“Check Other” – A Perspective on Race

July 24, 2015 Leave a comment

Galatians 3:23-29

23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring,[k] heirs according to the promise.

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

I call myself a believer in Christ – aka a “Christian.” Because of this, I have certain ideas, beliefs and opinions on many things in the world that does not always flow with those same ideologies as others, friends included. For example, I am pro-life, I don’t believe same-sex marriage is Biblical or God ordained, and i don’t believe in race. Yep, there it is, I said it.

I would say let me clarify – but, I think that about sums it up. There was a time where I identified as Southern – then I moved to New England. There was a time where I identified as “German,” until lo an behold I found a Frenchman in my family tree. Up until recently, I identified myself as a white American. Obviously, this is how the world sees me, but as Jesus says in John 17:16, and also in John 15:19 – He, and I, and all believers, are not of this world – this is why the world hates us. Paul, in Galatians 3, continues on this by saying we are in Christ, children of the Father – we are not Jew or Greek, but children of God.

Now you say, “but race exists, and not everyone is in Christ.” True, but if you are not in Christ, you are in the world. You retort, “Well, the world divides us by race, culture, etc.” Again, true, but God does not see us that way. If we are in Christ, God – the entire Godhead, i.e. Trinity – sees us as children of God. One nation, one people. Likewise, He sees the world as one nation, one people. There are people of faith, and then there is the world, and for us, as believers, should be all that matters.

When we continue to divide people up by race or culture, we are falling into the trap that the enemy wants us to. The snare had been laid, and we, seemingly, are all but eager to get our foot, and mouth, caught in the trap. Historically, the Jewish people hated everyone who wasn’t a Jew – ask the Samaritans. The longed for a savior who would put them at the top – one who would put the descendants of Abraham as the superior people. The tag line – “We are God’s chosen,” was not just an edifier for the Jewish people, but an insult to all those who would dare invade or even do business with them. When Paul says what he says in Galatians, he is erasing that notion. No longer does it matter if, in the world, you are part of “God’s chosen,” for what matters now is faith in Christ. It doesn’t make you superior, it simply means you no longer are part of this world, yet remain alive in it, with one purpose, to love and spread the truth of the love of Christ. Paul continues in Ephesians by saying we do not wrestle with flesh and blood, but spiritual forces. Meaning, we are not to wrestle with flesh and blood – these all pass, these are not important. What is important are those spiritual forces which inhibit us from experiencing the love of God – and likewise, cause us to wrestle with flesh and blood.

Unfortunately, the Church as a whole has not followed this doctrine. Likewise, neither have those who claim to be Christian. In the name of God, we have enslaved. In the name of God, we have claimed racial and cultural superiority. In the name of God, we have wrestled with flesh and blood. We continue to be proud of “heritage,” race and culture. All this does is cause us to hate, or at the very least, cause us to divide ourselves up into worldly factions. All it does is cause us to wrestle against flesh and blood, and while we wrestle with these things, those spiritual forces which Paul mentions have full reign over the world and our lives.

Racial, cultural – and in fact all – violence is disgusting. It is the way of the world. Unfortunately, it continues to be the way of many so called believers. We have a responsibility as believers to see people as, well, people. Not white, black, Indian, but people. We must see believers as fellow children of God, not as a race or a culture. More importantly, we must see the world, and those “still” in it, as God saw them, with love. As John proclaimed – “For God so love the WORLD, He gave His only begotten Son,” longing for the world to believe in Him, so that they all might be saved. We cannot afford to continue to fall into the trap of seeing white and black, Christian and Muslim, male and female – we must see ourselves, and the world, how god see us. This is the only way this can end the right way.

Sadly, we know the world will always have division, and thus always have strife. We know the world will continue to fall along racial, cultural and economic lines. We must not fall into the same trap, we must not continue to conform to that same way of thought. Ironically, the world itself is now seeing the need to erase these divides, unfortunately, the world does not have the true way or answer, only God does. We must take up the Cross, and we must throw down every standard, title and name that is contrary. In other words, we must throw them all down, for there is only one true Cross.

I challenge believers to throw down their battle flags, their color, their culture. I challenge believers to throw down their economic circumstance, their titles, their name tags. I challenge believers to through down their citizenship of the world, their political party. In there place, I challenge believers to pick up their cross and follow Christ. I choose to check “other” when I am ask my race or origin, for I am a child of God.

A Christian Repsonse to Franklin Graham Concerning Islam

July 18, 2015 Leave a comment

Franklin Graham, son of the lat evangelist Billy Graham, recently wrote on his facebook (Link Here) that Muslims should not be allowed to immigrate to the United States until the threat of radical Islam has been mitigated. Here is my response.

I’m a United States Marine, who left active service of this county in 2005. I am deeply saddened by the obviously terrorist attack attack that took the lives of four Marines. Though I am an American, I am a Christian first. As a follower of Christ, I can not support the majority of the decisions that the government of the USA makes – what I can do is pray for the leadership of this country and bless them. As a follower of Christ, I must love – all people, not just those who agree with me, but everyone, regardless of race, religion or ideology. I must shelter, clothe and feed all who come, for this is what Christ would have done. I can not become a reactionary, as the Pharisees became, or how most of the world is today, I cannot allow a “slap to the cheek” to cause me to pull my sword, I must turn the other cheek and love, pray, and bless.

I am not afraid of Islam. I served this country with Muslims, I have Muslim friends. Likewise, those who I have known, are not afraid of Christianity, they served with Christians, and have Christian friends. Fear is a sin, anger is a sin. We may be under attack from people who are Muslim, but so are other Muslims. We are also under attack from other religious fundamentalist, and so are they. Middle Eastern countries find themselves under attack from our country, from Christians 9and we wonder why they don’t want Christians in their countries).

As a Christian, I cannot serve two masters – I cannot serve fear, I cannot serve anger, I cannot serve hate – of any kind. If I do, then I am no Christian, I am a man of the world. I do pray for our service men and women – the one thing he got right. I also pray for Christians as a whole, and I pray for Muslims as a whole. I pray for these cowards who would kill others for a twisted ideology. I pray for the victims and their familes. I am not angry, I am sad. I am not afraid, and I hold a double whammy, I served this country and I serve Christ.

Franklin Graham needs to decide which master he serves, and which master he speaks for. Is it the United States and right wing ideology and politics. Or is it Christ, with His “hatred” of politics and his message of love? Remember, Christ Himself said we, as believers in him, would face persecution, trials and quite possibly death. It amazes me that we still strive to avoid, and even find shocking when it happens, the prophetic nature of the words of the one we claim to serve and emulate.

In closing, we cannot forget our own history of immigration, violence and our own use of God in our exploits. We cannot forget that foundation of the Christian faith is based on love, sacrifice, persecution and loss. Radical ideology exists everywhere, within religion and politics – ours and others. Our answer, if we are followers of Christ, is never found in hate, arrogance, anger or fear, but in love and forgiveness. As a Marine, I am heartbroken by this act of terrorism. As an American, I pray for all involved, and I pray that the response is not fueled by hate and anger. As a believer in Christ, a Christian and a Roman Catholic, I forgive this man, this terrorist, this radical. I leave his soul to God. I pray for him and those who have died. I pray for the families and the community. I pray that where the enemy, both man and Satan, intended evil, that God can work and bring truth and love.

A Christian Nation

June 30, 2015 Leave a comment

I find myself in a country large, cultured and full of religious – Christian – thought. Churches are everywhere, pastors and other clergymen are respected, even called upon by the government for advice and prayer. There are Christian symbols all around me, the language used in this countries documents mark a deep influence by Christianity. Time itself is measured in a Christian way. Christianity is all over the nation’s symbology, its history, its morality, its ethics – you cannot attend a government meeting without some Christian reference being made…

I am not in the United States, I am in the first “Christian” nation, that is the Roman Empire, eventually known as the Holy Roman Empire, also known as Christendom, and later the Hapsburg and Austro-Hungarian Empire. An empire, that in the truest sense was a “Christian” empire, yet, like our own nation of the United States, lacked the true sense of the call of Christ.

Any student of history would scoff at the idea the the Holy Roman Empire was holy… or even truly Roman. Yes, Latin remained the language, and yes, the Church (Roman Catholic) played an important role in the comings and goings of the empire, but any notion of true Christianity in the definition of what Europe was like during its daunting appearance in history would be truly hard to define. Yet, everyone who lived here, and in fact across all of Europe, considered there nation, their country, their empire to be Christian in founding and nature.

Criminals roamed the streets, violence could be found just around the corner at a moments notice. Government officials and religious officials alike found themselves in corruption and scandal. The common man was exploited, even to the point of slavery in one kind or another. The poor and homeless were often left as such. The rich got richer, while the poor got poorer. There was no true middle class. Churches adorned themselves in riches, even taught that if you were poor, needy, helpless it was your fault – God’s judgement against you. Decadence was everywhere for the rich – civil officials, merchants and religious officials alike. God was often spoken of, adherence to both civil morality and religious morality was demanded, yet at the highest levels disregarded. Instead of love and compassion, there was hate and condemnation.

Alas, I am not talking about the Holy Roman Empire, but the United States of America. A “tale of two empires” in reality. Both claimed to be Christian, founded by God, holy in many respects. On the surface there was appearance, but once beyond the cover of the book, the reality was and is quite different.

There is no such thing in the world as a Christian nation – not even a moral nation. It is an impossibility due to the fact that, well, it is in this world. Jesus said His Kingdom – the only truly Holy nation, was and is not of this world, yet, we are members of it, at least that is our belief. St. Paul recognized that he, like us, was part of the Kingdom of God, as well as a citizen of a kingdom of this world. He enjoyed a period of history where this was not blurred – there was no grey, only black and white, and he, like the Church, both suffered yet prospered. The world is incapable of holiness and morality, at least to our standards as believers, and we should not expect the world to be held by the standards that we are to hold ourselves to. To do so would be like expecting a newborn to have a job and hold it, and not only that, but excel in the work set out for it to do. Impossible, and yet we demand that the world be held to a higher standard, and then condemn it when it simply cannot do so.

The issue at hand is not same-sex relationships, or slavery, abortion, hate, or even any sin really. The issue is our ability to love. Love truly conquers all, and love truly gives all, but unless we allow it to, it remains on the sidelines. We cannot put our hope and faith in a government of this world, to do so is folly and naive. As Solomon would say, a “vanity of vanities,” or as a good friend of mine would put it, “just plain stupid.” We must put our faith and hope in God, and we must follow His direction, not the worlds, and walk in love.

In closing, the world – this nation and all others – in their own minds, if they feel the notion, do their very best to walk in love as they know it. The put up a standard of morality as they see it, and only as they can, because they are blind to what we believe is Truth. Sadly, they only way for the world – those around us and this nation, to see true love is through us. If we are unable, or unwilling to walk in the love of Christ, then the fault lays not with the world for their darkness, but with us for not shining a light.

The Problem with Money

June 15, 2015 Leave a comment

Jesus was a poor man, a simple man. He was raised by a carpenter, more then likely became a carpenter, and until he stepped into his role as Christ, worked as a carpenter. His disciples, likewise, were laborers – minus Matthew – who, though skilled, more then likely lived day to day. We don’t know for sure of course, but it fits the historical context of the time of Jesus. Unless you were Roman, or Jewish royalty, you were simply a peasant, a worker, he lived and worked day to day.

We know Jesus had supporters and we know he had followers. On more then one occasion Jesus fed his followers with little, because that is all they had, and because of faith, he made it big. Jesus took all they had, and made it more. Likewise, after Jesus, his followers did the same – taking their possessions, selling them and held everything in common. They took small things and made it huge, eventually the largest religion in the world. Jesus was known for praising the poor over the prosperous, and known for teaching poverty over prosperity. He told Nicodemus to sell everything and follow him, he told the parable of the rich young man who could not let go, and therefore would not see the Kingdom of Heaven. The ways of God are not the ways of man, and money was a means of man, and, by the example of Jesus, was merely a shackle that must be broken. We see in the betrayal of Judas that the Father did not need money to accomplish salvation, and sadly, Judas doesn’t have that revelation until it is too late.

We live in a modern world. We have modern church buildings, we have modern bills, what does this mean for us as believers? As Christ said, the poor will always be with us, and he was right. Poverty is now like it was then, just more complicated. What we have now that we didn’t then is buildings – cathedrals, “vaticans”, office towers, arenas – which in turn binds us to money, both in need and desire. The church today is rich, some would argue too rich, and with being rich comes the consequence of money, the ever present need for it. We can argue that we need these things to spread the Gospel, though Paul, who refused money and supported himself as a tent maker, would probably disagree. We can argue that to spread the Gospel we need TV, we need big buildings, though in its most powerful moments the Church had none of these things. In fact, it wasn’t until the Church became a political power that money mattered.

Jesus taught lessons in humility, poverty, yet we teach messages of prosperity, and it grates against the grain of the message of Christ. Yes, Jesus didn’t have access to million dollar airplanes, but I’m positive that even if he did, he wouldn’t have bought one. The early apostles didn’t buy expensive caravans to parade around in, the traveled on ships – sometimes against their will as prisoners – to spread the message of Jesus. Jesus didn’t say if you follow me you will be rich on earth, he said we would find our treasure in heaven. Does this mean we can’t have earthly possessions? I don’t know, but what I do know is that the early Christians were less concerned with themselves and more concerned with the community as a whole. They were not only willing to give up everything they had to live in common with one another, they were even willing to give up their very lives for the sake of the Gospel. These men and women were true believers, letting nothing come in between them and their faith.

Jesus would not recognize the Church of today, with her big buildings, he large statues, her printing presses, her television stations. Jesus would not recognize the apostles of today, with there large houses and their Mercedes Benz. He would not recognize the common Christian either, with nice houses and our large bellies. What he would recognize is the slums, the political corruption, the sleaziness of religious leadership. The pride and arrogance, the greed. If we follow the Bible, and even bring tradition in, we would be self sacrificing for the good of the community. We would not worry about being prosperous, we would worry about being a faithful witness. We would not need wealth, we would need community. Sadly, I believe that we are beyond the ability to do this. The problem isn’t our desire to be what God wants us to be, the problem is money.

We no longer have church in our homes, we have it in large buildings. We no longer are the poor ourselves, some of us never even experiencing poverty at all. We no longer feel the need to give everything – only a portion, because we have our own personal desires. We like the idea of sitting in a nice wooden pew made out of expensive Oak, in an air conditioned building, singing songs from a band that plays through a nicely tuned sound system. To think we would be gathered together, huddled closely in a 2 bedroom apartment around a candle is ludicrous, yet that is how our forefathers in the faith worshiped Christ. Even more, they actually feared for their lives, knowing that at any moment, soldiers could come and take them away to their deaths. Of course, the argument is that we live in a different world, society has changed, and that is true. We have become shackled once again to society, through money, and in turn, become ineffective messengers. We have turned the message of the Gospel – of love and sacrifice – into a message of prosperity, a message that needs to be fed by the masses, instead of being fed by the Mass. We have lost moral relevance to our cultures because we have embraced the culture in which we live, and in turn become a business that still claims to be not for profit. We claim that we have to be rich to secure the rich, instead of being like Paul and relying on the Holy Spirit to speak the message to those in station above us. We go to seminars instead of slums, we sit in air conditioned buildings to here the words of Christ instead of turning to the streets and the homeless to share a meal. We ensure our status by wearing our best for Jesus, and in doing so neglect the ones he came for, the ones who wear all that they have, they ones who have nothing left in life but the air that they breathe.

The danger in this is that we can become the same pharisees that Jesus condemned, we can become the same money changers who promise a way to salvation by exploiting the poor. So maybe I was wrong, maybe Jesus will recognize us, it just wont be as we would like him to.

Simple Minded Theology – Salvation

May 8, 2015 2 comments

When I was in the United States Marine Corps, we had this saying, “Keep it simple stupid,” and we taught in “Barney Style.” In other words, the simplest approach was usually the best. Keep the complicated uselessness out, and just get ot the core, essential part of what going on, and above all, once you begin something, don’t do anything to further complicate it! Unfortunately, the more time and people you add to a process, the more likely that keeping is simple is going to go the way of keep it complicated. The history of Christianity can be seen in this light. So, at least for the five minutes it will take you to read this little post, instead of complicating things with the Primacy of Rome and Sola Scriptura (BTW, Jesus never saw Rome, NOR did He speak Latin :) ), lets look at some basics.

John 3:16-17

16 ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 ‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 

These two verses tell us how we can come to have eternal life. First, God the Father, loved the world so much that he gave his Son, Jesus, so that those who believe in him may have eternal life. Secondly, Christ was not sent to condemn the world, but sent that the world might be saved through him. The Apostle John continues that those who do not believe in the Son do not need to be condemned by Christ (or us) because they have already condemned themselves. They condemn themselves through evil works:

John 3:20-21

20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.’

Here, Christ continues be saying that those who do what is true come to the light, and by doing what is true, others will see the truth. So what is the things that are true? When asked, Matthew records Christ’s words:

Matthew 22:37-40

37 He said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

The work of truth is “simple,” Love God with all you soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. The problem comes when we don’t follow the two great commandments

James says that “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:14-26) – in fact James contends that faith alone will not save. Likewise, Jesus in Mathew 25 (31-46) describes that whose who helped those in need – in other words loved others – did so to him, and those who did not, well, in simple English, turned away Christ. It is evident in this parable that all who came before the Father believed in him and Christ, those who Jesus rejects question when they did not feed him and cloth him, but because they do not show the acts of truth, they do not have salvation. Both James, and more importantly Jesus, are saying that, if you do not act in response to your believe, you do not truly believe, for true belief, or faith that is alive shows it.

Jesus’ parables are full of illustrations showing that people who are true believes act on the faith, from the ten virgins to the Good Samaritan. It is not is not simply to “confess the name of Jesus,” we must act on that confession. Not only did Jesus say we must believe and that we must show our belief, but he told us what to do. Love God and love our neighbor. God is the obvious object in this equation. We are to love Him with all of our being and in everything we do. To do this may seem daunting, but the answer is in the next part, loving your neighbor as yourselves. Christ also said it in a different way, Love others as I have loved you (John 13:34) and that he loves us as the Father loves us, and that we should abide in His love (John 15:9). To abide in love is to be full of love. Jesus was not sent to the world to condemn it, and Jesus, likewise, did not send his apostles out to condemn the world either. He sent the apostles out, who in turn sent us out to love the world, even unto death. This love passes all understanding (Ephesians 3:19), and cannot be explained and only personified in the sacrifice of Christ.

In conclusion, we must believe, and to believe we must show it. We show our belief through love, and it is through following these commandments that we actually believe. If we do not love, we simply do not believe, even if we confess and do all the right things, without love, their is no belief and no salvation. We will be known by our fruit (Matthew 7:16), if our fruit is love, then it is light, if it is not, then it is evil.

Pax Christe,
JZ Holloway

All scripture quoted taken form the
>New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition (NRSVACE) at BibleGateway.com

Blessed Are the Meek

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” – Jesus’ simple phrase has a lot to say. The definition of meek is to be submissive, quiet or, as Websters says:

1:  enduring injury with patience and without resentment :  mild
2:  deficient in spirit and courage :  submissive
3:  not violent or strong :  moderate
In Christianity today, this does not seem to be the prevailing quality. We argue over what we believe are human rights, theology, politics, and everything in between. We know we are right, either through our own experience or because of tradition. We know we are right because a majority of people believe such, or because we are the “only ones being attacked.” To believe in something is not at issue, belief is important, and understanding that belief even more so. however, when belief becomes the catalyst for violence – either physically or spiritually, there is a problem.
His Holiness, Francis, has invited the Lutheran Archbishop of Sweden, the head of the Lutheran church there, for dialogue. For some, who follow ecumenical  dialogue, this is both an interesting and exciting development. For others, mostly Catholics it seems, it comes across as gross, disgusting and negligent. First, this “archbishop” is Lutheran, second, and even more “gross” is that this person is a woman.
Whether we are Protestant or Catholic (I think even the Orthodox would know at least a little bit of this), we know what happened in the 1500s. Martin Luther, an Augustinian friar, was excommunicated by the Pope in 1521 for not recanting 41 sentences in his writings – including the 95 Theses nailed to the door of the All Saints Church in Wittenburg, Germany. This was the official beginnings of the Protestant church, beginning with Luther, and culminating with what we have today. Luther, as excommunicated, was no longer in communion with Rome, and his followers shared his fate. Those followers would go on to found the Lutheran church, based on the writings and teachings of Martin Luther. His main grief was indulgences and what he saw as economical corruption in the hierarchy of the Church. Obviously, many things were added, such as priests and marriage. Luther, though historically beginning as meek, turned around and was the exact opposite of the word, and disruption and division followed.
Catholics will call this the great Protestant rebellion, and in many ways, justifiably so. However, in many ways, Luther’s assessment of the Church was correct. In so much that the Catholic Church would call a council of reform some years later.
Even before the Protestant division, the Church was split between East and West with the Great Schism of of 1054. Both the bishop of Rome and the bishop of Constantinople declared primacy and excommunicated each other. Not for theological purposes, but for politics and power. Obviously, the bishop of Rome used tradition, but so did the bishop of Constantinople – it wasn’t solely defined in their minds – obviously, the Primacy was in Rome. Again, meekness did not seem to be in their vocabulary or disposition. This division was made even worse during the Crusades, where Western armies would plunder and pillage (to be kind) Eastern churches. This dispute, though faded as it is today, is still in existence.
From 1378-1417, within the Catholic Church, we had a division concerning who was actually pope. Springing up was pope after pope, seemingly everywhere, giving rise to the term anti-Pope. This, obviously, caused great confusion among the Catholic faithful. Again, nothing meek about it.
Just like Catholicism, Protestantism has seen its share of division. This is evident in the myriad of Protestant denominations and independent groups, formed largely by further disagreements and dissatisfaction. Even Orthodoxy has seen its share of splits and divisions, with not all looking to the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church. Again, meek eludes the situation.
in John 17, Jesus prays that His people will be one, just as He and the Father are one. Honestly, I have no idea what this means in truth, only that Christ and the Father were one in love and purpose. We know Christ, as a man, did not always see eye to eye with the Father (Take this cup from me), but we also know that despite this, Christ followed the Father’s will. Christ’s divinity overcame His humanity, and I believe that a truth that God desires is for the divinity of Christ in us to overcome he humanity that we are born with, in our case, with original sin. In this only can we truly be one with the Father.
Are Catholics right? Absolutely, Protestantism was and is divisive, and it was schismatic. Are Protestants right? Absolutely, Catholicism was corrupt in many forms. Was Orthodoxy right? Absolutely, even Rome holds their traditions as valid. We must not forget that we are humans first, created in the image of God yes, but we are still human. Our institutions, though they may be divinely inspired, continue to evolve and change as God reveals His truths to us. This is important, for to think we know everything there is to know, and to believe that we are justified by our knowledge and tradition, causes us to miss the simplest, yet most evasive of Christ’s commandments to us, to love one another. To judge someone is to place that same judgement on ourselves that we issue to each other – this is why I believe Pope Francis said “Who am I to judge?” He sees the importance of love first, that judgment can only come from the Throne of God and through His Son. We may be right, but we also can appear to be crazy. If we are right, what is it for? It certainly does not bring reconciliation, which the Church as a whole, both Protestant and Catholic (and Orthodox) needs desperately.
So the Pope is meeting with a woman who has been ordained by the Lutheran Church of Sweden who is currently the archbishop there and head of their church. We have two choices, as both Catholics and Protestants – we can be reviled and say why, why pander to the other side? Why, seemingly, accept the other as an equal or contemporary? We can spread viscous discontent. Secure in our own righteousness trumped up by our own beliefs. In other words, we can accomplish nothing. Or, we can pray, for both the Holy Father and this Lutheran archbishop, that God guides their discussion and time together. We can, even though we may not agree, be supportive of both of them and their meeting together. We can pray that the love of Christ shines through, and forgiveness and reconciliation comes forth. In other words, we can be meek, we can be humble. We can recognize that we serve a God whose ways we simply cannot understand, and praise Him for Christ’s own prayer possibly coming one step closer to being fulfilled.
The ultimate prophecy of Christ may just be that the Church would be divided, otherwise, why would he pray that we may be one. We must understand that no one man has all the answers, and no one church is above all the others. We are all members, all of us who confess the Name of Jesus, of His Body. As wrong as we may be, or they maybe, we are all one family.


Changing of the Guard – Becoming Catholic

May 4, 2015 1 comment

Someone close to me, my wife, called my previous post my “conversion” story. I didn’t mean for it to come out that way, but in the end I guess it sort of is. However, since I don’t particularly care for the term conversion in the instances that it concerns people who are already believers in Christ, and also because its not the fullness of the story, I decided to write the following.

I was born in Thomaston, GA on March 20, 1980. Thomaston is a small town, now considered to be on the outskirts of the suburbs of Atlanta. My father, at the time, was a charismatic Methodist pastor who “rode” a circuit. He was up and coming, however he had two issues, he was both charismatic and he liked black people – he actually wanted them in his church. Keep in mind, this may be 1980, but it was also the deep south and the United Methodist Church was a deep rooted southern denomination (John & Charles Wesley began in Georgia in the 1700s). On advice from a close friend, he left the UMC and started an independent charismatic church, which later merged with another independent charismatic church with eventual ties to the Paulks in Atlanta and so on.

Sometime in the mid 1980s, my father met then Pastor Randy Adler, a great man of God and faith, who would go one to be one of the central founders of the Charismatic Episcopal Church. My father would start a church in Thomaston – St. Michael and All Angels – in 1993, and go one to be ordained to the priesthood, becoming a canon, and later a bishop. This began my personal hunger for the liturgical and sacramental, starting around the age of 11-12 – the church we where in before the CEC was dabbling in liturgical expression, and it came full circle with my charismatic and Wesleyan upbringing. At this time, myself and the oldest of my younger brothers were home schooled (Josiah was only born in 1992) and my parents switched from the lifepack system (I don’t remember the publisher) to Seton Home Study School. Seton is an accredited home school program, that is Roman Catholic, based in Virginia. Throughout the 1990s I felt a calling to the priesthood, and I loved the liturgy, I studied it, along with the Bible and the Early Church Fathers – even going to seminary classes my dad taught as head of the CEC seminary in the southeastern United States. I was smart, even able to answer questions that seemingly dumbfounded seminarians, some who were already priests, who had come from other denominational walks of life, with pastoral and biblical experience. I loved it. I ate it, I drank it, i pretended to be a priest in my dreams. I was an acolyte who knew everything there was to know about being an acolyte. I knew the Book of Common prayer backwards and forwards – and not just the 1979 prayer book, but the 1928 one as well. I read the Bible throughout at least three times from 1993-2000 – even the Apochypha. I read the anti-Nicene fathers, the post-Nicene fathers… if it was church, I read it. I was also rebellious and prideful, and before my father could kick me out (I think it might have been more of my mother), I joined the Marine Corps in 2000.

I was in the Marine Corps for five years. In many ways it was glorious, in many ways I should be dead, either by my hand or something else. I survived, but I was broken. Both physically and spiritually. I didn’t find time for God unless I was desperate, and though I was desperate many times, it was never enough. I went to church on a so-so basis, never really getting rooted, even though there was a CEC church merely 30 minutes away (I still cannot thank Fr. Mark Johnson and his wife Natalie enough). I slipped and fell, got back again and fell again. In many ways, I became a man in the Marine Corps, which is awesome, and I began to become the man God wanted me to, which is even better. The only problem is I did it in the most roundabout way possible, which, let me tell you, sucks. I was still rebellious and prideful. I was still a know it all. I hadn’t really changed in most ways, yet I found myself out of the Marine Corps and back home where I needed to be. In essence, by only the grace of God, I had survived.

The end of 2005 brought me back home, put me in school (junior college), which, naturally, I excelled at. Both my father and my brother Jake were good motivators – Jake being smarter then me, but only because, or at least I bragged, I didn’t study – he studied constantly. I found a new home in my mind within the confines of scholarly activity. Again though, I was still rebellious and prideful, arrogant to a point. I still felt the call to the priesthood, and when I wasn’t being stupid or getting drunk, I continued to study, I continued to read and listen, and I continued to be active within my dad’s church, which at the time was the cathedral for the diocese of Georgia. Somewhere along the line I finished junior college and set my sights on the University of Georgia, but first, we had a diocesan convocation at the cathedral for Georgia, and I had to help my dad.

The convocation went great – some external denomination politics and controversy had to be addressed, yet from how I remember it, the convocation as a whole was awesome. The last night of it, a Friday night, in June of 2007, everything changed. We went home, to my parents house, me and my brother were going to stay up and drink scotch while listening to Ron White (a very colorful/vulgar comedian) and while we were doing that, my mother screamed from downstairs. I don’t know what time it was, but it was late – my father had a stroke. It ended up being a massive one, one that left him bedridden up until February of last year when he passed away. Beyond the support my family received from family, friends and the church denomination as a whole, I was angry. I was angry at God first and foremost, I called Him things I don’t think He’s repeat. I blamed Him, I probably even straight up cursed Him, I don’t really remember. In fact, I don’t really remember the next week or so. The short of it, I was angry. I eventually blamed myself, but my anger at God outweighed any anger I felt toward anything else. The people around me, mostly people from St. Michael’s, were extremely supportive, but in the end, inside the struggle was just too much.

I ended up going to the University of Georgia, following my younger brother, and ended up studying history and classical culture, with running certificate programs in Native American studies and archeology. I continued to study the Bible, liturgics, the church fathers, I also studied philosophy and Islam. I did my own personal biblical research project, I put special emphasis on church histroy. However, even though I maintained a presence in church while I was back at my mothers house, I didn’t give myself the time to go when I was away. Things began to change though when I met my wife on facebook, through mutual friends in the CEC, and she would come down to Georgia from Rhode Island to see me in November of 2008. (I think its November, we began talking n September).

To make a long story a little less long, in January of 2009 Ruth Anne got pregnant. I went back and forth a lot concerning what I was going to do, but I ended up deciding to move to Rhode Island and get married. We got married on September 12, 2009, and Katherine Isabella Elena Holloway was born September 30. Newlyweds with a baby, the more I think about it we should have had our own TV show. We have now been married almost six years, and we have added three more babies since Katherine. John William (named for my daddy), Karl Joseph (we like the name) and Zachary Thomas (Zachary is my middle name), Katherine is convinced she will have a sister named Sophia – who knows. During this time, we didn’t really have a “home” church, but both Ruth Anne (and her family, he dad is a deacon in the CEC) and I were still part of the CEC. The closest church to us was in Newport, which is quite a drive, especially with little ones. If the drive didn’t get me, what I found when I went there would have. Ultimately, it was a little of both. I had visited and participated at many CEC churches, mainly through traveling with my dad (I also lived in California for a year at the main cathedral in San Clement), and what I had found in Newport was like nothing I had ever experienced in the CEC. There was almost no liturgical expression, the sacraments felt like an afterthought, and I felt like I was going to an evangelical concert. This certainly, in my mind, was not going to work. So we stopped going. Now, here we were, with no place to go.

Personally, I didn’t really care. I was still mad. It wasn’t just my father anymore, it was a lot of things – in fact, my first confession (with Fr. James at our local parish) and my second confession (with Fr. Nick, also at our local parish) that was simply my confession. I was angry, mad as hell. Somehow I think Fr. Nick took it better, maybe Fr. James simply was not expecting me to say just that. Was that all I could remember? Yes, the anger, which led to confusion, had simply clouded everything else. In all honesty, before I get to the end of this story, I still deal with anger and rejection on a day to day basis, but at this point in my life, it had become who I was. I didn’t want to have anything to do with church. I had dabbled with the thought of visiting a local Orthodox parish – I had done some studies at an Orthodox parish when I lived in California. I loved the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostrom. I had also done some Eastern Rite studies in my home schooling. Yet, I just couldn’t see myself diving right in. I had even thought about the Roman Catholic Church, but the thought of sitting through RCIA classes, being taught stuff I already knew, well, I was just too smart for that. My wife, however, being the proactive one, sought out Fr. James at St. Patrick Church in Providence (her dad knew him) and eventually set up a meeting. I couldn’t honestly think of a reason to say no, so I planned to go. The more I thought about it, the more right it felt, and when Fr. James asked me if I really wanted to do this, I said yes.

The process to confirmation was long, longer for my wife, she did end up having to take the RCIA classes (I didn’t… thank God – well, I took two, the first on the Ten Commandments – I thought I was going to fall asleep, the second was the Theology of the Body). In the end, we were both confirmed and have been attending St. Patrick Church in Providence, RI for several years now. I still have many questions, I still have questions and issues with some beliefs – such as Purgatory and the Perpetual Virginity, but I have found my faith to be a Catholic faith. I am still a little Methodist, a little charismatic – still very Anglican in my thought processes, they are still a very large part of who I am as a believer today, and will continue to be for the rest of my life. As a side not – as an Anglican (or an English-Catholic, or to be correct, Anglo-Catholic) I am encouraged by institutions such as the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. All in all though, I am Catholic. I do not believe the Catholic Church is the only way or the only answer, to believe that would be to say that men and women like my own father were wrong, and for me, my father exemplified the life of a true Christian in more ways then I can mention. I believe that Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, I believe the only way to the Father is through Him. I believe that Christ is visible and present in the Sacraments. I am happy to call myself Catholic.

I am not a “perfect Catholic” by any stretch of the imagination. I still have my struggles, mostly internal, I am human after all. I still study and read, though I don’t find myself discussing theology, liturgics and such as often as I used to. I pray more now, but never without ceasing. I still have my doubts and issues, but my faith carried beyond all of those things – and the community in which I find myself still continues to blow my mind. I don’t find myself as charismatic as I once was – however I still will “speak in tongues” on occasion (usually when I am praying for Karl when he is having a fit) and I find myself raising my hands in worship from time to time (usually surprising myself in the process). I am still a rebel at heart, for whatever reason, maybe its part of who I am supposed to be. I still dream of the priesthood, but again, I am now a Roman Catholic. Words cannot describe how I feel in the depths of my heart for where I am at. Again, there are still struggles, but I have stopped being angry at God. I finally feel, in many ways, to be home, thought I am not totally comfortable with that term either. I know that my daddy is sitting – no dancing (you would have to know him), clapping his hands and worshiping God, all the while smiling down on me and my family.

Pax Vobiscum,
J. Z. Holloway
Feast of The English Martyrs, 2015


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 363 other followers