, birth control and sexual ethics, and infant baptism.
Again, I know that you probably think I am wrong. But, as a friend, I hope that you will hear me out. Above all, I ask you to pray for me. I will try to pray for you.