Sunday, March 22, 2009

I ran across this piece in R. L. Stevenson’s book "Travels with a Donkey", that reminds me of the many times I have felt like Stevenson describes here. In my case it wasn't a Catholic Priest but a Protestant zealot.

All faiths have a least one member that fits this profile

Stevenson is traveling for the enjoyment of seeing different lands and meeting different people and sites; in this story he is visiting a beautiful Catholic monastery, although he is not Catholic, but a Protestant, and the scene takes place as he is having breakfast with a Priest and an old retired soldier, a devout Catholic who has just found out he is a Protestant, and descends on him with all his fury to convert him to Catholicism. It is rather difficult to follow in parts but if you have ever been accosted by someone who looked at you as a lost and shameful wretch that needs to adopt his rules of faith, you will find this humorous and realistic.

This, again, is not an attack on Catholics, and I hope my Catholic friends will take this good naturedly, because every faith has Pastors, members or leaders that approach people this way.

“…….It was only in the morning, over our coffee that this couple found out I was a heretic. I suppose I had misled them by some admiring expressions as to the monastic life around us; and it was only by a point blank question that the truth came out. I had been tolerantly used both by simple Father Apollinaris and astute Father Michael; and the good Irish deacon, when he heard of my religious weakness, had only patted me upon the shoulder and said, “You must be a Catholic and come to heaven.” But I was now among a different sect of orthodox. These two men were bitter and upright and narrow, like the worst of Scotsmen, and indeed, upon my heart, I fancy they were worse. The priest snorted aloud like a battle-horse.
He demanded something in Latin, and there is no type used by mortal printers large enough to qualify his accent. I humbly indicated that I had no design of changing. But he could not away with such a monstrous attitude. “No, no,” he cried; “you must change. You have come here, God has led you here, and you must embrace the opportunity.”
I made a slip in policy; I appealed to my family affections, though I was speaking to a priest and a soldier, two classes of men circumstantially divorced from the kind and homely ties of life.
“Your father and mother?” cried the priest. “Very well; you will convert them in their turn when you go home.”

I think I see my father’s face! I would rather tackle the Gaetulian lion in his den than embark on such an enterprise against the family theologian.

But now the hunt was up; priest and soldier were in full cry for my conversion; and the work of the Propagation of the Faith. It was an odd but most effective proselyting. They never sought to convince me in argument, where I might have attempted some defense; but took it for granted that I was both ashamed and terrified at my position, and urged me solely on the point of time. Now, they said, when God had led me to our Lady of the Snows, now was the appointed hour.
“Do not be withheld by false shame,” observed the priest, for my encouragement.

For one who feels very similarly to all sects of religion, and who has never been able, even for a moment, to weigh seriously the merit of this or that creed on the eternal side of things, however much he may see to praise or blame upon the secular and temporal side, the situation thus created was both unfair and painful.
I committed my second fault in tact, and tried to plead that it was all the same thing in the end, and we were all drawing near by different sides to the same kind and undiscriminating Friend and Father. That, as it seems to lay-spirits, would be the only gospel worthy of the name. But different men think differently; and this revolutionary aspiration brought down the priest with all the terrors of the law.
He launched into harrowing details of hell. The damned, he said – on the authority of a little book which he had read not a week before, and which, to add conviction to conviction, he had fully intended to bring along with him in his pocket – were to occupy the same attitude through all eternity in the midst of dismal tortures. And as he thus expatiated, he grew in nobility of aspect with his enthusiasm. …….

I was by this time so thoroughly embarrassed that I pled cold feet, and made my escape from the apartment."

I have an acquaintance I see on occasion, and I'm sure he visits to assess my spiritual condition and get me back on his straight and narrow path. I always breath a sigh of relief when he is leaves because, like in the above story, he suspects me of "heresy", and heartily proclaims the "exclusivity" of his path, always proclaims that God has "led him" here and there; he has a way of using "shame and terror of hell" to punctuate his positions, and in general leaves me the worse for his visit. It may be he is the inspiriation for the bumper sticker "God spare me from your followers".

Painting by D. Branchaud.


Danielle&Hannah said...

Quoting the word of God is one thing, but condemnation is another...
There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit...

It is true that there can be a 'one' in a congregation that wishes us to be a 'clone' or fit into a secular 'mold' but the only mold we need fit in as Christians is the mold of Christ Jesus.

When in doubt, lean on Jesus :-D

HAINAngel2000 said...

Yes been here before, as you know I have talked with you about it before.
Totally relate! Been here on many fronts not just faith though

Mel said...

I've been there, too. In fact, I've BEEN that person, the one doing the judging and fist pounding and red-in-the-face arguing, defending God, defending a certain theology, and completely turning off the other person to the cause and name of Christ. Sweet Lord, have mercy...

This post feeds into deep questions I've been having for a long time, that I've just recently been able to admit to. Who's right? Who's wrong? We spend so much time arguing, and so little time loving each other. God help us.

FCB said...

Hi Danielle, thanks for your comments, I always look for you to pop in. Jesus seemed to save most of his condemnation for those who were like those in this story. Some times we can get so down right..........right.
God bless,

Hi Mary,
Yep, me too, many times and I always get the "squirms" :)
Love Fred

Hi Mel,
Yep again, me too. I hope most of it was when I was younger and knew so much more than I do now :)
But we can certainly let our love for man take a strange appearance when someone crosses us, especially regarding issues of faith. Lord have mercy on me as well.
God bless,

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hi Fred:)

I read the story with great interest. Here in India it is the other way round. The Protestants try to convert Catholics. I always get away from them saying that we are all believers in Christ and therefore we should not try to convert each other. On other hand what we should do is to convert Hindus, Muslims and people belonging to other religions. That should be our priority.

However, many times I felt all Christians should unite and come under one banner. I don’t think this will happen in my life time.

Best wishes

FCB said...

Hi Joseph,
I sympathize with you, I know there are many Protestants that want to convert other believers and waste precious time.
There is a movment within the universal church that has been nick named the Emerging church, and although I don't know that much about it I do know a little and they are working towards unity. I understand this ideology is within all branches of Christianity including Protestants and Catholics. So if it is of God, and I hope so, maybe there will be far more unity than what you and I have grown up with. Hope so.
I guess we may be part of that huh?