Traditional Faith

Traditional seems to be a theme with us. I'm a big believer in "if ain't broke, don't fix it." Our faith has become more traditional along the way too. I will post my "conversion" story here and some other bits about the faith and the church here as well. (Chesterton quotes, anyone?)

Here goes:
As a child my parents were only vaguely religious.  I remember my father telling a well meaning Jehovah's Witness that he was an aethist.  We didn't go to church.  My mother was raised Christian Scientist, which is a form of gnosticism, but she didn't practice it.  I found out years later that my dad was baptized United Methodist.

My neighbors were members of an Assembly of God church and they were your typical holy roller types, as we thought.  Kids went to Christian schools, they were active in their church, and the dad was a bit Ned Flanders-y, at least to me.  But, they would take me to Bible School and summer bible clubs and such, and when I was 8, I was officially saved.  I prayed the prayer and everything. 

This was a real conversion, and that's what I really count as my conversion.  After that I tried to read my Bible and pray and follow what I thought God wanted.  I'd watch the Crystal Cathedral on TV.  I always started reading in Genesis.  I'd get to who begat whom and put it up.  I was probably the only 9 year old to have the Creation story memorized.  I'd get out maps and look for the rivers of Eden--and not be able to figure out why I could only ever find the Tigris and Euphrates.  I begged to go to church.

Skip forward a few years.  My dad is killed in a train accident, leaving me, my mom, my brother, and my grandmother in our house.  (We've moved to a different town now.) It's a weird time for us.  My brother is a few years younger than me and he really struggles.  Our grandmother is a little crazy and eventually moves out into her own house.  My mom starts working full time, nights. 

My mom and dad had a really wonderful relationship, but my dad was one of those guys who lets the world rest on his shoulders and protects his family from everything.  I can remember going out to eat and my dad saying he "wasn't hungry" because we couldn't afford for all of us to eat.  My mom leaned on him for everything.  So, when he died, she had to relearn how to live.  I took a lot of responsiblity on for running the household.  If not for God, I would not have made it through that time.

However, I do think that God used the loss of my dad to prepare the way for my mom to accept Christ.  When I was 14, I got invited to a youth group and my mom decided to "check out" the church.  We were both baptized within the year.  This church was what's called a "fundamentalist independent Baptist church."  Although I was baptized, I never officially joined because I couldn't hold with some of the doctrines.  Mom did and we attended together until I left for college.  I'm very thankful to them and their faithfulness to the Bible, but some of the things they held as true seemed too legalistic (Catholics read: scrupulous) to me.  My mother had a faith home until she died from cancer and some real friends.

Even though I didn't fully accept their teachings, all those Sunday mornings and nights and Tuesday nights and Wednesday nights (now we were the holy rollers) influenced my thinking a lot.  I grew into my faith thinking Catholics were those people who were only Christian by accident, and certainly not practicing the way God intended.  Baptizing babies!  All those works!  Other people telling you how to interpret the Bible so you don't have to think for yourself!

Then I went out into the world. Those college years when kids loose their faith, you know.  Not me.  I was a good girl.  I went to a Christian college--and a politically conservative one at that.  My mom died while I was in college and I found myself with a troubled teenage boy to take care of (no one else wanted the trouble of dealing with him, how's that for a self esteem boost) while trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life now.  I stayed in school and dragged my brother off with me (I wanted to get him away from his druggie friends and introduce him to some better role models).  Again, but for the grace of God, I wouldn't have gotten through that time.

Then I met my husband.  We were married just after I turned 20.  He was not just a Christian, but his dad was a pastor.  But, oh no, he was a Methodist!  Those darn baby baptizers again.  I learned the truth of what the Bible says about that and what a sacrament is and to love liturgy.  10 months later, we had our first child, a daughter.  My brother at this time was a militant atheist, living on the street (he had a trust fund, but wouldn't ask for a monthly stipend for whatever reason), drinking, doing drugs, etc.  He had a pregnancy scare, but it turned out the child wasn't his.

He met my sister-in-law about now, when she was still in high school.  You can read her conversion story here, but it really doesn't do justice to how militantly anti-Christian they were.  She'd get drunk and we'd have these great conversations over the phone about life and God and politics, but the rest of the time it was like talking to a brick wall.  I remember when their second daughter was born and I told my brother, "I know you don't want to hear this, but I've got everyone I know praying for you."  That was the first time he didn't resist the idea.

The next thing I know, I get a phone call from him.  "I talked to a priest today."  I couldn't believe it.  Not just that he was thinking of becoming a Christian, but a Catholic??  Talk about your 180s.  I was ecstatic, but it wasn't unmixed.  I mean, I was glad he was converting, but did he have to pick such a group of misguided souls?  I went to see them get baptized and it was the culmination of 20 years of prayer.

But, now what was I going to do?  My brother is not the quietest of men, so I knew that denomination was going to come up.  Also, I figured I better get a better grasp on what Catholics believe, because I knew a lot of what I "knew" wasn't 100% accurate.  So, I started reading everything I could find on the Internet.  I borrowed books on the faith.  At the same time, things really started to go downhill in the UMC.  Biblical standards were starting to be optional.  My father in law got transferred to a church that didn't really use the liturgy I loved.

So, we went to the Catholic church for Christmas.  That wasn't so bad.  Then Easter, again, nothing weird.  We went on an ordinary and they started talking about Mary.  Well, I half expected that, but still, not exactly comfortable.  But, we knew we couldn't stay in the Methodist Church, so we started going to different churches and trying them out.  Presbyterians seemed okay, but there was something missing.  Grace Brethern were right out for us.  Tried an Episcopal church, on the surface everything was perfect, but my husband and I both just felt wrong about it, seperately.  Neither of us wanted to tell the other for fear they liked it.

Then we didn't go much of anywhere for a couple of months.  I started feeling like maybe we should try the Catholic thing again.  My husband started feeling the same way.  We finally tell each other and make an appointment with a priest.  Since I've been classically homeschooling from the beginning, a lot of the terms he used (a real scholar, our priest) were familiar to me.  Things started coming together.  He recommended books from the Catholic Home Study Service (I do too).  So we started reading and attending RCIA.  Still hadn't made a decision.  Our daughter (then 12) was in RCIA with us, but we held off on the boys until we made a decision.  We didn't think it fair to get them into something only to pull out later.  We very much only had one foot in, although I think my husband was ready before I was.  (Didn't have the Baptist baggage I did.)

I was concerned about the deutero-cannonical books.  Nearly every point of faith where I differed with the Church could be traced back there.  It hinged for me on that.  If those books are Scripture, one hasn't much of a choice but to be Catholic.  If not, then Catholicism is a lie.  Why did Catholics accept those books and Protestants not?  When I found out that it basically came down to points of politics, well, I was on the road to Rome.

Finally comes Christmas.  We're sitting at the kitchen table watching The Nativity Story.  I'm still not real copacetic on the whole Mary thing.  Why did she need to be sinless?  What made her better than anyone else?  But, as I sat there, watching what she went through and how important she was to Our Lord, my heart melted.  I had come home to Rome.