Here’s an email I received from someone who, I thought, was a friend. He is a local pastor who teaches Bible classes in his church for a fee. I was interested enough in one of the classes that I was willing to pay that fee.
I trust you are well. I took a second to look at your facebook page and noticed a medical test. Did everything turn out alright?
I am writing because you recently enrolled in one of our classes on Catholicism. You and I have had a few interesting conversations about Catholicism and frankly I found your you interjecting into many things I write to be distracting and contentious and thus I defriended you. As President it is my opinion that you will be a distraction in our class on Catholicism. You have made up your mind on much of what will be taught and I sincerely think it would be better for you not to attend. Your motives in signing up maybe pure but the outcome will be less than that and be a determent to our other students
Again, I hope you are well
I deleted the two instances where he identified his “school” by name. Other than that, the email is as he wrote it.
I had taken a class at his church on the Church Fathers. I was still a Protestant at that time. The class sparked in me a wonder about what actually happened right after the Ascension of Christ. What was the early Church like? Who were the “thought leaders” of that day? The course was amazing. It covered a great deal of the persecution of the day and the heresies that were fought against. It covered the process the Church went through in establishing the Canon. But, the course leader, the “dean”, did something that strongly aroused my interest. I had never realized it before but his determination to never use the word “Catholic” made me see for the first time that the original Church was Catholic! I know it shows my ignorance but I’d just never considered that until that course on Early Fathers opened my eyes.
Now, what my erstwhile pastor friend was afraid of is beyond me. I took that course, saw an obvious anti-catholic bias and never uttered a word. I never asked a question. I never answered one. I never spoke. I never felt it would be appropriate to challenge the “dean” on anything. At least, not in a church setting.
I did interact with the pastor on his Facebook account. I did it because we were friends. He asked a question and my answer differed from his viewpoint. I never thought that would be a problem. He did chastise me immediately on that page so I apologized and asked if we were okay. No response was forthcoming for awhile so I asked again. This time he responded:
Ross, thanks for your words but I wasn’t at all offended. I attempted to write back explaining I understood your bemusement. The message didn’t send because I was in my basement. It will appear below. You and I are good.
So, for some crazy reason, I thought that he and I were “good.”
Apparently, we weren’t. We weren’t good. He defriended me on Facebook without ever telling me that he had an issue with me, without ever going to me as he often preached should be done. Jesus Himself is quoted in the fifth chapter of Matthew as saying that you should resolve conflict between yourself and a brother before even presenting a gift to God. That seems to make relationships between Christian brothers pretty important. Yet this pastor cut me off without warning, without an attempt at resolution and after assuring me that we had no problem between us. It was as though he, as another pastor friend of mine said, “believes the lie that they (pastors) are special.”
And how, I wonder, could it be that although my motives may be pure the outcome “will be less than that?” And how can my mere presence in a classroom where no one knows me be a “determent”? Is this voodoo/Christianity? That’s the only reasonable assumption to a position that asserts that a person purely interested in learning, committed to silence and unknown to anyone else would cause a less than pure outcome.
The amazing part of this is that he was using a textbook that I consider to be fair and objective in its description of Catholicism. So, it can only be that he was planning for the course to deviate from the book and would teach untruths about Catholicism. He was afraid I’d call him on it. I assured him I wouldn’t have. And even though I’d promised to not speak, the thought of me hearing the lies taught as truth was too embarrassing for him to bear.
I know that his actions are in no way typical of my Protestant brothers. I will continue to side with Pope Francis when he says that the only acceptable term for a Protestant is “brother.” I will continue to want the best for this pastor. Because, as Pope Francis also has said, any division between Christians is of the devil.
I want to get along with him because we are brothers and the way for brothers to relate to one another is clear. And I don’t ever want to believe the lie that I am special.