I’m new here, but poke around a bit. I wanted to ask the advice and input of everyone here. I was raised Catholic and but have been attending a Baptist church for the past six years. Based on several things, I am considering coming back to the Catholic Church. I wrote up my faith journey below and like your input.
I was born and raised in a Catholic home. My parents are great Christians and did their best to raise me with godly principles. We attended church weekly, went to CCD, and made most of the Sacraments in the Catholic Church. Although I attended public schooling, my parents brought me to CCD and occasionally taught CCD classes themselves. I had a wonderful childhood and religious upbringing.
Although I attended mass weekly, religion wasn’t number one in my life. I wasn’t a bad kid or person growing up. I was average and quite happy. I had friends in school and enjoyed life. Drugs, drinking, parental problems, etc. never were on my radar screen. I would debate with my friends in high school about religion and about belief in God, but it wasn’t personal. I am not sure if that is a good or bad thing. Right now, I am leaning toward the latter.
At the age of 17, I took a girl to our high school homecoming dance. Later that night, I knew I would marry her. I knew very little about her, but was immediately in love. Soon after we started dating. Life was wonderful. I didn’t know it at the time, but she was Baptist. Growing up, I didn’t know much about Baptists except that they danced on the pews. At least this was my childish understanding. Although I regret this now, I told her I wanted to know more about Christ to try and impress her. I didn’t care at the time but just sought to impress her. She was excited and invited me to start attending her youth group on Wednesday nights.
I’ve always noticed I wore my heart on my sleeve. This was true growing up. I remember being a teenage and seeing a retarded person in the store once. I felt so bad for the person and was on the verge of tears. My heart ached for this person. It was because of this, I immediately responded to the message of salvation at this Baptist church. I am sure you are aware of this formula. I realized the need for a Savior and immediately placed my trust in Christ. I said the “sinner’s prayer” and resolved to repent of my sins.
Soon after this conversion, I started attending church services regularly with my girlfriend. I really didn’t have a problem with the theology and enjoyed being with her. We attended Wednesday nights, Sunday services, and Sunday school. Her parents welcomed me into their home and were very nice to me.
My parents were less receptive. Although, I didn’t join her church or get baptized in it, they had a problem with me attending so frequently. They were upset that it was so one-sided. She had been raised the Catholicism was completely wrong. Most of the protestant churches around here (Wisconsin) don’t go so far as to call them the great Harlot, but believe they are severely in error. She told me of the problems with the Catholic Church: worship of Mary, Transubstantiation, prayer to the saints, the Pope, etc. This was the usual list of problems most Protestants have with Catholics. At the time, I didn’t have a proper understanding of theology or apologetics and couldn’t give her any answers on these questions. Because I didn’t know the answers, her difficulties with the church soon became my difficulties as well.
My parents and I fought about these things on an infrequent basis. They were upset about the fights and my frequent attendance to the Baptist Church. I was convinced they were wrong and that the issues raised were legitimate.
Although I was beginning to distance myself from Catholicism, I never felt any real draw to join her church. I would have like to if it just meant joining. However, in order to join, I would have had to been re-Baptized. I resisted this. At the time, I might have conceded to the points regarding infant Baptism, but I resisted anyway. Another event caused a fair amount of consternation for me. This came in the form of a unit in the Sunday school classes we attended. The associate pastor taught several lessons on the errors of Catholicism. I was steeped in Protestant though at the time, but became very angry during these classes. I listened as the Pastor would pick various Catholic teachings and say what was wrong with them. This was an adult Sunday school class, but didn’t resemble any kind of mature faith. The people would talk about their experiences and ridiculousness of the Catholics. I was offended at the half truths and problems with that line of thinking. I didn’t defend the Catholic faith, but tried to chide the people there. I raised my hand and told them that the classes were all well and good, but did nothing to reach out to Catholics and spread the message of Christ. I was essentially advocating bringing the “Sinner’s Prayer” to Catholics.
Before my girlfriend and I graduated from college, we began looking for a college to attend. I wanted to be with her and considered many of the school she did. She looked at some of the schools I was considering. Fortunately, we live near a great Catholic, liberal arts college. At my request, she went on a tour of the school. Because she wanted to go into teaching and the school had a superior education program, she decided to attend. I was ecstatic because this was the school I wanted to attend.
I’d like to comment on my girlfriend at this time. Although she comes from a very conservative, Evangelical family, she has always remained above the fray. Both of her younger siblings attend Bible colleges and are steeped in legalism, condescension, and many of the aspects associates with a Christian Fundamentalist worldview. She considers and likes doing what they would never accept. She dated me (a Catholic!), she drinks occasionally and enjoys it, she had no problem attending a Catholic college, etc.
College went very well for the both of us. We both got good grades, enjoyed friends and socializing, and enjoyed learning. I thank God for schools like ours. The small, private, Catholic, liberal-arts college was just what we need. Some of the professors were Catholic and some were not. Academic freedom was a blessing. I learned critical and analytical thinking. I fell in love with philosophy and theology.
After a few years of college, I decided I would propose to my girlfriend. I planned that we would get married after graduating from college. Her parents, like many Evangelicals, didn’t like the idea of a two year engagement but didn’t have that big of a problem with it.
As the wedding got closer, one problem would emerge: alcohol. My girlfriend and I drank on weekends with our friends. We saw no problem with alcohol. Her parents did have a problem, however. They hated it and did not want it at our wedding. Many fights, tears, arguments, and problems would ensue. My fiancée’ was divided between honoring her parents or me. She was torn. Through all of this, I stood my ground. I saw no problem with it. Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding for goodness sake! I couldn’t believe the ridiculousness of their arguments. For four years, they thought I was the world, and because of this one issue, they thought my fiancée should leave me. They threatened to not attend the wedding and several other things. WE eventually reached a compromise to have it after dinner; at which point they would leave.
This event led me to see several problems in their thinking. I began to notice several problems I had with the Evangelical/Fundamentalist movement. I saw it as a kind of social club that verged on border line cultish. Let me be clear, I don’t think the Fundamentalist movement or Baptists or Evangelicals are a cult at all. I do think that “group-think,” “group-speak,” shunning, acceptance, and some of the other characteristics of group mentality are evident. Deviation from the norm is not accepted. Conformation is rewarded.
Over the past two years, these ideas became more and more evident to me. I also began reading and studying theology. I loved learning and reading. The theological tradition was so rich and enlightening. However, this did not exist in the Fundamentalist/Evangelical movement. I found this disheartening.
I too was attracted to Calvinism. Finally, there was something I could sink my teeth into. I began reading debates between Calvinists and Arminianists. I was convinced and in some ways still am, that this line of thinking was correct.
Please see Part II as it was too long!