Offended at being called Protestant

Here’s a little background:

Two years ago, my daughter’s boyfriend (now fiance) entered the Church. During his conversion (and during RCIA) there was a lot of good-natured discussion (between my daughter and her boyfriend, and his parents) about the differences between Catholic and Protestant theology. But during a recent conversation, the future in-laws politely said that they take offense at being called Protestant. They said that they are Christians, just like any other Christians.

My question is, would you take this as a hint that they are tired of discussing the issue? Or, should the kids continue the discussions, somehow working around saying the “P” word?

Please be kind with your ideas. These are very wonderful people, and we are looking forward to the joining of our families.

I would simply ask why they are offended so you could get a better idea of why it offends them. I would also stay away from the word denomination too.

From what denomination did they transfer?

When I was a Protestant I knew people like this. Outside of the mainline, where people embrace the term, some see it as though you are saying they are “less” Christian.

In the US you can compare this to how many don’t like the term “African-American” because, they argue, it is as though you are saying they are less American by putting the qualifier on.

I second this. Also, Christians are not just ‘simply Christians’. Ask the average Baptist, evangelical, or ‘Bible Christian’ if he thinks his Christianity is just like that of a Catholic or an Orthodox Christian.

I venture to say the average person of a non-Catholic, non-Orthodox Christian faith view would not consider his/her Christian faith as ‘equivalent’ to the Catholic Christian in the way that he/she would consider it such in comparison to another non-Catholic non-Orthodox Christian faith view. In fact, while very few of them would have too much to say ‘against’ another non-Catholic Christian view, they would have a LOT to say in opposition to the Catholic/Orthodox Christian views.

If they do not wish to be called Protestants with the idea that there are too many differences among individual Protestant groups, that is one thing, but they aren’t just ‘simply Christians’ because that term is entirely too broad. Like it or not, in their own best interest, they need to be more specific in order that we can ‘meet them’ properly.

Suppose they are ‘just Christians’ who happen to be Seventh Day Adventist. Well, if we call them ‘just Christians’ we’re probably going to offend them if we ask to join them at church on Sunday (the day that just about every other ‘just Christian’ attends Church). However, if we call them not Protestant but “Seventh Day Adventist” then we’re going to be able to ‘meet them’ by focusing on something that ‘all Christians’ have in common, instead of focusing on something that that one particular group does NOT have in common with other ‘just Christians’.

What if they are just Christians who happen to be a small non denom group that practices absolute Bible literalism (women wear only dresses, men are the ‘heads of household’, etc.); well, we probably would try to at least not ASK WHY the women are wearing dresses when all the other women around them are wearing pants, which MOST ‘just Christian’ women do), and we probably wouldn’t get into discussions about the role of feminism in Christianity from the get go, but instead focus on other Christian teachings we have in common.

A person who is ‘just Christian’ can be:
One who believes in infant baptism.
One who does NOT believe in infant baptism.
One who believes in bible literalism.
One who does NOT believe in bible literalism.
One who believes in the real presence in the Eucharist.
One who does NOT believe in the real presence in the Eucharist.
One who believes in seven sacraments.
One who believes in two sacraments.
One who believes in no sacraments.
One who has a hierarchy of priests.
One who has no hierarchy at all.
One with a very formal ritual liturgy.
One with a very informal liturgy.
One who believes in remarriage after divorce.
One who does not believe in remarriage after divorce.
One who supports female ordination.
One who does not support female ordination. .

JUST Christian? I’ve only barely touched on many aspects of dissimilar belief in Christian faith teachings. . . which ‘just Christian’ parts apply to the people in question, and how many other beliefs do they have which other ‘just Christians’ do not, I wonder?

The fiance’s parents attend a “Christian” church. I believe that means the so-called non-denominational church.

I would keep talking charitably and lovingly and just refer to them as Christians, or brothers and sisters in Christ. I prefer to use the term non-Catholic…

On the flip side, I don’t like it when my people like my sister for example, ask me if I am a Catholic or a Christian, as if I can’t be both…:banghead:Lol…

I would definitely of course no long use the term Protestant but Christian. I would let them take the lead then on the discussions. If they bring it up, discuss it if not then I would let it drop for the time being.
It’s great to hear you are looking forward to joining the families and find them wonderful people. How refreshing.


PS Mere Christianity by CS Lewis is a great book to read if not already read and could maybe lead to some good conversations.

Yes, and these are exactly the things that have been being discussed with them. My daughter’s fiance would really love to see his parents come into the church, but he’s having a hard time making headway against the “not all doctrines are essential” thing. It’s very frustrating for him and my daughter, and I wonder if they are pushing too hard.

There is no such thing as a ‘non-denominational’ Church. There is an organization backing the parish that is calling itself “non-denominational” and it definitely has a denominational affiliation. Our local non-denominational chapel is run by the Mennonites.

Do they attend a Protestant ‘church’? They might be either non-denominational Christians (some of who reject the Protestant label) or they might be “just me and Jesus” Christians (who reject all churches, Prot or Catholic). There seems to be a growing movement of Christian groups in this country that are cut off from the Protestant Reformation of the 16th c and are rejecting the “P-word”

I think you should stop talking with them about this. How would you feel if the shoe was on the other foot and they were constantly discussing your leaving the Catholic church and taking classes to join a Protestant church? They are probably and understandably annoyed that their son is turning his back on their teachings and joining another church. This will always be a sticking point with them whenever you invite them to Catholic rituals. This will not be a blending of two equal families because your family feels it won.

usually that term non-denominational means a church that does not have formal affliations with any particular denomination such as Lutheran, Methodist Presbytarian, Baptist etc and so. A non-denominational Church is usually independently run by that particular pastor. Mennonites are in a sense a denomination even if they themselves might not think so. Denominational Churches have a formal affiliation, creed, order and rules that the Churches in it try to follow, they also have an overseeing governing organization. Most of the are Charismatic or Baptist type of Churches.
to Op, if the future in-laws perfer to be called Christian then call them that and let is go at that. Even though they might not think they are Protestant, if it reaches out to them then do so. It’s no big deal.

Because calling them Protestant implies that Catholics are better than Protestants.

The important thing at this point is that your daughter’s fiancé is in the Church, otherwise they would be facing many great challenges. So rejoice in that and let the Lord handle the rest. God bless.

This is a good idea, Mary. And maybe C.S. Lewis would help them find common ground, instead of just addressing the differences (although a healthy and honest discussion would eventually lead to that.)

“Protestant” is far more commonly used by Catholics than it is by non-Catholic Christians (protestants). It’s a very 16th century word. I grew up immersed in protestant Christianity and I can’t recall ever even hearing the word outside of certain novels I read. It’s not surprising that this wouldn’t be their preferred way of identifying themselves, as it may be a bit socially awkward. It would be kind of like an Englishman walking up to you and saying “Greetings noble colonist!” Even if he’s being perfectly polite about it, it’s still an odd way to start a conversation. I wouldn’t take it as a hint that they don’t want to talk about their faith.

A half-decently catechized Catholic is going to have some crude perspective on how other denominations of Christianity broke away from the Church at some point, but history is something you don’t hear much about in most protestant churches, except when referring to the mustard seed churches in the New Testament. When you get into the topic of ‘protestantism’ you’re very likely approaching a subject that is an all-but unknown anomaly to them.

I can understand not wishing to use "protestant’ as thinking perhaps it was too broad a term, but among the protestant Christians you grew up with etc, did they identify as ‘just Christian’ or did they identify as say Lutheran, Baptist, Assembly of God, etc?

And you don’t think that people would be put off by this line of questioning?

I think it’s simple. If they have said they don’t care to be called ‘Protestants’, then don’t do it. And yes - let the discussions go. I am convinced that the only effective means of getting someone to convert is to pray for them and to be a good witness of the faith.

Also, I think it is important for the kids to understand that they may never convert - and they just have to accept them for who they are now and be respectful of the faith life that they have.

Yes, it sounds like they are.

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