As someone involved in ecumenical work, it comes as no surprise that I would not be too fussed about dating a non-Catholic; some friends have taken it to heart to pray for the conversion of my boyfriend, but it seems it’s more a concern to them than my half-hearted gift of a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for Valentine’s Day suggests it is to me. Having said that, as much as I pride myself for being a progressive and open-minded person, I have over the years come to the conclusion that I wouldn’t date a non-Christian.
I have expressed this intention to a number of people, some of whom have understood, and some who haven’t. It seems arbitrary and unjust to them. I have often wondered if they had a point. However, after 3 months and two shared Bible reading plans, I have concluded that I was right in holding out for someone who shares the same beliefs as me.
One issue I have faced is that it is difficult to reconcile diaries with someone who doesn’t understand the reason behind some decisions (yes, I really have to go to Mass if it’s a Sunday and I’m not ill or facing another objective impediment). In the case of a non-Catholic Christian, there is an element of friction over the Church’s requirements that aren’t shared, but chances are they understand that the reason for doing it is out of the same faith, just different ways to express that faith. In the case of non-believers, I have mostly been met with unconscious condescension. I tend to think we mostly think everyone else, especially people we like, are like us, so people who don’t have faith cannot reconcile how possibly someone else lives by it. Even when they respect the other person, or they say they do, there is still an element of looking down on someone for not being as free as them, when a Christian would say that they are those who are truly free.
Having said that, there can easily be condescension between two Christians too. Two cases in point, the infamous Traddie Catholic and the anti-Catholic Protestants. If you’re a long term reader, you know well enough that I have a beef with a small number of Catholics, who seem to be the largest presence on the internet, that are basically modern-age Pharisees. I have nothing against Catholics who are liturgically conservative and attached to tradition per se. In fact, I wear a veil in church and tend to prefer Mass in Latin celebrated ad orientem, and have a fondness for altar rails (I can be found loitering around the Brompton Oratory on a regular basis). I like a great deal of traditionally Catholic things. Being a traddie isn’t about tradition, it’s about the holier than thou attitude that some people have, who find anything other than their way to worship not Catholic enough and, therefore, not good enough. It’s a focus on the form and the rule that distracts from the essence. It is this focus that makes them judge people who are more charismatic and have embraced less formal ways to pray. It’s not that I am yet particularly comfortable with many aspects of charismatic worship, and truth be told I even agree with the argument about what it’s appropriate in the Mass, but it’s been a journey of discovery in which I have made the deliberate decision that I wanted to be more like King David than I wanted to be like his wife, and God has obliged me. I don’t feel like I want to be like King David in every aspect and also marry a male version of his wife. If it’s not your thing then fair enough, but don’t look down on those who feel at home in that way of praying.
Strangely united in their shared dislike for the hands up in the air to Matt Redman come the anti-Catholic Protestants. I have nothing against Protestants, in fact I am a historian of Protestantism and hold a huge fascination for the Church of England. I also watch online streaming of evangelical church services and attend a non-denominational worship group, because I believe that the Church is one. However, I appreciate the different theologies as different ways to interpret the same sacred text and, as much as I believe my tribe to be the one who got it right for a number of reasons, I do not presume to do the work of the Holy Spirit and convert people. I can talk about my faith, be an apologist, take people to Mass with me if they want to, but I cannot treat these people as a missionary project. If God wants them to be in the fold, He is looking for them after leaving the 99 sheep, end of. I personally think the non-Christians are a bigger priority for evangelisation than Protestants anyway. So, I don’t take part into what has become known as Missionary Dating, and I would very much rather not find myself dating someone who seems intent in proving the error of my ways at every turn. At the end of the day, we’ll only know who was right on Judgement Day, when Jesus calls the saints away from the unsaved. It becomes really tiring to turn a relationship into a Catholic Voice showdown.
The spectrum of how different it is to be a Christian even within a single denomination means that, apart from the basic beliefs as expounded by the Apostles’ Creed, talking about shared beliefs for me goes beyond sharing the faith. One can hold the same theology as truth, and yet have a mismatch in how seriously they take their faith and what role it has in their life. Sharing beliefs is more about sharing an approach to faith, and more specifically recognising that faith is about a relationship with God, and like every other relationship it is personal and specific to the people in it. What a relationship looks like for me is not the same as what it looks like for you, and that’s okay.
Today’s blog post has been part of the Love Blog Challenge 2018 on the subject “Beliefs”. Find the rest of the series here.
Meet your co-hosts
Brita of Belle Brita
Charlene Maugeri of Enduring All Things