An evangelical friend in Washington passes along to his email list a note he recently received. Just passes it along, as though it were a normal sort of thing, and asks for comments:
Did you see this? [An article about the rediscovery of a relic.]
Apparently, this relic contains what are supposed to be the relics of the actual crucifixion of Jesus: a piece of the Crown of Thorns, the sponge used to dab his lips, and a sliver of the cross itself, all woven into the cloth.
But, oops, somewhere along the way, these supposed precious artifacts from the true cross and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ got misplaced by some nuns. I was fascinated with this comment, by Maureen A. Tilley, professor of theology at Fordham University, “It is exciting because it is a link, however tenuous, to the times of the apostles, the time of medieval saints.”
The reaction in its locale to the discovery is even more tragic–
The discovery of the relic has brought a new faith to this once bustling, but now struggling, community. Attendees at a noon Mass in St. Joseph’s Cathedral say it’s a wonderful addition.
“There’s been a tremendous buzz about it already and it is nice to see that,” John Aman says.
“It is good to believe that people put in that much work into something for their faith, and it makes me stronger about my faith,” adds Mary Jane Lauk.
This is what happens, my brother, when sola scriptura is abandoned. One of the “twin pillars” of authority is not just listing—it lies, as it always has, collapsed under the weight of its superstitions.
Every time I think there is hope for some kind of “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” progress, an ecumenism of the trenches in a day in which we are all under attack, I’m reminded that there still exists a profound belief out there among evangelicals that Catholics are, at best, superstitious and credulous fools and, probably, not Christians at all.
The problem isn’t so much the anti-Catholic bigot from the Midwest who sent the original note. He is who he is, and I doubt we can change him. No, the deeper problem is instead that a connected and urbane evangelical in the nation’s capital would think that note an appropriate thing to pass along to his email list.
This may be the great unspoken shadow in the pro-life fight—in all of America’s religious struggles, for that matter, and in the political battles we join. Even Catholics’ closest allies among evangelicals can be, at best, tone-deaf to the old tropes of anti-Catholic bigotry. And sometimes what’s revealed is that even the smartest of them can find in their minds a little kernel of the idea that Catholics are un-Christian, even anti-Christian, betrayers of the Bible.