The church in which I grew up didn’t make a big distinction between Catholics and Protestants; we denied being protestants; “we aren’t protesting anything,” we would say. The big division was between people who baptized by full immersion, and people who didn’t. If your church “sprinkled babies” your church was wrong, Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, whatever.
The Body of Christ
We also claimed to read the Bible in its literal and obvious meaning, instead of reading it through a lens of human interpretation, or starting with a set of per-existing beliefs, then picking and choosing passages to support those beliefs. This gives the obnoxious teenager an opening to ask,
“Is the communion the actual body and blood of Christ?”
“No, Marcel; that’s something Catholics believe.”
“What about Mark 14:22 where Jesus says “This is my body,” and John 6:53, where Jesus says…”
“I know what the Bible says, Marcel. In those passages Jesus is speaking as in His parables. You’d understand if you could read the original Greek.”
Maybe not the best answer, but I really was pretty obnoxious. They were, and are, good people trying their best to follow Jesus. Now I attend a Methodist church. If I asked a Methodist preacher, “Are the elements the actual body and blood of Christ?” I might get any of a variety of answers. I’d be surprised if very many at all were a simple “Yes” or “No.”
“Pastor, does scripture teach us that the bread and juice* are the actual body and blood, or that they’re symbolic?”
“Well, it’s complicated. Paul says this, Isiah says that, this is in John, but looking in context, the Masoretic text the Apostle was quoting must also inform our understanding. Throughout history, different scholars have…”
“Pastor, does scripture tell us to tithe?”
“Well, strictly speaking we are encouraged to give more than 10%…”
So I’d not be willing to say much at all about what Methodists believe, let alone what Protestants believe. I’m not always entirely sure what I believe, so I shouldn’t be too hard on the preacher.
Ora pro nobis
It doesn’t bother me that people pray to Mary and the Saints. I don’t think most Methodists agree with me on this. Certainly it can become superstition and idolatry, or it can become mechanical, but if it’s just a matter of “Pray for us sinners,” I don’t see the problem; in fact, I appreciate being included in their prayers.
PowerPoint, a projection screen, and loud contemporary music bother me a lot. I’m sick to death of hearing Amazing Grace. There are lots of other things I dislike, but there’s no benefit to my sitting here trying to recall others. “Sufficient onto the day,” etc.
I’m not bothered by stained glass, paintings, or statues in church. Every year our church’s Christmas decorations include an angel with gold wings and a pulsating multicolored fiber-optic halo. Contrary to expectation, I like it. I always make it a point to mention how nice the sanctuary looks with “the stature of Saint Gabriel up by the alter,” so I’m still pretty obnoxious.
nunc et in hora mortis nostrae
What about Limbo, Purgatory, and all those circles? Where were Lazarus and Abraham, and where was the rich man? No idea. We know enough to do what we have to do now. I don’t think we’re going to know everything we want to know until later. Did Jesus die for our sins and rise from the dead? Will he come again to judge the living and the dead, and establish a new Heaven and a new Earth? Yes. That’s plenty for now.
*We use grape juice regular bread from the bakery instead of wine and matzos.