The Church of What’s Happening Now
We were told Protestantism is nearly dead. It seems everyone, including the mainstream media, has all but sealed its coffin.
Watching recent news coverage of Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, and the election of Pope Francis, one would assume the Pope is indeed the leader of Christians everywhere. The fact that not all Christians are Catholics is a small detail everyone seems lax to distinguish.
As soon as the new pope was announced, Fox News’ Megyn Kelly told her viewers that Jesus had appointed Peter the first Pope. While the MSM carefully seeks to preface much of their news with politically correct caveats like “According to Muslim faith,” and “According to the Jewish faith,” it seems “According to the Catholic faith,” is suddenly unnecessary. With Kelly’s statement, viewers who lack any religious knowledge would have envisioned Jesus placing a miter on Peter’s head right after the first white smoke drifted heavenward from a chimney in Rome.
Time and again, we hear Catholic theology inserted into what has become ecumenical Protestantism. The Via Doloroso for instance, with its 14 stations of the cross determined by the Catholic Church, is increasingly embraced by Protestant churches. Some of these stations are strictly Catholic in origin, like #6, where Veronica Wipes Jesus Face. There is nothing in the Bible about Veronica, but the Veil of Veronica, the cloth she supposedly used to wipe Jesus face, is a major Catholic relic kept at St. Peter’s Basilica. The oral tradition is Catholic in origin and she is venerated as a Catholic saint.
One has to hand it to Catholics; their showmanship trumps anything in the Protestant church. Even a Protestant like me, with documented ancestral ties to the first pious pilgrims, was drawn into the “Pope frenzy.” Initially watching coverage of the papal conclave for historical purposes, I found myself being emotionally drawn to this man who, by most news accounts, was God’s representative on earth and the final authority on my faith. I almost forgot the price that was paid by Martin Luther, who emancipated Christians with the knowledge that God is the final authority on their faith, both on earth and in heaven. Still, I found myself almost wishing I were Catholic to join in the fun.
While most Protestants today willingly acknowledge Catholics are indeed Christians, there is still a movement within the Catholic church to quietly brand Protestants as heretics, in the pre-Vatican II belief that those who do not accept the Chair of Peter, the Seven Sacraments, or acknowledge the Church for Mother (Pope Pius IX, Singulari quidem of March 17, 1856) are not truly Christians:
There is only one true, holy, Catholic Church, which is the Apostolic Roman Church. There is only one See founded in Peter by the word of the Lord, outside of which we cannot find either true faith or eternal salvation. He who does not have the Church for a mother cannot have God for a father, and whoever abandons the See of Peter on which the Church is established trusts falsely that he is in the Church.
Protestants believe the Catholic Church worships false deities with statues of saints. We do not have ‘relics,’ which is to say we don’t make pilgrimages to human bones in hopes they will heal us, we don’t worship Mary nor pray to her (though we acknowledge her as blessed among women), we don’t carry medallions in hope they will protect us or bring answers to our prayers. Protestant doctrine holds that anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as their personal savior; accepts the Holy Trinity; asks God directly for forgiveness of their sins and follows the Ten Commandments — can be saved. Additionally, through God’s grace, anyone can be saved. That judgment call is up to Him.
Nevertheless, the papal frenzy that has gripped the world has left many Protestants wondering if they’re just not ‘cool’ anymore. Are there no fist-bumps for us? The much talked about idea of a one world religion doesn’t seem too far-fetched when you look at the public relations success of a Catholic Church who, despite devastating scandals, is making Protestants who were formerly in the majority look like the Studebaker of the day. Pope Francis seems to be leading a hugely successful public relations campaign to bring straying sheep back into the fold. The Drudge report had daily coverage of Pope Francis non-traditional exploits in the days following his ascension to the throne. News reports filled with supernatural excitement as soon as lightning struck the Vatican, and a seagull descended from heaven to sit atop the Sistine Chapel chimney, hours before history announced a new Roman Catholic leader. Can Protestantism survive without such pomp and circumstance and a central webcam broadcasting video worldwide?
We are faced with the dilemma of needing Christians of all faiths to unite in defense of a historically Christian country, and against an administration unfriendly to their beliefs. We live amongst a secular population that sees Christianity as antiquated. How do we do this and still keep our Christian identities separate? Or, in our high-minded pursuit of world peace, will we throw in the towel as we kneel to wash the Muslims feet in a grand display of religious tolerance?
Only time will tell if evangelical, traditional Protestants will survive in a culture that has succeeded in branding them as bible-thumping, ignorant Neanderthals. Sadly, when all is said and done, it might just be easier for them to crash the party and join what comedienne Flip Wilson called, The Church of What’s Happening Now. If they do, those great souls like John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Wycliffe and John Wesley, among others, will be shedding some tears in heaven…wondering what it was all for. We must not let that happen. We cannot be afraid to stand by the moral principles and Christian faith this country was founded on.