Jesus the Bridegroom is an excellent book by Brant Pitre that does a great job of bringing to light the bigger picture of salvation history through the lens of a courtship and marriage of God to his people. Drawing from the continual references throughout the bible to marriage, Brant opens up the world of the Jewish people in a way that most Christians of today have never considered. By connecting ourselves to this world we become more enlightened and familiar with the customs and practices, and find ourselves understanding the words and actions of Jesus more clearly.
While pondering these thoughts and reflecting on my own personal experiences, I began to form a slightly different analogy that I’d like to share. As I considered the idea of courtship and marriage to God and His Church, I started to draw parallels between my Protestant days and my Catholic conversion and how it relates to these kinds of relationships. What stood out the most was this feeling, as a Protestant Evangelical Christian, of being in a continual courtship or dating relationship with the Church. What I mean by that is that I was always trying to find a Church, or group of people, who fit my desires and preferences the most. If the preaching was to dull, or the people were too charismatic, or the music was too loud, or the music was too traditional, or any of a number of different reasons would send me searching for a better fit. It was like dating until I found the right person that I finally felt I could spend the rest of my life being committed to, but knowing that I could leave that church at any moment.
The obvious problem was that there was never anything binding between me and that church. Even if I had a job with them, I could always find another church for any number of reasons. Some reasons might even be very legitimate, such as moving away, or the Church closed down. But because of the makeup of the Protestant denominational structure, I might go from one church to another and experience a significant amount of doctrinal differences as well. It would be like dating someone with whom you knew that you could never marry, but you really liked them and didn’t really want to stop getting together.
For many Evangelicals, the idea of freedom to believe whatever they feel convicted about from their interpretation of scripture is part of the attraction. Having the freedom to move around from one church to another until they find that perfect fit is also viewed as a positive. This whole mindset is more in line with individualism and the enlightenment age which has led us straight into relativism and secularism at it’s worst. It goes right along with societies world view of truth being subjective and I am the master of my domain.
What’s changed for me since becoming Catholic back in 2010, is that I see my faith as more of a marital commitment and not just a courtship or engagement. I understand that one can point to one’s commitment to Jesus being the bond, but as a Catholic it goes one step further. I’m committed to the Church as a whole, not just to my local congregation. If I leave my town and move away, I’m still bonded and connected to the same body. The person I married isn’t going to change their position on abortion, or homosexuality, or on the Trinity, or Baptism, or the Sacraments. The body of the Church remains the same no matter where I go. As an Evangelical, if I went from a pentecostal church to a baptist church, or from a mega church to a Presbyterian church, it would feel like I was leaving one body to join up with another. In a world of “I’m okay, your okay” it seemed problematic that I could so easily allow myself to switch churches and not take the differences in doctrine more seriously. It seemed to me that too many Christians these days don’t really care as much about doctrines and are willing to let this one or that one slide, as long as they make friends, feel comfortable, enjoy themselves, or have a nice job.
The bottom line is that becoming part of the Catholic church has nothing to do with my likes or dislikes. I didn’t choose the Catholic Church. By the Holy Spirit, she chose me, and I said “I Do”. Yes there was a courtship period, a time to discern and separate truth from non-truth. But it didn’t come down to anything that I liked more about the Catholic Church then other Churches, it simply came down to the Truth. I’m not looking for anything else. I’m committed to her in sickness and in health, till death do us part.