Lay fanatics

To a lot of Protestants I know, monks and nuns are fanatics, none greater. And to a lot of monks and nuns I know, my Protestant prophets are fanatics.

For my part, I think the only difference between them is that if you are a Catholic and have this intensity of belief, you join the convent and are heard from no more; whereas if you are a Protestant and have it, there is no convent for you to join and you go about in the world getting into all sorts of trouble and drawing the wrath of people who don’t believe anything much at all down on your head.— Flannery O’Connor

I know a man who is a convert to Catholicism from Evangelical Christianity, and was a church-planting minister for many years. Once, he and I took a long lunch sharing about the theology of the laity, and specifically about the above O’Connor quote. At one point in the conversation, he said something I found remarkable. He said,

Evangelicals really get what Catholics call the ‘lay vocation’ in the world, because they only have baptismal priesthood, since they jettisoned Ordained priesthood and Religious life. Those believers Catholics call ‘the laity,’ Evangelicals simply call Christians, and what Christians do is be good disciples by bringing Jesus into everything they do. They see the path to holiness everywhere …

… One of the most striking differences I noticed soon after I started getting involved in the inner Catholic circles was this tendency of Catholic leaders to see in wealthy or influential Catholics potential benefactors, while Evangelicals tended to see wealthy or socially influential people first and foremost as potential culture-warriors.

Or, I noticed when Catholics saw the fresh zeal of new converts, they tended to channel them into internal church ministry worker-bee activities, or into future vocations to priesthood and religious life — Evangelicals were more likely to disciple these converts as missionary movers-and-shakers in secular culture. My church had the motto, ‘change a heart, change the world.’

… Though I have noticed some progress on the Catholic side recently, on the ground what I described remains pretty much the default pattern. With some notable exceptions.

I then brought up the example of Tyler Joseph from Twenty One Pilots, whose early approach to music-as-mission was deeply influenced by his Evangelical faith, and by a pastor in the church, Five 14, which describes itself thus:

Our name, Five14 Church, comes from Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” We exist to bring light to a dark world.

As we finished our conversation, my lunch partner introduced me to a song by the Evangelical musician, Steven Curtis Chapman — “Do Everything.” He said Chapman’s song captures this Evangelical vision that the hard core work of grace is to empower the believer to do everyday things as a way to “tell the story of grace.”

I have posted that song here probably a hundred times, so here is one hundred and one.

4 comments on “Lay fanatics

  1. I would concur. Sit with a group of faithful Catholics and say “Let’s talk about Jesus” and I am greeted with uncomfortable stares to outright shock. Talk with a group of faithful Evangelicals and get “right on, let’s go tell out family, friends and co-workers, Amen”. Those of us living in the gulf of being converts to Catholicism, it is a lonely place.

  2. jerry says:

    Your lunch partner is exactly right. As a so-called “influential Catholic” (really a big fish in a small pond), I feel like I am being hit-upon whenever a capital campaign or a fund drive starts, which has led me to assume a low profile in Catholic circles. But I miss hanging with my Catholic groups!

    But most importantly, thanks for this post. It is an example of why I check this blog when I get to work each day.

  3. Nos the troublemaker opinionated loudmouth says:

    Sorry beads 2rosaries I don’t concur either with you or with Thomas’s lunch guest .I have sat with many many many faithful catholics one on one and in groups,while what this lunch guest said may be true in some catholic social circles there are just as many if not more ,many more who thru 2000 plus years of catholic history and catechesis live their faith in an open display of a love for their fellow man and an unabashed love of CHRIST JESUS . the ” lonely “place you refer to can be filled with on fire catholics, there are so many out there, pray for them to come into your life and those who gave you the shock stare .peace be with you beads2rosaries

    Jerry, to you I would say be thankful your not in Joel Osteens super church out in Texas having to help pay for his 15 million dollar home or contributing to his 50 million dollar bank account .Jerry just tell the Bishop you’re giving to St. Judes hospital Danny Thomas will will be ecstatic. Just tell your “group ” how you feel and the word will get out
    Hit back with stern No but with Love Peace be with you Jerry

  4. Chrissy says:

    This tugs my heart so deeply! I had a priest confront me after a Holy Day mass and tell me I had to choose if I’d continue to be an active participating lay member of his church or go to the Protestant church I was visiting. At first I presented a logical arguement that if I were married to a Protestant and went to his church on occasion this wouldn’t be a problem, specifically thinking of one wealthy, influential couple who did just that. But I was single and forced to pick. It hurt. It hurt only because I knew God was telling me to leave this comfort zone and it sounded so against all the religion I was raised in. God strongly gave me a word of unity when I was in Bible study in an online seminary that year. The Protestant pastor, who happened to be raised by an orthodox priest, knew my heartache. One of his 4 core missions to build an interdenominational church refusing to use the negative sounding nondenominational. I saw this work while participating in a Baptist seminary with personal guidance from a priest and nun plus fellowship with students of all backgrounds. I yearned for this united front for Jesus joined in harmony by The Apostles Creed as a firm foundation for all. So I moved over 10 years ago and it was life changing. I was given so many opportunities to participate in self learning, leadership courses, group therapeutic small groups and so much more to strengthen my personal relationship with Jesus, strengthening my faith while being given tools to strengthen other peoples faith, lead groups, serve, do outreach in the community and so much more. I miss my liturgical calander that set my daily pace and sacraments are not the same but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m so close to God now. My life completely turned around. And sometimes I get that rare beautiful moment to help someone process the hurt they felt at a Catholic church because I know that pain. But more importantly I can explain the Catechism and the whys about the traditional ways they didn’t know existed. I show the beauty of the Catholic faith in fresh light, loving care and authentic sincerity. I’m glad they leave with a good feeling about the denomination and it no longer hinders them from participating in the One Body, One Spirit we were designed as. The church, His bride.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.