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Monday, August 5, 2013

Catholicism, Idolatry, "The Conjuring," What Protestants Get Wrong, What Catholics Get Right

Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren and Lily Taylor as a Woman Covered by a White Sheet in "The Conjuring." 
Catholics are frequently accused of idolatry. We worship beads, statues, and stained glass, we are told by those who don't like us or our church.

I said in my review of the new James Wan movie "The Conjuring", here, that the film gets Catholicism wrong. Ed and Lorraine Warren were a real couple who self-identified as Catholic. In the film, Ed and Lorraine attribute great power to things – to crosses, holy water, and rosaries. You can see in the still above that Vera Farmiga, as Lorraine Warren, is wearing a rosary around her wrist.

This movie version of Catholicism troubles me. There is evil in the world, we humans do have to fight it, and we need the best weapon we can get – faith in Jesus Christ. Physical objects like rosary beads won't save us.

A couple of friends disagreed with me. One is a Jehovah's Witness and she insisted that Catholics worship images. Another is Polish and she talked about Polish peasants and their attachment to pagan practices.

I was never taught, not in church, not in Catholic school, and not at home, to worship images or things. Rather, it was taken for granted that the images and things were aids to focus and concentration on God.

I just about never leave the house without a rosary in my pocket. I usually lose rosaries before they break, but if my rosary broke, I would throw it away. It's not sacred. It's not powerful.

I like what St Jerome said about relics, "We do not worship the relics of the martyrs, but honor them in our worship of Him whose martyrs they are. We honor the servants in order that the respect paid to them may be reflected back to the Lord."

Protestants get this wrong. They get it very wrong.

I am dyslexic. This curse has been a blessing to me as a teacher. I know that there is not one avenue to learning, to memory, or to the heart. I teach my students using every avenue I can: their ears, their eyes, their entire bodies. My students must DO as well as LISTEN.

Sola scriptura, churches bare of images, services in which the body does not move, the nostrils do not smell, are themselves weirdly idolatrous. They place power in austerity, in rigidity, rather than in God and God's relationship to us, God's children, in all our physicality.

I love the Catholic church's insistence on our bodies.

I dip my fingertips in holy water. I walk through alternating streaks of colored light. I kneel, stand, sit, stand, kneel. I shake hands with the person next to me. Outside of church, other than Sunday, I finger the beads in my pocket. My Hispanic neighbors cross themselves when our bus passes a Catholic church. I know not just because my eyes decoded letters on a page. I know because my entire body knows: the scent of frankincense, the physical workout of mass, my lips on my beads after I am done praying.

Too many Protestants have cut off all these avenues of access to God with their fetishistic insistence on sola scriptura.

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