Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Are you a Disciple of Christ?

Ignore the title for a moment. Take a deep breath...close your eyes...and think about the word....DISCIPLINE.....think about what your first reaction was.

If you're like me, your first thoughts aren't good ones. You start thinking of your kids and how you may have had to put them in time out or scolded them. All these negative thoughts start filtering in. You may have even allowed your mind to float to a time in your own childhood where you endured "discipline."

Believe it or not discipline is not supposed to be a negative word. It simply means to be taught. That's right "to be taught." Now do you feel a little better. And the word disciple means "a follower."

I've mentioned that I'm from Mississippi. I grew up in the Bible belt as a Catholic, which is not fun. The phrase "Are you a disciple of Christ?" came up more than once and I was never (as a child) sure how to answer that. Usually I just gave the person asking a confused look and a hesitant "yes."

I recently have been reading this book about self-esteem and children from the early 70s. In the book there is a chapter about what discipline is and the author mentioned what a disciple was. Then I had one of those light bulb moments that Oprah always talks about. I started reading the chapter not from the prospective of a soon-to-be parent but from the prospective of a follower of Christ. That's when everything about that phrase came into focus.

I think that when I was asked the question "Are you a disciple of Christ?" it was a loaded question. I originally thought that it meant "Are you a Christian?" but really the phrase means something entirely different to me now. What it means is "Do you follow the rules of Christ?" Discipline or teaching is establishing rules which the followers or disciples follow. The reason why the question is so loaded is because if it's coming from a Protestant it usually means "Do you follow the Bible?" because that is where their "rules" come from.

I get really upset with many Protestants because they don't follow any kind of tradition. They feel that the Bible is "perfect" and everything in it is "factual." I have to remind them that the Church was around before the Bible was. That still doesn't matter to them because some Protestants believe that God literally wrote the Bible. For the record, God did not prick his finger and write the Bible in his blood. He spoke to people who then in their own imperfect ways preached the messages. Later these messages were written down. So nothing is "perfect" about the Bible or we would include the gnostic gospels in the Bible.

The Bible is up to many different interpretations or how people view how the rules are. In the book, the author talks about how families establish rules and that each family has it's own set number. Some families have few rules, and some families have many rules. So too do all denominations have a few rules and others have many. Some write them down and others do not. Take the Catholic church. We have a hierarchy. The Southern Baptist Convention has more of loose group or coalition. The Catholic Church has published a huge book called "The Catechism of the Catholic Church" which is a list of all the rules. The SBC has more of an outline without any particular publishing of rules for its followers.

We also are disciples or followers. All denominations claim to follow Christ's rules, but as I mentioned it just depends on what that denomination thinks those rules are. So I suppose really if you want to come down to it that person was asking me "Do you follow the SBC?" and no I do not. I do, however, follow Christ.

And this is where I diverge from conservative Catholics. Because if a Catholic came up to me and asked the same question "Do you follow the teachings of the Church?" I would say "no." Alright, don't get pissed off just yet. Bear with me. Take a deep breath. And for those of you who are Protestants don't get all victorious with me yet.

I follow Christ's teachings. Christ didn't teach about many things that the Church teaches today. There is nothing written about birth control in the Bible and there wasn't really any form of it in the early Church either. Only recently has it been a topic of hot debate. And there are many issues like that that are similar. I really don't understand why birth control is such a hot button issue. It's not like you're destroying anything. Why isn't smoking a bigger issue? There is nothing in the Catechism that says "don't smoke" and there are no ecclesiastical letters about the issue. But smoking kills more people than birth control does. And personally I think that Christ would find the promotion of smoking more horrific than birth control because it kills and we're "not loving our neighbor" if we allow the smoking ads to continue.

And that's why I have a problem with blindly following the rules of the Church. Some are too strict and others are too lax to what I believe Christ would have felt. You ask a Catholic American "Are you proud to be an American?" and they say yes. You ask "Do you support the troops?" "Yes." "Do you support the war?" and then the answers diverge because of political reasons. If I told a person that it did not matter to Jesus the political reasons behind war, that Jesus did not even believe in self-defense. People would think that I had gone off the deep end. Jesus never defended himself from being killed. He never ran away. He did not strike anyone. Yet we go to battle in poor defenseless countries like Afghanistan because "we have to defend ourselves." Defend ourselves from what? Poor people who are already oppressed. Oh, I'm sure someone is thinking about Bin Laden. But trust me we didn't have to invade the country and kill thousands of people to go after one guy. Even if your not a pacifist like me, you can still see how stupid that was. Even the Vatican agrees. Although their official position on war is that it is justified as a means of defense. But even I think that is stupid. Gandhi, Jesus, and Martin Luther King Jr showed me that you don't have to win battles with arms.

So does that make me a Cafeteria Catholic? Which by the way, is a horrible term. I agree that some people want to live in the world, and not follow certain rules because the rules don't follow societies norms. But please, the Catholic church doesn't entirely follow Jesus's rules either. Smoking and war anyone?

The Church also flip flops on issues. Take modesty for instance. Traditionally women are supposed to wear dresses or skirts that go past the knees, shirts that go down to the elbows, and collars that are only two finger widths down and no lower. We're also supposed to cover our heads. And no one does that anymore. No matter how conservative your church may be; I haven't seen anyone following those guidelines accept St. Peters in Rome. Why is that? Why can't priests who encourage people not to take communion because they support abortion not turn people away from Mass because of how risque their apparel is? It makes no sense to me.

Nor does the fact that in the past the Church also told women that they could not practice any form of birth control including the NFP method. That's right ladies. The church said you could not control when you had sex in order to have some control over how many children you had. Now you can as long as it's NFP. I've read JPII's letter. I still don't get it. I've even had some conservative friends ignore the letter because they consider NFP to be a form a birth control. Which NFP is a form of birth control but other forms are "horrible and unnatural." Hummm....

So you see I am a disciple of Christ and I believe that's more important than following the Church's rules. When I die, the Pope isn't going to judge me. God is. I'm more worried that I didn't try to help the innocent and the poor than if I used NFP or not. So I guess you have to decide. Do you follow Christ or the Church? What is the more important focus of your life: living a modest faith filled life or following everything the Church says down to the letter? Because I don't think that you can have your cake and eat it too.

Yes, I'm a Catholic. I'm a Catholic because I believe in tradition and in the Eucharist. I'm not a Catholic because of hot button issues, which is what I feel that many conservative Catholics think means to be Catholic.

3 comments:

  1. Not going to argue with you (because for one its not nice lol, and beyond that you make some really good points) but I have to make a comment about the BC thing because that's a topic thats very close to me... and not just because the Church says its wrong. I'm actually going to skip over the religious part (including Biblically because technically it is mentioned at least once in some form). There are other very good reasons that it is a hot button issue. Most forms of birth control (hormonal at least.. plus all iuds) use 3 methods to work, one of these is an early abortion. Granted that slants over towards the religious side for obvious reasons, but still. Even a lot of non Catholics (and even some non Christians) I know are not comfortable with this when they find out. On top of that almost every form of ABC (including condoms and other barrier methods) have side effects. Some methods are more likely to have them and have worse ones, but they all do. I'll give you that this is a more personal issue... if someone wants to risk that... its their choice. But I can't in good conscience say that the issue of smoking is any bigger than the one of ABC. Not saying that smoking is not an issue either of course lol. I laugh but its not funny, I've had family die from it, and a couple others well on their way.

    I also don't get the issue over NFP btw... I hadn't seen that until very recently & I'm shocked that its come down to that. Personally I love NFP... for more reasons than trying to avoid a pg when I need too or get pg when I'd like... but because it helps me know my body well enough to tell if there's a problem. If someone doesn't want to use it (or anything else) I see no issue but don't appreciate being told that this is wrong when I can't see that lol. I can see how it can be taken too far, but that's a whole diff story & I'm rambling because I'm tired and stuff. Sorry.

    Anyways.. I like your last line. I'll admit I do believe (strongly in some cases) in the hot button issues (at least some of them) but I don't think that's what it means to be Catholic either. I think that my feelings on them are bolstered because of my Catholic beliefs.

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  2. To be perfectly honest, I don't do well with chemicals in my body. I have many friends who do have adverse reactions to the pill. So I don't use the pill. I do have a problem with the church not sanctioning the use of the pill for women with medical problems like anemia and endometriosis. I had a friend who nearly bled to death from anemia because she worked for the church and they would not cover the cost for the pills even though she had her doctor write a note explaining why taking the pill was a medical necessity.

    Some people get abortion pills and birth control pills mixed up. Birth control pills prevent you from forming an egg and releasing it. Therefore there is no fertilization. So nothing "dies." Abortion pills cause the uterus (which is a muscle) to contract and release an already fertilized and implanted egg. This pill is a form of abortion (which I don't believe in). The morning after pill is a little different. The egg can be fertilized but it not allowed to implant. I'm not big into the morning after pill either.

    Condoms are made of latex which some people are allergic to. There are other types of condoms such as sheep's skin that are not as good at preventing STD transmission. Condoms prevent the sperm from traveling. They also prevent STD transmission. Now some people might say well you shouldn't have STD's if your a virgin and that's not true. There are many STD's that be contracted from the mother at birth such as Herpes, HIV, ect. And these viruses are not cureable. I have hopes that church will get off their high horse and recognize that the people have contracted these diseases are trying to prevent their spouse from contracting these diseases as well. Unless the church decides that you shouldn't be married and have sex at all if you have an STD, which I believe that is between you and God.

    Plus, as I said before nothing is "dying". I don't have a problem with those who use NFP, but I think if the church wants to open the forum to forms of birth control like NFP then they should also open it up for other forms. Because I don't feel that NFP is natural. You are limiting when you have sex. That's not natural, in my opinion, either.

    I do know a lot about what is going on with my body without strictly following NFP. I learned how to "chart" my period in grade school. It was what the girls were taught to do in health class so we could notice health problems. I totally think that examining yourself and watching how your body reacts is important to health over-all.

    Oh, and I brought up smoking because I read it somewhere. The author was making the point that some issues aren't life and death but smoking is and the church should encourage members to quit.

    Fun Filled Fact: Testicular cancer is common in men in their early 20s and 30s. So all men need to examine themselves regularly like women examine their breasts for lumps.

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  3. Sorry but have to point out... BC pills don't just prevent eggs from releasing.. They try too, but they use two other methods as backups.
    One is increasing cervical mucus to stop sperm from getting by.. Obviously this also would prevent pg, but the last one is an abortificant. It thins the lining of the uterus. If the first two methods fail (which depending on the method used, happens to some degree or another) then the fertilized egg (ie conception already occurred) tries to implant and can't. Obviously some do survive (hence the "failure" rate) but imo that's still an abortion. According to Catholic teaching that's still an abortion.

    I actually have a blog post (under the birth control label) that goes into detail about how they work with links and everything if you want more info. There are a lot of misconceptions and most women don't know exactly how they work.

    The Church will allow for them for those reasons you mentioned too btw... as long as you're not having sex while on them. However there are other ways of treating the conditions that are much more effective.

    Condoms also have talcum powder on them (most brands anyway) so there's a small risk of cervical cancer while using them... so latex isn't the only issue there. Married w/ one partner having an STD would be a grey area I think. I seem to remember reading about it somewhere but I don't remember what the exact response to it was... I do know that even using a condom is still a risk in that situation though... they do reduce the risk of spreading STD's but they aren't even close to 100%.

    I knew about the guys checking themselves thing btw... there's a place on my charting software to remind my husband lol.

    I get why you'd think it needs to be opened up if you don't think NFP is natural... but I really don't get that lol. Honestly its brought my husband & I closer together (which is a pretty common sideeffect of practicing it). Anyways, its not just as cut & dried an issue though. There's a reason its not allowed... imo a pretty good one.

    Sorry, like I said before... this is one of my big topics lol. I've done a ton & a half of research on it for various reasons...

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I love to read your thoughts. Thanks for sharing!