Has there ever been a time in your life when your actions have been misunderstood… or, worse yet, you have been misunderstood? When someone took a piece of something you had done, or a piece of who you are, and then turned that bit of truth, or added to it, or took away from it, or scrutinized it so severely that the context got lost? So much so that what that person ended up with was not an accurate representation of you or your actions at all?
I am sure many of us have been there, at some point.
It happened to me personally this week, regarding my Catholic faith. And it was in a situation where I was unable to say anything back at all. Because the person misunderstanding me was in a video on YouTube.
A friend of mine was sent a video by someone she knows. A video sent to her because some people in her life are concerned she is spending so much time with a Catholic. Because some people in her life are concerned she has attended Mass with us a few times.
The person in the video was a scholar who studied theology from the Reformed (Calvinist perspective). He was being interviewed by a couple of people on the problems with Roman Catholicism.
Truth be told, by now I have heard most of the arguments that Reformed theologians have about my faith. But when we were converting, none of it made any sense, as I had never before come fully into contact with the Reformed perspective’s wrath against the Catholic Church. And it’s still never fun to hear.
In the video (which I cannot recommend at all, and thus will not be linking to,) the scholar said Catholics and Christians have a different gospel (this is the Reformed perspective, not all Protestants believe that). He strongly implied that Catholics believe Priests to be some sort of deity. He said Catholics had no means of experiencing true Shalom (peace). He implied transubstantiation was not believed by the majority of Early Church Fathers. He misconstrued the relationship between Scripture and Church Authority. He said the Catholic Church was incapable of reforming. I could go on…
When I started watching the video, I was chuckling. When I finished, I was unbelievably sad. Because when misunderstanding and half-truths are being spread about something important to you, it hurts.
This video reminds me why some people from the Reformed church we left to become Catholic, no longer continued a friendship with us. And it reminds me why Pastors from that church sat in our living room and told us we were not, and never had been, Christian.
If that surprises anyone reading this, I understand. It was a very jarring experience to go through. If you are reading this and that is your perspective, I hope this helps you understand what that experience was like, and also challenges you as to where you choose to receive information about things you disagree with.
It’s a lot easier to joke about the number of conditions a Catholic would have to meet to receive salvation on a YouTube video, sitting next to people that agree with you than it is to look another human being in the eye and do the same.
It’s a lot easier to propagate stereotypes and misconceptions than it is to share a meal with someone, and get to know them and their faith personally.
Because I bet if anti-Catholics did that, even if they never experienced an inkling of desire themselves to become Catholic, that Catholics and the Catholic faith in general would become a lot less scary and mysterious. And who knows, maybe they would make some new friends.
I will say the Reformed (Calvinist) view of Catholicism, the view that says true Roman Catholics are not Christian, is in the minority among Protestant Christians. People in the Calvinist tradition don’t even think it appropriate to serve alongside Catholics in ecumenical ministry. Now, just because something is a minority, doesn’t make it untrue. But, the fact that among Protestant Christians, Calvinists stand apart as very anti-Catholic, while other Protestant groups and Catholics view each other as brothers and sisters in Christ at least is something worth mentioning.
But, my main point is this.
If I wanted to accurately learn and understand democracy, would it make sense for me to interview an anarchist about the democratic system? Would someone anti-government be a good and reputable source of information to accurately understand government?
If I wanted to learn about and understand the history of minorities in America, would it make sense for me to interview a white supremacist? Would someone with extreme prejudices against a group of people be a good and reputable source of information about the history of the people they are prejudice against?
If I wanted to learn about the Pro-Life movement in America, it’s motivations, history, strategy, and practical implications, would it make sense for my primary source of information to be someone adamantly Pro-Choice? Would they be likely to give an accurate representation of those that believe life begins at conception?
I hope we could agree in all of those cases that the answer would be an emphatic No!
It follows, then, if you have only learned about the Catholic Church from anti-Catholic sources, is that likely to be a a good and reputable source of information about the Catholic Church?
I hope our answer again is, unequivocally, no.
I know this based on logic. I know this based on the misunderstandings I have experienced in this regard. But I also know this based on my own faith experience.
The man in the video said Catholics cannot have Shalom. And, I admit, he rattled mine a bit for a couple of days. But, the reason I lost my peace wasn’t because I’m Catholic. I have never been at more peace in my life than I am now living out my Christianity through my Catholic faith. I lost my peace for a bit because I was reacting to being grossly misunderstood.
I realize I didn’t have to give that man the power. I think it all stems back to my desire to be liked, which I recently wrote about in detail, because it reminds me that people I have cared about stopped being friends with us for some of the reasons the man in the video stated. And I also think part of it was a just reaction to a legitimate concern. There is a difference between communicating our faith with each other, in the hope to help bridge gaps, and spending one’s time defaming another faith, with the intent to increase divisions. There is something beneficial to understanding each other better. There is something terribly dangerous about spreading half truths.
My friend sent me the link to that video because she wanted to know, from a Catholic perspective, if the things he said were accurate. And, even though it was difficult to watch, I’m so glad she did. She went to the source and she valued our friendship, and she wants to know me and my faith because she cares about me as a friend. This is all good stuff.
And it feels a lot better to get my thoughts out in some capacity, even if I can’t respond directly to the man in the video. I’m ready to move on.
Because, at some point, as another good friend of mine often says, we need to meet at the cross, and work together to get out and be the hands and feet of Jesus to a hurting world. And I am so happy to do so with my many Christian friends of various faith backgrounds who are willing to serve alongside me. Because we can accomplish more together. Because we are the Body of Christ on this earth. And because we have much work to do.
One thought on “On Being Misunderstood”
I’ve experienced this sort of thing countless times. Thanks for sharing your story. I wholeheartedly agree about the damage that can be caused by misconceptions and divisiveness. I also appreciate the points you made on the dangers of choosing to learn from sources that are “anti….” (whatever we want to learn about) In all things we can choose to learn about one another with a love that displays honor. This opens the door for each of us to bring our best to our relationships, as we continue our faith walks, for His glory.
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