I hope this makes sense because I have been thinking about this for awhile and just found the words to describe it.
I have always been suspicious of those who use only the bible for their religion, without any further training. I mean some of the small town self-made type preachers. You know the ones that do NOT attend any type of divinity college to discuss and explore the mysteries of the Christian faith with others. There seems to not only be a possible misinterpretation, but a danger in trying to go it alone, with only the bible and prayer. Even monks have formal training first before any period of sequestration, right?
These thoughts led me to two fairly recent, very public examples of this possible phenomena.
The first is the movie “The Passion of the Christ” in which Mel Gibson directed.
It wasn’t the movie itself, it was the aftermath of the movie that concerned me. It seems Mr. Gibson founded his own church that is not recognized by his diocese. I wonder if jumping into the heart of Christianity without training made him go astray? The church calls itself traditional, but I wonder how close it is to other traditional Catholic churches? My point being that I wonder how a quick study by an actor/director made him somehow more enlightened than recognized experts on faith and those who devoted their lives to studying Catholicism?
Similarly, the book “Killing Jesus” by Bill O’Reilly talks only about Jesus the man and ignores (denies?) Jesus as the Son of God. Mr. O’Reilly says he was inspired to write the book, but by whom? Did he, too, get too close to the edge without adequate guidance or background and stray from the truth? A book that seems to ignore/deny Jesus as the Son of God would play right into the hands of the enemies of Christianity, would it not?
So, should we all be careful not to study too much alone? Isn’t that the point of the organized religion and a possible reason why we were directed to study together? For the average person, some misconstrued ideas will correct themselves over time, with diligence, and no harm done, right? But for those who are the only voice, such as a small town preacher with little formal training, they could endanger more than just themselves.
And if we are talking about someone with influence, the danger seems to multiply exponentially. I am not picking on either Mr. Gibson or Mr. O’Reilly. I believe in both cases, their intentions were generally good (well, perhaps also motivated by money). I just think that because of their positions of influence, they risk far more damage to themselves and others. With the short time frame entertainment type people have to devote to different projects, even with one or two ‘experts’ helping them, I fear they miss the mark far too often. Imagine trying to cram so much into a period of months to meet a deadline? I think it’s unwise to try. I also think it’s dangerous to believe one is the expert on the topic after such a short study.
What do you guys think? Are university trained priests and pastors much safer from bad influences because they have the time to sort through and study Christianity over time? Does the fact that they continue to update their credentials, so to speak, throughout their careers, just like physicians and other professionals, keep them closer to the message? Is there a danger in too much too soon? I really think there must be or divinity studies wouldn’t be designed like they are.
For those of us in RCIA, I welcome a long course of study. I feel like just to understand the fraction of religion expected of a mere layperson should be done slowly and carefully. Is that wise?
It’s great that we have Pope Francis garnering so much attention. Perhaps a well-studied voice of reason will help us all when other powerful influences attempt to sway large numbers of people in the name of Christianity.