An Evangelical Comes Home to Rome

Aime–a very articulate convert to Catholicism from Evangelicalism explains why she became a Catholic. Check it out. (H-T to Amy Welborn)

What strikes me about Aimee’s story is the same as so many Evangelical-Rome conversion stories. Usually the convert is not rebelling against his or her former beliefs. Almost always they remain thankful for all that was good in their previous experience, but in becoming a Catholic they are adding more to what they already had.

This is the theme of my own book, More Christianity. In many different ways I have argued that Catholicism is not essentially something different, but something more. On the other hand, Catholics who leave for Protestantism are most often rejecting Catholicism, and if they don’t at first, they are soon taught to by their new found faith.

In saying that, many Catholics leave the faith for Evangelicalism because (for many reasons) they did not receive a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. There are many shallow and ignorant reasons for Catholics to leave, but we have to admit that there are also some good reasons, and we only have ourselves to blame.

UPDATE: While we’re being nice to each other, here is an Evangelical’s (Joe Carter) appreciation of Catholicism,

Mark Shea expresses his heartfelt appreciation of his non-denom Evangelical upbringing.

I’ve always been deeply grateful for my time in non-denom Evangelicalism. It was there that God put me when I first became a believer and I never regarded that as an accident. Those are the people who taught me to pray, to live responsibly before God, to read my Bible, to live with the expectation that the Living God would indeed both hear and act in our lives, to live in community, to be accountable, to seek wisdom from other believers, to seek truth wherever it leads, to practice love, acceptance and forgiveness. I owe Evangelicals a debt I will never be able to repay. And one of the principle reasons I became Catholic at all was in order to be the best Evangelical I could be.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

About Fr. Dwight Longenecker
  • http://aimeemilburn.typepad.com/ Aimee Milburn

    Thanks for the mention, Father! I’ve enjoyed following your story as well, through Amy Welborn. God bless you!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05227411938775535934 Jeffrey Smith

    All the more reason to stress the reasons FOR being Catholic. May I suggest you write a little pamphlet on the topic. Maybe it could be printed and put on brochure racks in churches. I suspect you’d do it well.

  • Anonymous

    Can you tell me how your Evangelical understanding of Christian suffering differs from your Catholic understanding of Christian suffering?Can you tell me how your appreciation of the Lord’s Supper evolved into an appreciation of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?I have found that my Protestant Christianity, as devoted to Christ in a very personal relationship as it was, has been more of a hindrance than a help to Catholic growth (old habits and ways of thinking)–especially the transformation of the health and wealth Gospel to embracing the cross with Christ as he says we must.

  • http://aimeemilburn.typepad.com/ Aimee Milburn

    Jeffrey: Good idea! Maybe I will. Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve written brochures and pamphlets to put out in church.Anonymous: you want to know how my Evangelical understanding of Christian suffering differs from my Catholic understanding of Christian suffering.Well. That is a VERY big, deep topic. Suffice to say, for the moment, that there is almost no comparison, like between a small sidewalk puddle after a storm on a sunny day, and the endless deeps of the ocean embracing the earth, following the tides and storms and calms and climates, with places yet unexplored.That would be a good thing to write about, though. Not even Catholics really understand the Catholic theology of suffering. But it is profound, rooted and grounded in Christ, and, in my opinion, indispensable in really living the Christian life.

  • Anonymous

    Aimee: I have two CDs of a two-session talk: “The Meaning of Suffering” by Fr. Frank (?) Edlefson. The two CDs come to almost three hours of lecture on Collosians 1:24 and Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter “Salvivici Doloris”. Very intense, very powerful talks. They were part of a Lenten Series of 2005 in a parish in Arlington, VA. (still available, BTW from the producer) I have listened to them several times, and every time get more and more from them. I agree with your “oceans embracing the earth.” One can never plumb the depths of it, or exhaust the treasures it contains. But it requires a whole new mindset, a whole new way of looking at things. One literally puts off the old man to put on the new. I enjoyed your blog and have sent it on to my Evangelical niece. Thank you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18108910015959872763 Elena

    Greetings Father,I found your link on the Martha, Martha blog and this is my first visit to your nice blog!I have a theory about Catholics who leave the church (and I’ve known many). I call it the “I don’t know or I don’t care” theory. There are Catholics who leave because they never really knew their Catholic faith. I think that’s the majority of ex-Catholics. Then there are those who have been well catechized and know the Catholic faith, but they think the church is wrong on XY or Z (the usual issues) and so they leave anyway. I’m not sure that you can entirely apply blame. There comes a point in an adult’s life where the individual has to take responsibility for what s/he believes and why.

  • Anonymous

    There are also those who’ve been betrayed in the most brutal ways imaginable by the Catholic Church. When what you know, what you’ve personally experienced, is the stuff of horror films, that knowledge and that experience tend to trump what you’re being told to believe. The Church also must take responsibility for what it has chosen to do, also, and for whom it has driven away by its unholy choices.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18108910015959872763 Elena

    I understand what you are saying anonymous, but I think it is a lot like growing up in a dysfunctional family. At some point as an adult an individual has to stop blaming his/her upbringing and parents for the choices s/he is making now.

  • Anonymous

    If one is abused by a person repeatedly and then sees the institution to which that person belongs protect and enable the abuser, then one would be a fool not to choose to reject that institution. If the institution believes the person who rejects them is wrong, they only have themselves to blame. It’s not about the person who has rejected the institution blaming anyone. That person has clearly made a rational, intelligent, justifiable choice in that case. They have very good reason to reject the Church, and the Church can hardly argue otherwise. It’s about the institution being honest about the damage they did and accepting responsibility for creating a very good, valid, justifiable reason for rejecting the Church. That’s not the only reason for leaving Catholicism. Some people have serious intellectual disagreements about theological issues. You paint all former Catholics who’ve chosen to leave the Church as selfish, immature slackers.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18108910015959872763 Elena

    Is it not a sign of maturity, spiritual, intellectual, physical etc. to be able to separate individual wrongdoers from the church, institution, vocation etc. they represent? Some mothers beat and abuse their children. is motherhood corrupt? Some fathers abandon their family. Does that mean the idea of fatherhood is wrong? It seems to me that at some point, there has to a conscious decision made that this is the church that represents Jesus Christ on earth, and that abusers were not following Jesus Christ but their own agendas. Coming to that realization could be a rocky and painful journey, but it would it not also indicate a level of attained freedom and maturity?

  • Anonymous

    Maybe. Maybe it’s impossible for some. It’s not ours to judge. But you miss the point again. The point is that the Church as an institution (because the crimes were both individual and institutional) has to accept responsibility for the damage they did. To continue to blame the victims for their own very logical and rational rejection of an institution that collaborated to harm them is what’s truly immature and and shallow. To assert that there are no legitimate reasons to reject either the institution that is the Church or even to reject the theology of the Church is also immature. It also closes doors, creates walls, and ultimately rejects people. If you begin by rejecting people by claiming that they’re immature and shallow for not accepting Catholicism, how can you blame them for rejecting Catholicism in turn?The sex abuse crisis, the misogyny, the holier-than-thou attitudes, the logically flawed theology — these are all valid reasons for intelligent, earnest, honest people to ultimately reject the Church. Yes, this often boils down to specific individual’s bad behavior, but then one should hold them responsible instead of wagging one’s finger at the person they’ve hurt or misinformed (and there’s plenty of misinformation being passed around by the crowd that thinks they’re the best and holiest Catholics in the bunch). If you continue to give a free pass to the people who misrepresent Catholicism, who use Catholicism to judge and condemn others, and who use the Church as a place to hide their criminal perversions and human rights abuses, you ultimately cause more harm and damage. If you continue to close your mind and heart to those who’ve made a serious effort to accept Catholicism, but, in the end, don’t, then you’ve turned the Church into an unwelcoming, unChristlike, elitist clique, which only perpetuates the cycle of rejection, creating yet another valid reason to reject the Church. Instead of looking to blame people you deem less than you, why not examine yourself and ask if you’ve always made the Church a welcoming place for others, or even if you’ve caused the Church harm by your own behavior? Blaming victims, judging and condemning are fine ways to distract yourself from, well, yourself.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18108910015959872763 Elena

    I’m not giving a free pass to anyone. Merely pointing out that in the end, there has to be some sort of personal choice made by the individual. That choice is either made with a full knowledge of what the church really teaches or not. (which goes back to my original theory) The child of a dysfunctional family eventually has to decide whether or not they are going to let the abuse and neglect define them or not. Same thing. I’m unclear on why you feel that is blaming the victim unless you feel that abuse in any way shape or form absolves the abused from any type of personal responsibility for his future choices always. I reject that idea because I believe in personal free will and I believe good can overcome evil.

  • Anonymous

    I think the problem is that you’re equating the institution of the Catholic Church with God.You are essentially asserting there is no valid reason to reject the Church. You’re essentially asserting that the human institution of the Church cannot cause so much damage to an individual that the individual can reasonably reject that institution. That isn’t true. The Church as an institution and individuals who purport to speak for the Church have indeed harmed people to the point where rejecting the Church is the only sane outcome. That fault lies at the feet of the Church and those people who’ve caused the damage, and it is their responsibility to ackowledge it and do their best to repair the damage. You can’t destroy someone and then tell them it’s their responsibility to get over it and embrace you after you’ve done the damage. That’s crazy, and people recognize it as such and thus reject the Church. Not to mention the other many reasons why people leave. To write people’s genuine and earnest struggles off as ignorance and/or selfishness is, as I’ve already mentioned, just another reason for people to think there’s something wrong with the Church.If you’re going to present yourself as a representative of your institution, you’d do better to be a little less hard on those who are devoting serious time and effort to thinking these things through. If your attitude is “my way or the highway”, don’t be so surprised when people choose the highway.

  • Anonymous

    Just to add:There is a huge difference between what the Church teaches on paper, and how those teachings are played out in people’s lives. There are people who’ve twisted and used those teachings to justify evil behavior. The Church can teach any number of things on paper, but if one’s personal experience with the way those teachings play out in their everyday lives has been negative (at best) and/or physically and emotionally and spiritually damaging (at worst), then what the Church teaches on paper doesn’t matter. If the Catholics who are making the most noise about what “good” Catholics they are act in ways that are diametrically opposed to what the Church and, more importantly, what Christ taught, then people legitimately reject the Church, or worse, Christ. I do find, however, that people who’ve rejected the Church after serious thought and effort, rarely reject God. If anything, they often find themselves closer to Christ.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18108910015959872763 Elena

    There is a huge difference between what the Church teaches on paper, and how those teachings are played out in people’s lives. There are people who’ve twisted and used those teachings to justify evil behavior. Absolutely. I am in total agreement. The Church can teach any number of things on paper, but if one’s personal experience with the way those teachings play out in their everyday lives has been negative (at best) and/or physically and emotionally and spiritually damaging (at worst), then what the Church teaches on paper doesn’t matter. Well of course it matters. The question is whether or not the individual comes to see that difference or not. Which brings me back to my original theory. I do find, however, that people who’ve rejected the Church after serious thought and effort, rarely reject God. If anything, they often find themselves closer to ChristI’m not sure about this either. How can one feel closer to Christ when they reject the church He founded and the truths it teaches? I think in reality they find themselves closer to what their image of Christ is. That isn’t necessarily the same thing.

  • Anonymous

    They don’t reject the truth Christ teaches. They reject the institution that first rejected what Christ taught. Actions will always matter more than words. The reason people reject the Church is because they do know and understand what the Church teaches on paper and what Christ taught and they recognize the disconnect between the words and the actions.This is why Christ saved his harshest words for religious hypocrites. He understood the kind of damage that behavior does. That people recognize the disconnect between words and actions and choose to seek outside of a place that fosters this behavior does not make them ignorant, lazy or selfish. They do understand what the Church teaches (and, again, more importantly, what Christ taught), and they choose to find a place that reflects those teachings. If you merely write people off as either ignorant or selfish and lazy for rejecting the Church, then you’re at fault. You’re not being honest. You’re claiming to know things you don’t know about people you don’t know and you’re judging them accordingly, creating another disconnect. You can’t “theorize” that all those who reject Catholicism either don’t know what it is or know but want to act differently (a more honest choice, actually, than superficially claiming acceptance of the Church and then behaving otherwise). You don’t know enough about specific individuals and their experiences and struggles to assert such a thing. Also, why do it? Whom does it serve? Does it serve God to write people off so casually and hard-heartedly? Does it serve those who are struggling? What you’re essentially doing is living out exactly why they’re leaving in the first place.

  • Anonymous

    There are also many Catholics who tout themselves as “good” Catholics who have created a god in their own image and who’ve also picked and chosen bits and pieces from Tradition to bolster this image they’ve created. Membership in the Catholic Church means nothing in and of itself. Actions will prove what you really believe, and God judges on actions, not membership cards.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18108910015959872763 Elena

    They don’t reject the truth Christ teaches. They reject the institution that first rejected what Christ taught. Even people who remain in the church reject the corruption that rejected what church taught.The reason people reject the Church is because they do know and understand what the Church teaches on paper and what Christ taught and they recognize the disconnect between the words and the actions.People who remain in the church recognize the disconnect as well. They also recognize that corruption is part of the human condition and that every institution has it. They recognize that the church is more than the people in it. This is why Christ saved his harshest words for religious hypocrites. He understood the kind of damage that behavior does. Again I agree. Christ did however found one church on earth. Which brings me back to my original theory of why people leave the church. That people recognize the disconnect between words and actions and choose to seek outside of a place that fosters this behavior does not make them ignorant, lazy or selfish. That’s your straw man to dance with. My assertion is that ex-Catholics leave because they don’t know the church’s teachings or they know but disregard them and leave anyway. You thus far have not persuaded me that I am wrong on either of those for whatever reason. If you merely write people off as either ignorant or selfish and lazy for rejecting the Church, then you’re at fault. Another straw man with an adhominem thrown in for good measure. I’m merely expressing my observation formed over the years for why Catholics leave. you’re judging them I’m observing them. Big difference. You can’t “theorize” that all those who reject Catholicism either don’t know what it is or know but want to act differently Sure I can. It’s just a theory based on observation. You don’t know enough about specific individuals and their experiences and struggles to assert such a thing. It’s a working theory. However, in my experience from reading such accounts it has usually boiled down to those two things. Also, why do it? Whom does it serve?What does a theory ever serve? Thinking back to my school years, I thought the purpose of a theory was to help explain and understand the way things worked. Does it serve those who are struggling? Possibly. I can think of two instances including a personal one where it was very useful.

  • Anonymous

    Mmmmmmkay….Thank you for proving my point. Good night.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18108910015959872763 Elena

    chuckle and you proved several of mine. I’ve been reading and participating in on-line for many years. There is always pretty much a predictable pattern. This one was no different.

  • Anonymous

    Perhaps a little less arrogance and pride would serve you better, then. You seem to have forgotten what both Christ and the Catholic Church teach about those. Charity and humility were Christ’s way. Not pride, rudeness, arrogance, condemnation and exclusion. You’ve managed to disregard the genuine pain and suffering of thousands of people, all of whom are equally chosen and loved as you by God, many of whom have a faith as deep and true as any Catholic’s, and perhaps more so than some, all because they haven’t done things your way and in your allotted time frame. What happened to God? Does God get no say in this at all? Where’s any allowance for the work of the Holy Spirit in your “suck it up, get over it, and do as I say” attitude?God knows each of us intimately. He knows our struggles, our pain, our suffering, and he knows who and/or what has caused it. He works in his own way and in his own time. You have cut God out of the equation entirely in your encounter with the suffering of others, and put yourself in his place, claiming you can divine the motivations and struggles of strangers and categorize them accordingly. Once you’ve cut God out of the equation, I know I’m dealing with something that is of Satan and not of God. That is why I will continue to reject the Catholic Church. There is too much of that going on, too many opportunities for abusive, arrogant, prideful individuals to prey on those who are seeking the true God, who understand what the love of the true God is. This is not of God. You are not of God.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18108910015959872763 Elena

    Just for sport.Perhaps a little less arrogance and pride would serve you better, then. You seem to have forgotten what both Christ and the Catholic Church teach about those. Charity and humility were Christ’s way. Not pride, rudeness, arrogance, condemnation and exclusion. Ad hominem fallacies.You’ve managed to disregard the genuine pain and suffering of thousands of people, all of whom are equally chosen and loved as you by God, many of whom have a faith as deep and true as any Catholic’s, and perhaps more so than some, all because they haven’t done things your way and in your allotted time frame. Strawman, ad hominem, red herring. What happened to God? Does God get no say in this at all? Where’s any allowance for the work of the Holy Spirit in your “suck it up, get over it, and do as I say” attitude?Major red herring. God knows each of us intimately. He knows our struggles, our pain, our suffering, and he knows who and/or what has caused it. He works in his own way and in his own time. as is this. You have cut God out of the equation entirely in your encounter with the suffering of others, and put yourself in his place, claiming you can divine the motivations and struggles of strangers and categorize them accordingly. ditto with an ad hominem side dish.As the thread has totally degenerated from respectful discussion into a fallacy fest, there is no longer a point. I’ll bow out now.

  • Anonymous

    “Just for sport?”Wow. Just…wow. I really feel the love of Christ via the Catholic Church with that one.I’d rather go to heaven than win a debate trophy on the internet. I would rather follow the true God than follow the god of ego, pride and arrogance here on earth, foregoing eternal life with God after death.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18108910015959872763 Elena

    I’d rather go to heaven than win a debate trophy on the internet.I don’t think it has to be an either/or proposition. A good discussion/debate can be Godly and still refrain from the use of logical fallacies. I would submit that most discussions/debates that are striving for civility and holiness can and SHOULD refrain from the use of logical fallacies. Particularly ad hominems.

  • Anonymous

    No one wants a formal debate with a self-appointed debate-monitor. You didn’t want to discuss. You didn’t even “listen” to anything I said. You merely pounced on lines taken out of context so you could try to prove you’re “right” about something you can’t even be right about unless you know the hearts and minds of every human being in the world. You’re not here to “discuss”. You’re here to win a shiny prize for yourself and to keep the door of the Catholic Church closed to people who’ve already been hurt enough by the Church. Your comments are lacking in any caring, compassion, kindness, charity or love. They’re all about you being “right” about something you don’t know anything about. I hope being “right” and your pretend trophy make you happy. I don’t want to discuss anything with you anymore. You’re unkind and unpleasant and you’ve turned me off to this whole Catholic thing. Good Bye

  • Anonymous

    Sounds as if “anonymous” is ripe for conversion.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18108910015959872763 Elena

    You didn’t want to discuss. You didn’t even “listen” to anything I said.Pot/kettle and all of that.

  • Anonymous

    You would rape a child yourself, wouldn’t you? “Just for sport”, and all that. You place no blame or responsibility at the foot of the rapists and the organization that protected them and handed more children over to them to rape, and place all the responsibility on the raped children. You’re no better than a rapist yourself. Yes, “anonymous”, I’m doing fine with the true God in a true, Bible-believing church. Any church that refuses to hold child-rapists responsible for their actions is not a church of the true God. A church that blames rape-victims for their own rape is not a church of the true God.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13351034705766073667 Kiwi Nomad 2006

    This comment has been removed by the author.


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