Do not be an Ex-Protestant

Do Not Be an Ex-Protestant

Listen. To. Me.

Don’t do it.

This is one of the most important things you can keep in mind to survive your conversion before and after reintegration with the Roman congregation.

When I first started attending mass, once I went with a friend who brought an older woman with us to lunch afterwards. She was bitter, and angry. She was less a Catholic and more an ex-protestant. I do not claim to judge her heart, but I do claim to observe her actions as well as my own and those of many converts.

I understand that we carry hurt, we carry pain, we carry fear, and anger and sorrow. We carry anger and loss, and disillusion. But, we also carry Christ, we carry crosses, we carry one another.

I understand that this is a process, that no one is perfect and that we all go through refining and sifting. Just like in relationships, breaking up or taking off an engagement ring does not just restore you to what you once were, you have to go through a reassessment. You have to take the time to develop and to grow.

Just a note: There will be bitterness. There will be anguish. There will be sorrow.

However, this does not have to define us.

Military Mindset

Sometimes we get caught on a strongly militant wave of emotion and we attack anything protestant. We are focused on being not-protestant instead of simply being Catholic. Instead of choosing to affirm something we seek to negate something else. If you spend all your time developing yourself by the shape of your enemies, you have nothing to stand on. If you’re determined to be an ex-calvinist, or an ex-evangelical, you’re missing the point.

And to be fair, we all have moments of anger, frustration and bitterness. We all have times where we fall short, or get caught in an “us vs. them” mentality. Converts especially bring a lot of vigor and enthusiasm and passion for the faith with them, but unless it’s eventually properly redirected towards a constructive means, it ends up like adrenaline, turning out to be poison instead of power.

Actively Making a Choice

Eventually, we all need to make a choice for the Church. We need to make a choice to lose the embattled mindset and find things to engage in.

Choose a patron, a spiritual discipline, a prelate, a penance, an indulgence, and do these things. Be for the Church, be for her active call in your daily life, not just her academic call in the thoughts of your mind. Being Catholic is about bodies engaged in worship, find a good work and do this.

You do not have to fit the entire Catholic faith into your mind, rather let yourself swim in the faith, in the scandalous freedom to be and have grace and the sacraments. Let your heart delight in the mysteries, in the call of the saints to worship and behold God. Remember why you wanted to convert in the first place. Was it logic? Or reason? Surely there was some of that. However, what about passion and presence?

Make a choice to be humble, and define yourself by the Church instead of against your “enemies” or those you used to commune with.

If you wish to lord over others, you will fail. If you want to bash others with your truth, you are disgracing the Church and her call to worship. Be an example of the Catholic life. This is your best apologetic.

Be Catholic, Be for the Church

Instead of being a douchebag ex-protestant running around trouncing evangelical Christians, be Catholic, be for the Church, for the poor, for the broken and the needy. Be for the world and all its needs, be for their redemption through your life and your participation in the cross of Christ.

Be for the Church in all her splendor and in all her humble teachings. Be for her in the same way one should be for a lover. Be available to Mother Church, be available to serve her, instead of rejoicing that you are not  the husband of every ugly woman that passes by, rejoice that you have the most beautiful wife in the world. Instead of sneering over those with faith that you consider incomplete, serve them, and DO NOT be an ex-protestant.

Simply be Catholic, and watch what God does through your life, your spirituality, and your virtues. In the name of the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit, amen.

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About Eli

Brazilian.Catholic.Lover.Photographer.Adventurer.Theologian.

9 responses to “Do not be an Ex-Protestant”

  1. Danuska says :

    Since I am a cradle Catholic I might not be the right person to speak on the subject, but I’ve come across quite a few stories of Protestants becoming Catholic. The thing is that most of them do not speak badly about their Protestant roots, on the contrary, they seem to appreciate what they had been taught… and very often it is quite a lot, like in case of Scott Hahn. Is that just my impression?

    • Eli says :

      I don’t think you’re wrong, I just want to write to a broad audience, and that includes those who make embittered conversions. i’ve seen converts on all ends of the spectrum, some of my closest friends have flourished as converts, but some have had extended periods of bitterness.

      As a writer, I want to provide support for even the embittered ones, even though this seems to be the exception and gladly, not the norm.

      I know I dig my protestant/postmodern roots, they help me bring a lot of perspective to the table that I wouldn’t otherwise have. However I did have a period of time which made me delay my conversion because I knew I would be bitter at where I had come from. I took the time, waited with patience, and I think I was better for it.

      Though, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I love cradle Catholics, i am fascinated by the idea of having grown up Catholic and what that must be like. Anyways, sorry to ramble. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Alex J. S. says :

    This isn’t strictly on topic, but your comment about being fascinated by the idea of having grown up Catholic caught my attention, Eli.

    If I were going to speak to the fullness of that experience, I’d have to start a blog of my own about it. But I can witness a bit to what stands out to me.

    Since I grew up Catholic, I’ve always had a vague awareness of the Church’s teachings since early childhood. As I grew older and sought out those the reasons behind the Church’s teaching on topics like the Real Presence, the Communion of Saints, the Papacy—they were never really explained to me, even though I attended Catholic grade school and high school—I discovered that the Church has coherent philosophical and historical rationales for its doctrines and traditions. This confirmed my faith and is the reason why I remain a faithful Catholic into my college years. (I can’t say the same for all of my grade-school and high-school friends.)

    Likewise with the Church’s liturgy. I’ve been going to Mass since I was a baby, but at point did I really learn to appreciate it for its true significance? Not until my late teens.

    What I find gloriously refreshing about the convert’s point of view is that it is based on “becoming” rather than “remaining”. Converts choose the Catholic religion in an act of trust and faith; to some extent in all cases of conversion, friendships and social connections are put under strain or even broken; it’s always a major life decision. It is an act of heroism that I greatly admire.

    I think it would be a mistake, however, for the cradle Catholic to separate the extraordinary convert experience from the daily life to which we are all called as Catholic Christians. Because we, too, are called to conversion, every single day of our lives—it may not be so dramatic as an Easter vigil initiation into the Faith, but every day, all Catholics must choose Christ over the world, to renounce “Satan, and all of his works, and all of his pomps”. To find the grace of becoming more and more of a follower of Christ in His Church every day; to live the Faith with zeal and enthusiasm: this belongs as much to the cradle Catholic as it does to the convert.

    Thank you for helping to teach us that lesson.

    • Eli says :

      you know, starting a blog on the matter wouldn’t be a bad idea. haha. I’d read it. You’ve got an awesome blog already though. This much is true.

      It’s nice to see a healthy cradle Catholic who grew into a mature and thoughtful faith instead of becoming apostate. I know a few, but too few in my opinion. I just have to find out where they’re all hiding I suppose.

      I like your observation on “becoming” and “remaining” and I think you’re right. It is a major life decision and I guess I wrote this article less to others, and more to myself. I felt cheated by my upbringing at times in the past. I had to work through choosing to be Catholic and choosing to become that on a regular basis.

      I agree with your assessment of the mistake some people make. When I was a Charismatic/Pentecostal, some people I knew had manifest gifts, others did not, the thing was seeing how all of them work together. Converts and cradle Catholics work together for the one cause, as you highlighted, the daily conversion. At the end of the day, the faith is in the little things.

      I love your comments, your thoughts, and your encouragement. I’m not a comment Nazi, so feel free. Unless someone is attacking someone to the degree of making the gestapo blush I don’t usually say much.

      If we should ever have the pleasure of hanging out, I insist on buying you a drink.

  3. Mike says :

    Chiming in here after after checking out your other blog (echoes of eternity).

    My experiences are eerily close to Alex’s, so I don’t have much to add from that perspective. I will say one thing though. Alex mentioned how finding the beauty behind things such as the Eucharist and the Saints are a major reason why he remains Catholic.

    My experience is similar. Stumbling across the depth of beauty in the Church pulls you into it. However I (and I think a lot of other Catholics) still have to reconcile that with how many people in the Church, both past and present, have perpetuated serious injustices. For me, this is where the story of Israel and the example of Hosea take on special significance. For just as Hosea forgives his adulterous wife, and just as God forgives idolatrous Israel, so does Christ forgive his Holy Church of sinners.

    This is where your idea of “being for the Church” comes in. The idea of constructively and humbly engaging with the Church and the world around it works to highlight the sacred beauty while countering the human sinfulness, if that makes sense.

    I didn’t mean to go on too long of a tangent there. I just wanted to highlight that, for me at least, it’s a two part process of embracing the beauty of the faith and understanding the sinfulness of humans involved in it in the context of a forgiving Christ.

    And thank you for putting your writing and thoughts out there. My guess is that it can make you feel vulnerable, but there`s beauty in vulnerability.

    • Eli says :

      Mike I appreciate you popping in, on both blogs. Both you and Alex have been a much needed encouragement. Also, if you have twitter add me @3lisays.

      I agree with your example of Hosea, and am actually writing my first non-theologically heavy “Why I’m Catholic” for this blog. I actually center on a metaphor that runs parallel to the Hosea example.

      I thank you for understanding exactly what I’m getting at when I say to “be for the Church.”

      It does take a certain vulnerability that is counterintuitive to my introverted nature, but I like it. It’s forcing me to learn to open up, and after being closed off in so many ways for so long, it’s time to say a few things, and bless a few people along the way.

      Thanks for the comment. (P.S. I don’t mind long comments, so just run with it.)

      Peace be with you both, and thank you for everything.

  4. practicinghuman says :

    I think for me one of the things about avoiding the “ex-Protestant” business involved learning to love the person I was before entering the Church. It seems so many converts I know detest their “formal delusion” to the point of being absolutely ashamed of their spiritual heritage. Sometimes I want to say “Chill! We’re all figuring out this whole ‘being full human’ thing together! No one expected you to have it all correct right out of the gate.”

    • Eli says :

      I think that what has helped me in that regard is that I didn’t join a year ago, or before. I became a baptist pastor, it killed all hatred or disillusion with my pentecostal roots.

      I’m glad you could relate to what I was saying Anna, because I thought for a moment I was the only one. ^_^

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