*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 1st of November 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.

Let’s go to the mailbag for a question I received last week about Reformation Day which was yesterday. Rebecca in Fresno asked:

“It seems that anti-catholicism was a big part of the Reformation but not so much anymore. How can we celebrate Reformation Sunday without making it “us vs. them”?”

Think about:

The nature of humans as a tribal species.

There is always another!

The nature of language and group identity.

Part of what makes a group a group is the propositions that they affirm and deny. This isn’t just a religious thing- but how groups work.

The split of the church at the Reformation was about propositions (how are we saved? What are the sacraments? etc…) this is really important!

At the heart of the Reformation was not just doctrine, but questions about doctrine and life flowing from the ultimate question of authority. The Reformation was about “who says so?” Or perhaps you might think of a meme of Luther shaking his fist at the Pope and saying “you’re not the boss of me”.

This is an important point- Catholics find binding authority in both scripture and the traditions of the church. (That note “binding” is important because we are all guided by church traditions). SO Catholics don’t pray the rosary or abstain from meat on Fridays etc… because the Bible tells them so- it is because they recognize their tradition as binding (tradition often being the teaching of the Popes).

NOW, all of this is important but we also have to separate the teachings of an institution and the beliefs of individuals within that tradition. Your aunt Cathy who attends Our Lady of All Angels might listen to the homily and call herself Catholic but if you asked her what she believed she might give you something akin to “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so” (which is not a bad answer to start with!).

The very, very protestant pastor with 4 degrees in theology might teach Justification by Faith through Grace every Sunday but the traditions around the music, fellowship, culture, etc… of the church might be so binding that the congregation (and the pastor) feel bound by their own laws.

As far saw Anti-Catholicism goes, let's take it into the modern era- it has been just as much about politics and nationality as about anything else. During and after the Reformation many European countries adopted a confession. England was Protestant, Spain, Italy, and Ireland would be Catholic, etc, etc… so when Spaniards and Englishmen are fighting over colonizing Florida it becomes a “religious” issue as well.

The KKK was and is anti-Catholic but this has to do with the 19th-century waves of immigration to America from Italy and Ireland. People didn’t like foreigners or immigrants and the fact that they tended to worship together made for an easy target.

Consider the example of Al Smith he was the first Catholic to run for president in America (this was 1928 and he would lose to Herbert Hoover) and the KKK and others repeated the slogan that Smith was for Rum and Romanism. This was a reference to his anti-prohibition stance (a common Catholic, Irish and Italian position) and the fear-mongering that he would be loyal to Rome and not the American people (the KKK spread a rumor that Smith wanted to move the Vatican to America).

We should have a discussion regarding the truth of theological propositions. But we should do so with a firm emphasis on the “us” and not so much on the “them”. And if we think we have good ideas, we should want the “us” to eventually include the “them”. I think that’s what makes the Gospel such good news: unity isn’t an abstract goal but a reality that will be realized on earth as it is in heaven.

The last word for today comes from John 8:

31 Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” 33 They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”

34 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35 The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. 36 So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 1st of November 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.

The show is produced by a gigantic Fresno St. Bulldogs Fan- he has a tattoo of both the Carr brothers on his back. He is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man whose favorite Fresno resident was Fresno Bulldogs PF Paul George. Go Clips. I'm Dan van Voorhis

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.