Thursday, June 13, 2013

Catholics Need Not Apply

Today a friend of mine said she has no idea where she is going to send her daughter to high school. Her daughter currently attends a Christian junior high in the area where she lives.
"What about the Christian high school in the area?" I asked. It seemed like a logical suggestion.
"My daughter can't go there. We already checked into it and you have to be a Baptist."
"What?"  I asked. I want to made sure I heard her right. "A Baptist?"
"Yeah. We looked into the admission policy and it says you have to be a Baptist to go to that school. We're Catholic, so obviously that isn't going to work."
"Are you kidding me?" I was shocked that this high school was so exclusive.
She said she wasn't kidding. I could hear the disappointment in her voice. I tried to lighten the moment by telling her a joke.
Saint Peter greets a group of Christians who have just arrived at the pearly gates with a hearty "Welcome!" and tells them he is going to take them on a tour of heaven. They are all very excited to hear this. He leads them around their new heavenly home, showing them the golden streets, large banquet hall and the magnificent choir of angels. The group of Christians point and chatter excitedly with each other along the way. Near the end of the tour, Saint Peter motions for them to move in close together. He leans toward the group and lowers his voice. "OK, folks, as we pass through this next section of heaven, I need you to be very, very quiet. Please do not make a sound as we pass through this area."
The Christians all look puzzled. One Christian piped up and asked "Why do we need to be so quiet?"
Saint Peter lowered his voice to a whisper and leaned in even closer to the group--"Because the section we are about to go through is where the Baptists live and they think they are the only ones here."
My friend laughed loudly at this joke. I did too, even though I have heard and told it many times. But then I thought...really? Is exclusiveness funny?
Is it funny that her daughter can't go to the only Christian high school in the area where she lives because one group of Christians say she does not fit into the right denominational category? It isn't like her daughter is from an entirely different faith community, like Buddhist or Muslim or something! I understand a school wanting to maintain it's faith tradition, but for goodness sake to not let Catholics in to a Christian high school? Wow. I went to a Christian high school and we had plenty of Catholics....and Baptists, Pentecostals, Agnostics, and now that I think about it, the guy who thought "flirting" meant trying to run me over with his bike at lunch time was a Unitarian, which to Baptists basically means "Satanist." Not exactly sure if that meant these non traditional protestant parents "lied" on the school admission application, but I know I went to school with a diverse group of Christians and my school had the word "Christian" in its name.
I checked into the high school my friend mentioned and reviewed the school admission policy online.  As it turns out, you don't have to be a Baptist, but you DO have to be a protestant.  I thought it was curious that my friend had said "Baptist" instead of protestant, but I wasn't surprised.  My guess is when she read this and thought "What a narrow-minded exclusive group of Christians!" the first word that came to her mind was Baptists. (A spiritual Freudian slip?) I don't blame her. I was raised in the Baptist tradition and I am still trying to get over it.
I also read the school's "Statement of Faith."  It was certainly a statement, but I wasn't able to find much faith in it after the first sentence. Here are a few excerpts:
  1. We believe that salvation and the gift of eternal life can only be attained by accepting Jesus Christ as personal Savior by faith in His substitutionary death and the shedding of His blood on the cross. His payment for sins reconciles believers to God and is a gift to be received, not earned by works. To accept Christ as Savior, individuals must admit their own sin, recognize that only God can forgive sins, ask God to forgive them, believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died for them, and then ask God to save them. They then become a child of God and are secure in their salvation forever. Those who accept Christ will enjoy heaven forever, while those who reject Christ will suffer eternal and conscious punishment apart from God. (1 Cor. 15:22, Rom. 3:23, Rom. 6:23, Jn. 10:9-10, Jn. 14:6, Jn. 3:14-15, Rom. 5:1,10, Eph. 2:8-9, 1 Jn. 5:13).
  2. We believe that Jesus Christ Himself will someday return bodily as clearly stated in the Bible. We believe that His return at the Rapture is imminent and will occur before the Tribulation Period (as in the order described in Revelation 4-20), and that His Second Coming to earth will occur before His Millennial Reign. (Jn. 14:1-6, Matt. 24:27,30, Matt. 25:31, 1 Thess. 4:8-18, Rev. 7:14, 20:1-6, Dan. 9:26,27)
There are also eight other statements that include their beliefs on when you should be baptized, the inerrancy of the Bible, the role of the Holy Spirit, etc.  All are full of big theological words like substitutionary death, condemnation, redemption and absolute Deity. I grew up hearing these words and have studied theology so I know what they mean, but I tried to imagine some "newbie" Christian parent reading the statement and thinking, "Well, I am not sure exactly what all this means, but I'll go ahead and sign it. Thank God we go to that big Baptist Church on the hill because that means my little darlings McKenzie and Harley can get a quality Christian education! Poor Mrs. Ramirez is going to have to take her kids over the hill to go to school since there's nothing in this statement about worshiping the Virgin Mary like they do."
As I mentioned, I am a former Baptist in recovery. Part of my recovery involves joining a Lutheran church where it is refreshing to focus more on grace and what God does, than on my free will and what I do. Just look at statement #1. There is so much I HAVE TO DO!  I have to accept, receive, admit, recognize, ask..! And if I do, then when statement #2 happens (the 2nd coming of Christ), I won't get left behind! I'll be safe forever because I did the right things! Baptists certainly believe in grace and that salvation is a gift, and certainly I know some wonderful Baptist Christians, but their pendulum seems to swing a little bit more toward my will, my actions, my response than God's will, God's work, God's gift.

In statement #2 I have to do something, too--I have to make sure to GET THE ORDER RIGHT. Jesus is going to come back before the tribulation period, not after, or in the middle of it, but before. Evidently, I have to understand and agree to the timing of his return and millennial reign in order for my kid to go to this school. Somebody, get me a timline and a tutor, I am lost!

One of the things that struck me when I read the whole statement of faith, all 10 bullet points, was all the ways that Christians divide. If you want to be in our group, go to our school, you have to agree with our belief on:
When and how baptism is done,
What church to attend and how often,
Whether or not communion is a remembrance or a sacrament, 
The exact timing of Jesus' return...
Each one represents a denominational divide in the Christian church, some divisions within divisions. It reminded me that Jesus' prayer in John 17:20 still needs to be prayed today:

"I do not pray for these (the disciples) alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their word (us!) that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they may also be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent me." Or simply put-- "Heavenly Father, may we Christians be one so that the world may believe in the One sent by God - Jesus."

Then I started thinking...What would happen if this Christian high school let ANYONE in?  What if it started by letting the Catholics in (still playing it kind of safe) and then just opened the doors and let in anyone who wanted a Christian education?  What if the high school's statement of faith read something like this:

1. This school is committed to spreading the good news about Jesus Christ who came to earth as God to save everyone many years ago.  Through him we find forgiveness, peace, love, meaning and eternal life.

2. If you come to this school you will learn about God/Jesus in addition to the typical school subjects like math, science and English. 

3.  By attending this school, you agree to listen to the teachings of Christ, read the Bible and be a part of the discussion.  We welcome your questions and comments and we hope you will be amazed by Jesus and drawn to Him. 

4.  You agree to allow us to pray for you and your family.  We will pray for God's will to be done in your life and that you will come to realize and accept the wonderful gift of salvation that Jesus provides and experience the positive change that comes with knowing and living for Him. 

5. Teachers and faculty agree to be a reflection of Christ. We can't wait to share with you how Jesus has made a difference in our lives and how He wants to make a difference in yours! We will be mentors, role models and peacemakers and we pray you will be, too. Together, we will change the world!

I know, I know --definitely too open-minded for the Baptists and probably too narrow for the Lutherans. Maybe my statement of faith is too inclusive, but isn't that what Jesus' prayer is all about?  And who knows how much time we have before we will see him face to face (pre, mid or post millenial reign) and he will ask us, "So, did you exclude others or invite them in? The "least of these" you turned away was me, you know." (Matthew 25)

-Hope A. Horner, 2013
Follow on Twitter @HopeNote

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