You know we're going to talk about it. How could we not? A controversy in the Catholic church - nay, a downright scandal - went public last week, causing raised eyebrows, mocking laughter, severe eye rolls, broken hearts, and wounded souls.
And what was that scandal? A Catholic priest had incorrectly been using the word "we" instead of "I" when baptizing parishioners, rendering the baptisms null and void. That's right. With one breaking headline last week, hundreds or perhaps thousands of Catholics were un-baptized. Just like that. Because "we" baptized them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit rather than the priest declaring, "I" baptize you...., they're out.
The Catholic church has not, of course, been without its scandals in our lifetime. Or really, in its lifetime. It's easy for the world to look on and laugh when a headline like this breaks. After decades of sexual abuse, we're talking about a pronoun? "We" is going to break the Catholic church?
Or a couple of months ago when the Catholic church was talking about whether or not President Biden could receive Communion. The world was watching then as the church debated somewhat publicly who was in and who was out. So again, it seems laughable that it all comes down to this - "we."
It seems laughable to many in the protestant churches, as well. Many pastors, and even congregants, have been quick to come out and say, "Jesus doesn't care. Trust us. You're fine." And then we're quick to go on and add that if your faith is so finicky and your Jesus so picky and your rituals so structured and on and on and on, then you aren't really a Christian, you don't really know God, and you'll just probably never be saved. Not for real, anyway.
That's not the response we're going to have this week. (Actually, it's not the response we should have ever. Not if we profess to be the kind of Christians God has called us to be - Christians who love one another.)
But it's so easy to do, and it's so tempting. And for a lot of us, it feels like the right thing to do. In fact, it's one of the things that the protestant church has loved about itself from the very beginning - its self-righteous arrogance that is willing and able at any turn to "correct" the doctrine of others. "We" (pun intended) are getting it right, and God wants us to make sure everyone else is, too.
Here's the truth, though: we, as human beings, love to jump on anything that we don't understand. That's why there is so much judgment, and even hate, toward things like unemployment, poverty, addiction. It's easy for us to sit here and say, well, I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps. I got a job. I don't drink myself into a stupor. "It's not that hard." But this shows our ignorance because it shows that we don't understand the thousands of complicating factors that lead one individual down these roads more than another.
The same is true with the Catholic faith. There's so much about it that we, outside of the Catholic church, don't understand about it. So it's easy for us to simply say they are wrong, step out "in faith" to "correct" their doctrine when stuff like this comes up, and consider ourselves morally - and theologically - superior for doing so.
Again, though, that's not what we're going to do this week. Honestly, if we were, I wouldn't have to write about it at all; most of you already know how to do this. Rather, what I want to do is to help us wade into some of the theology behind this, some of the Christian beliefs - yes, Christian beliefs - that might lead us to such a place where, I promise you, souls are hurting over this "we." Where our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus are wrestling with their salvation, having never thought they'd have to again. Where there is a pain in hearts that isn't satisfied by the world laughing and mocking and claiming this is just silly and "you're fine."
A lot of persons aren't feeling fine. So let's talk about why.