Christian and Roman Catholic convert Heather King got a major write-up at Amy Welborn’s blog. Amy says Heather’s memoir Redeemed is a must read, so I’d say that settles it.
But in the comments of that post I found this quote from an interview with Heather King. That sound you are about to hear is the current crop of cross-avoiding, Osteen-esque evangelicals clearing their throats and slinking down in their seats like the sniveling Gospel-avoiders they are.
Tod asks: And Iâ€™m interested to know why the Catholic faith was your path in particular? Why not, for example, a Protestant sect, or Buddhism, or even Islam? What was it about Catholicism that called out to you particularly?
Heather: I can say that when I began my quest I didnâ€™t shop around for a church where I felt â€œcomfortableâ€ or where the people necessarily looked or dressed like me, or where I was going to hear things that were safe or familiar or politically correct. I was seeking the truth. I was looking for a church that would tell me the truth. I was concerned about the state of my soul, which I believed to be a matter of life and death. Catholicism was the only church that addressed that, as a matter of life and death: addressed it directly, continually, truthfully, without stinting or flinching. The cross in a Catholic church has a body on it. Right up front, right above the altar, is the message that subconsciously haunts us: someday, weâ€™re going to die. Right up front, loud and clear, is the human condition: suffering, torment, conflict. As I say in Redeemed, the first time I went to Mass and really â€œsawâ€ that body on the crucifix, I realized Christ isnâ€™t saying that we need to suffer more; heâ€™s acknowledging the suffering weâ€™re already in. And I suppose on some level in that moment I â€œgotâ€ as much as I ever will, or as itâ€™s possible to â€œgetâ€â€”which is that God loves us so much he incarnated himself as man, he came down and pitched his tent among us to teach us how to come awake, to accompany us on the journey, to show what it looks like and what happens to you when you live in total integrity. Eventually, one way or another, theyâ€™ll kill youâ€”which is why hardly anyone ever dares to live in total integrity.
Now go and read the entire interview, because it’s a monstrous piece of whup-up on whiney, milque-toast Christianity of every variety and as fine a Christian AND Catholic apologetic as I’ve ever read.
I could approach this piece like some Protestant apologist and say she goes too far here and there, but let’s just be honest. At its best, the catholic tradition produces everything Heather is talking about in this interview, and as a secular woman looking for the Christian message, she found that Catholicism had more spine than evangelism; had more backbone, more substance, more real world application, more truthfulness to the whole story of what life is about, more loyalty to the lessons of the saints and more integrity to the main issues at stake with Jesus.
Yes, we could talk scripture, justification, purgatory, transubstantiation and so on. But what’s the point? read what she says.
I just read the obituary of a woman named Irena Sendler, a Polish Catholic social worker who died at the age of 98, and whoâ€™d saved something like 2500 Jews, many of them children. The Nazis repeatedly tortured her, breaking her feet and legs, but sheâ€™d refused to give the names of her collaborators, or the location of the garden where sheâ€™d buried a jar containing a roll of paper with the names of the children and their parents. The Nazis finally let her go and as soon as she got out, she continued with her rescue work. You donâ€™t have to be Catholic to be an Irena Sendler, but I canâ€™t imagine anything that would encourage me more in that direction than Catholicism. Someone like Irena Sendler makes me realize how unworthy I am to call myself a follower of Christ: if I were really a follower, Iâ€™d live in a lot more courage, humility, poverty, chastity, and obedience than I do. But people like Irena Sendler give me something to strive for, to emulate. Thereâ€™s something sublime about an Irena Sendler, about Catholicism, about a religion that makes saints out of sinners. Saints arenâ€™t â€œgood,â€ theyâ€™re beyond good, theyâ€™re part crazy. I read recently that faith means believing in the surprise ending. The Crucifixion was a surprise ending. You donâ€™t expect the Savior of the world to die an apparent failure, rejected and scorned, spat upon, cut down in the prime of life and butcheredâ€”just like we donâ€™t expect cancer, broken hearts, bankruptcy, alcoholism, war, lost children, famine, crime, and aging to cut us down like they do. So the Crucifixion was a surprise ending.
But the Resurrectionâ€”thatâ€™s the biggest surprise ending of all.
Now I think King is talking about what the entire Christian tradition- Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic- produces when we stop this insane renovation of the essentials of the faith into “Your Best Life Now.” We’ve got millions of Christian for whom Christ is no more than a life coach with a motivational message for when you’re “down” and “needing direction.” The idea that God has utterly invaded and transformed the human experience via the Gospel, and revolutionizes life now with the Kingdom- it’s really another religion.
King is right: The cross at the front and the way of Christ going out into the world. Both are attractive and transforming to the person who wants God, truth and a new life. If you just need some nice positive thoughts for a hard day, evangelicalism will do just fine.
A great interview, and one that deeply recommends King’s book. Thank you, Amy.