This may seem like an odd question and I am not wanting to cause any offense with it.
In Australia, where I live, it is a “much simpler” form of Christianity I think.
Involving loving God and neighbour, responding with kindness and forgiveness, loving any enemy (not always easy), look after our parents and elderly, ask forgiveness of sins, help disabled or other charity needs, and have belief like not support gay marriage etc.
I notice that USA Christian on CAF, on other hand can be much more passionate about religion and some almost speak like “lawyer” knowing and quoting canon law etc.
I wonder, can there be a tendency sometimes to be “too rigid” in beliefs?
Not so much in the beliefs themselves (I understand Catholic Church beliefs don’t change) but more in the flexibility of thinking?
And the spirit of why a person believes something vs simply do because it is Catholic law?
If person agrees with all things the Catholic Church says in “rules” should it be because they sincerely in their heart belief it to be mirroring what Jesus wants, and they agree after much thought/deliberation/soul searching?
Or should it be because they just follow rules of a “institution” or club which they dearly love?
Like following a much loved golf or league club membership rules.
Sometimes I wonder if this is how religious wars/fighting start.
It’s true there are universal truths but if we hold to them so rigidly cannot a person perhaps get stuck in religion & forget about spirituality?
So end up fighting Christian vs Muslim who is right, Catholic vs Protestant who right etc…
I read before article about Pope Francis talking about “rigid Christians” but I don’t fully understand it.
This is coming from me though (!) who is pretty poor Catholic etc (mainly ancestral cultural Catholic) so maybe I am misunderstanding it all?
There certainly are cultural differences between US and Australia.
Bear in mind also that CAF is not an unbiased selection of Catholics. The sort who sign up for CAF and post frequently are going to be the ones who read and think about theology, Scripture, and Church teaching. The ones who create Catholic websites and blogs will be even more so.
US Catholics in general do not seem to be that way.
I think it is a good point.
I have noticed there are a lot of Christian (of all sorts) blogs and websites from USA Christians.
Here we have hardly any and any that do exist are just family type blog with no theology thoughts and theology is really left for priests here.
Please understand that CAF is NOT representative of average practicing Catholics in USA or any other country. Also, CAF is primarily an apologetics and catechesis forum with a goal of sharing the correct information on Catholic teachings. We need to cite to Church documents and the Catechism and Scripture and so forth to have an informed discussion of many of the subjects here. It’s primarily an intellectual forum and draws a lot of people who are interested in that type of discussion.
Your average Catholic in a pew in USA is not interested in apologetics or deep discussions of this sort and likely just embraces the fluffy concept of loving God and neighbor that you speak of. Which is fine until he runs up against some confusing question or teaching, and then he has to either figure it out himself, ask his priest, or ask on a forum like CAF.
You have some great questions, and they are really geared towards the spirituality of each individual. It would be difficult to come up with generalizations about this sort of thing that don’t end up putting people into separate camps. And I do believe most peoples’ spirituality grows over time, and that spirituality in general exists on a continuum of, rather than in separate camps of, ‘legalistic’ or ‘spirit of the law’.
Speaking for myself, I’ve never been one to be known for my obedience to authority. So I’ve mostly understood the Church to be an institution run by man, and so, it’s not always right. But as I’ve learned more about the Church, it’s teachings, and the reasoning behind the teachings, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Church mostly deserves the benefit of any doubts I may have. But, to answer your question…I’m not in the “legalistic” camp, but pretty solidly in the “spirit of the law” camp.
Protestants in the U.S. would say something similar about the Catholic Church. They are “spiritual, not religious.” It’s “Jesus plus nothing.” However, salvation is not individualistic. We are in community. God has given us the Church and placed people in authority over us. As a Catholic convert myself there are times when I may not understand why I have to do something, but I am required to obey.
Obedience to those in authority is difficult for many, including Catholics, however the Bible commands it. "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. (Hebrews 13:17)
To me, this is like saying “do you love your husband because you are married to him or because of the person he is”. This is a distinction that is impossible to make.
I love Jesus. I have loved Jesus for all of my life, from my earliest toddler memories. That love for Jesus along with my own “inquisitive” nature kept me reading and reading. Little breadcrumbs along the way, and then as a teen I began to read the early Church fathers.
From there I went searching. By the time I was 30, I was seriously looking at Catholicism. Attended my first Mass around 1996, and soon after entered instruction to come fully into the Church.
When I first came into the Church, and for about a decade after, my politics were very rigid. Continuing to read, pray, search, finally those chains of rigidity broke and I was delivered from being a “X party Catholic”.
Christian life is a growth, a journey. We make mistakes, we turn and keep growing closer to God and His Church.
What about though when fighting occurs over religions?
Is the cause due to too much rigid adherence to “like a group” (whether Catholic, or orthodox, Protestant or Muslim etc)?
Where the “detail” can become more important then love neighbour (if this makes sense)?
Also, for posters who believe in “obedience” - if agree something because of obedience to Catholic Church and not because of sincere agreement from the heart, is there chance a person can become legalistic like Pharisees?
For me to believe/agree something personally, I have to believe the “spirit of the teaching”.
For example, I don’t like divorce but I do believe in it for couples where there is infidelity.
I see Jesus saying in the bible “no except for instance of adultery” but the Catholic Church on the other hand doesn’t agree believing divorce for this. I have never seen any satisfactory explanation that explain meaning of Jesus’s words in this passage though.
Another example is Catholic belief of sex only once married. It is not enough for me to just “follow” but I have to understand the “why” and spirit of a teaching before accepting it. Why God sees somehow how he sees it. Maybe that sounds arrogant. I guess I am not very obedient by nature person.
(I am not supporting sleeping around either though).
I love God first. My personal opinion is that faith should be there to get one closer to God. Im Catholic clearly, as I think this is a good avenue to do this.
I read a near death experiencer who became a pastor after his experience of meeting Jesus. He once said (paraphrasing) he finds people tend to fall into two groups, those who love God, and those who love religion. He said he didnt have much in common with those who love religion but did with those who love God.
I’ve personally found this true myself. Some seem to use religion to attack others or “be right”. Jesus said to love God with all your heart soul and strength. Then love your neighbor as yourself. Using religion to attack others, to me, is a contradiction. Correction is something els.
I’m also an Australian Catholic. Both @Beryllos and @Tis_Bearself explained why the forum can’t really be used to generalise about other (particularly American) churches. But there are some differences - insofar as I’ve noticed - between Australian Catholicism and American Catholicism.
Firstly, Australia is much more irreligious and secular than the US, and religion is much more “interiorised” as a private affair (for better or worse). Secondly, Australian Catholicism has encountered much less resistance to Vatican II, and so traditionalist groups such as the FSSP and SSPX have much less influence (if they have any at all). Thirdly, Australia has historically not been dominated by Reformed (i.e. Puritan) evangelical Christians as in the US. The Catholic Church has been the 2nd largest religious community in Australia for decades, and has been the largest for the past decade. Because of this, there tends to be less of a “bunker mentality”, so to speak, in defending Catholicism.
I suppose the continuum is based in the fact that everyone is different. Even if a group of people (Catholics) hear the same teachings, they may develop different interpretations because of their different experiences in life, or having the teachings presented in a different way than someone else heard it, etc… There are all sorts of reasons why people end up with different opinions about the same subject. So there’s going to be a continuum of beliefs from one end to the other. In this case, we’re talking about one end being “the letter of the law” and the other being “spirit of the law”, which BTW is an oversimplification.
Defining those two terms would just present them as generalizations. But I would define “legalistic” or “letter of the law” as being mostly concerned with what the law says, whether it’s ecclesiastical law or divine law. And “spirit of the law” I would define as being mostly concerned with the reason that the law is there, as in, what is this law trying to accomplish.
The purpose of our faith is to help deliver us to and maintain a simple, direct, relationship with God. Where we take it from there is up to us. We may become overly proud of knowledge, perhaps, combative about it even, or simply be seekers who want to know more, so they can know God better.
But knowing God also involves correct understanding of Him and His will by correctly understanding His revelation to us. And I’ve come to believe that the CC holds truest to the correct understanding. And that often times there are competing versions of the gospel, of the ancient faith, that can water down or stifle or otherwise corrupt a right understanding, and that’s where apologetics may come in to play, for example. Much damage has been done by sometimes ridiculously false gospels, aside from scandal caused by any of us not heeding the real one.
The Church tradition and the bible are the greatest guides for our love of Jesus to grow in faith and salvation. I think of my personal relationship with Jesus as the little chalice of the heart. The Church teachings and doctrine are the grand chalice of my faith in Jesus. The little chalice flows from the grand chalice.
Sometimes though there are some “strange things” that happen where fighting is not direct fighting/arguing.
Here there was a news story about a Christian couple who won a ham at a Club near Christmas time.
They were naturally happy for this and had called a Taxi (cab in America?) to take them home from the club. When the taxi came they asked the driver to put the package in the boot (trunk).
They driver asked them what it was and they told him it was a ham and he refused to take it/them because he was a Muslim.
Which religion is “right” in this case and at what point something becomes unreasonable?
Also I see some people on numerous occasion on Caf that say a family member does not like their religion and it will even become to the point of poor or no relationship with that family member?
I think family harmony is very important in the eyes of God.
If a persons religion does this effect, has the religion become to a place of rigidity and imbalance?
St Augustine in essence wrote that there are Catholics, who finding themselves to be so, remain in the Church because they’re attracted to the doctrines and rites. However, they’ve yet to become Christian.
Then there are Christians who have a deep faith in Jesus Christ find the Catholic Church as a place for them to move closer to Him.
In other words, some people have religion, but little or no in Jesus Christ.
While others who have faith in Jesus, will respond to that faith through religion.
As Christians we are called to respect and with charity to every other person. If this happened to me, I would say “Okay, I respect your beliefs. Will you call the dispatcher to send another driver, or I can call an Uber. Have a great evening.”
Honestly, if the Christians made this into a thing, they were wrong.
As we know, CAF is not a sampling of the majority of Catholics nor Christians. In real life, I’ve never met anyone who was cut off from family because of their Catholicism. We read the exceptions online, people don’t go to post about “I converted and I get along great with my family. We respect and love each other” in general.
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