Our Lady's Maronite Catholic Church
In a previous article I discuss ecumenism and a "take what you like and leave the rest" approach to religion based on the practices of 12 Step programs. In light of coming further along with my studies of the Catholic faith, I would like to return to this topic now. I have come upon the phrase, "cafeteria Catholic", which describes making a hodge podge selection of which Catholic teachings one chooses to follow and which to ignore. I still believe that bickering over details regarding Christian beliefs and practices is not pleasing to God, but knowing what you believe, and why, and standing up for your faith is important. The Bible says we should always be prepared to defend the hope that is in us. In Catholicism, this is called apologetics. This does not mean that one apologizes for being Catholic, but rather explains the tradition.
Because, by Catholic admission, many people have been poorly catechized (learned the specifics of what the church teaches), especially in the wake of the confusion after Vatican II, it is important for all Catholics and those entering the Church, such as myself, to be properly educated. Not doing so results in misunderstandings, such as that Catholics worship Mary, the saints, and statues. It is how the faith is defended, the attitude in which it is done, that is of concern as well.
If the Catholic Church is who she says she is, the very Church that Jesus Christ founded, and the pope and bishops are directly traceable back to the 12 apostles, and if the teaching of this Church is infallible (the official teaching, not the people themselves), then a Catholic must uphold all articles of faith, dogma, and traditions of the Church to be in union with Christ and the Church. That includes the teaching on birth control, homosexuality, abortion, and other controversial issues. This does not mean that we judge others if they don't follow the Church's teaching on matters such as these, or that we should hate anyone for believing or living differently. Quite the opposite. Love is always the order of the day.
So while I no longer "take what I like and leave the rest", because I do believe that the Church is who she says she is, I think it is imperative that Christians of opposing views do not alienate one another and that all religions need to be respected whose followers love and believe in God. To my understanding, this is the stance of the Catholic Church. I took what I liked and left the rest at first, and now I rest instead on the authority of the Church as completely as I am able, one step at a time. I do believe that the fullest expression of Christian truth is found in the Catholic Church, and it is a relief not to have to interpret things, such as the Bible, myself. Since it is not my opinion, but God's word, both oral and written, that I must continue to know and understand through the Church, I also know that there is no reason to be defensive in any defense I am called to make.