The Surprising Admissions Converts Make

David Mills tries to defend being casual about sin, though he rebrands it as familiarity:

In the Protestant world of my youth, nearly everything was a matter of life or death. The Evangelicals made your salvation a drama that depended on you making a decisive commitment. They loved the drama of a sobbing sinner stumbling forward at the altar call.

The mainliners didn’t sweat salvation the same way, but they made your social conscience almost as crucial. God expected you to respect picket lines, protest the war, protect the environments, eat union-grown grapes.

But the Catholics. Gosh, they didn’t seem to sweat anything. The few Catholics I knew — my college town had more Wiccans than Catholics — didn’t seem vexed by human sins, personal or social. They might like devotion and care about social causes, but they didn’t pursue them as intensely as the Protestants I knew.

Older people told me that Catholics had confession. They could axe-murder an entire middle school, go to confession, and Whoosh! they were okay. God was happy with them again. The axe murder? No big deal. Confession magically wiped the slate clean no matter what you did.

Except that the whoosh only got you as far as purgatory if you went to confession.

But now Mills sees the benefits of Rome’s lack of rigor:

After being a Catholic for a few years, I can understand why people think the Church is too casual about sin. I can be too casual about it. It’s easy to use confession as a forgiveness machine and the Mass as a medicine that cures you without your having to do anything. I know how easily you can presume on God’s love.

But that’s just the risk God chose to take when he gave us the Church and her sacraments. Our Protestant friends are not wrong in their criticism, but they miss what God Himself is doing through the Church. He flings his grace around, as we heard in last Sunday’s gospel reading. He lets some fall on rocky or thorny ground, so that some will fall on fertile ground. He gives us gifts we can abuse, because he wants to give us life.

What Mills fails to add (aside from the punishment for mortal sins) is that Protestants exalt Christ. To be hard on sin is to take seriously the cross. Christ died to save sinners from the penalty of sin. That shows that God was not very casual about sin. It also means Christ didn’t die to give sinners a second chance — in purgatory.

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Amazing that Americans Might Need Grace

Amazing Grace is now in the realm of civil religion (right there with Battle Hymn of the Republic), what with President Obama’s performance last weekend and the almost entire failure of the chattering classes to worry about what the president’s singing means for the separation of church and state (notice comments by Larry Kudlow and Scott Simon at Huffington Post). On the personal level, I like President Obama since he seems to be having fun as chief executive. But it also troubles me that he seems to be the typical boomer, too aware that he is president to act presidential. Think David Letterman always letting us know that he was aware that he was on camera instead of simply performing. President Obama seems to be a guy who had being president on his bucket list of things to do before he died. And now he is enjoying his time as president. From Beyonce and Prince performing in the White House, to being interviewed by Mark Maron on WTF (sorry c,e), to singing a few bars of Amazing Grace all alone.

But aside from the people who don’t worry about the separation of church and state, will the gay advocates really be comfortable with the president singing a song that implies severe and eternal torments for sinful activity (like homosexual sex?):

Amazing grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come,
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

Are any progressive Americans (or obedience boys for that matter) willing to sign up for being a wretch and in need of saving grace?

How many proponents of a better future are willing to contemplate death, especially death as a penalty for sin?

How many non-Calvinists are willing to affirm that God’s grace is monergistic?

How many Americans think about eternal life as a never-ending P&W worship service?

President Obama on one day celebrates same-sex marriage, the next day he sings a song written by a Christian who would have never countenanced homosexuality.

Is this a great pretty good country or what?