Friday, June 24, 2005

Bigger Than Rod

A section of a comment that Rod Dreher wrote to my post about Crisis magazine's E-Letter deserves a post of its own, as I know it will elicit some strong reactions.

Rod writes:

Frankly, I'm sick of all this Catholic yammering about what a glorious thing it is that we have the Magisterium, and we have the Sacraments, and we have Tradition -- unlike those benighted Protestants, or (with ref to the Magisterium), those schismatic Orthodox. All those things are fine, but if you don't have a living, transformative relationship with Christ, what good is all that?

I have said on Amy [Welborn]'s site that I don't know what I would do if one of my devout Evangelical friends asked if he or she should convert to Catholicism. I guess the default position is "yes," because Catholicism is the truth, and possesses the fullness of faith. But I know these Evangelicals have a very strong relationship with Christ, and find a lot of genuine spiritual growth and fulfillment in their Evangelical congregations. To leave that for Catholicism as it exists in this place and time would be to enter into a desert in which it might well be more difficult to be close to Christ. That's just a fact, and we don't evade that fact by retreating into an empty triumphalism.
Rod is speaking from the background of his own faith journey—he's a Protestant convert to Roman Catholicism—and I don't want to characterize it without knowing the facts. Perhaps he or another reader could post a link to his testimony, as I was unable to find it online. (I did find a comment he made on The Corner about the vaunted Catholic author Walker Percy which bibliophiles might find heretical—and I must admit that, having read only The Moviegoer, I am in complete agreement with him.)

Taking Rod's comments on their face, it seems that he believes evangelical converts risk trading their "very strong relationship with Christ" and "genuine spiritual growth and fulfillment" for "a desert." Therefore, "the truth" and "the fullness of faith," according to him, exists in a dry and barren place.

I can't accept that. If Rod wants to say that Protestants are more visible, more upfront, more on fire for their faith, that can be argued. But to say that the Catholic faith is "the truth" and "the fullness of faith," and that it is at the same time "a desert," is impossible. Where there is true faith, there must, by definition, be living water, as Jesus said: "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water"—"a well of water springing up into everlasting life."

You get out of a church what you put into it. Yes, our spiritual life would be much easier if we could just walk into the most fiery, intellectually vivid, and socially just church we could find and have done with it. But that's not the point.

Where the truth is, the living water has to be. You go there, you find that living water, you share it with everyone you can, and somehow God keeps making more. That's how you irrigate the dry places. It doesn't happen if you just sit on top of the fountain and wait for someone to switch it on.