Recently I have been spending a lot more time conversing with non-Catholic Christians than I did in my previous years as a Catholic on similarities and differences and the state of ecumenism in general. I have found in this experience that there are more than you think among the more kind and reasonable folks who are willing to talk and listen, but as you might imagine, still a good few are very much one-sided and show no interest in understanding another point of view. This can be especially true of the preacher types who have been wrung through a lot of anti-Catholic programming by multiple instructors in their version of seminary, and whose ego that they may or may not be aware they have does not allow for the possibility that they don’t know or understand quite as much as their degrees and research make them think they do.
One favorite dead horse these individuals love to keep beating in multiple sermons in a surprisingly short period of time is the idea that “God hates religion” (a real life quote from one such character who really won’t let it go, and really harsh language I might add, since it should be well known that “God is love.” 1 John 4:8.) By now, I’ve become really fed up with this theme and the alienation of Catholic visitors in the congregation that results from blind aggression like this, so I thought I’d pound out a little “sermon” of my own here and get my word in edgewise, or rather I should say God’s Word.
Firstly, it should be noted that you can read the whole Bible cover to cover (and I have, BTW), and you will never read a verse where God says He hates or even disapproves of “religion”. In most translations, you will only even find the word “religion” in one passage, James 1:26-27, and it is a very positive description:
“If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is vain. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:26-27 RSVCE
You can look up this same passage in multiple non-Catholic translations of the Bible (here for example) , but even the most anti-Catholic translators can’t avoid using the word “religion” at least once, giving clear evidence that this is definitely the word God chose to use for how we are to practice the Faith.
Secondly, it should be well remembered by anyone who has been through the Bible that God INVENTED religion, rituals, beautiful and expensively made places of worship, and holy days/feasts/holidays. In the Torah/Pentateuch (Genesis through Deuteronomy), for example, God commands and dictates to Moses the building of the tabernacle: a luxurious tent made with fine fabrics and dyes as well as gold and other precious metals (not wood and concrete and plaster), and also orders very specific and detailed rituals for sacrifices and other ceremonies that include sprinkling rites and vestments and the “Bread of the Presence”. For example:
“And the anointed priest shall take some of the blood of the bull and bring it to the tent of meeting; and the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle part of the blood seven times before the Lord in front of the veil of the sanctuary. And the priest shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of fragrant incense before the Lord which is in the tent of meeting, and the rest of the blood of the bull he shall pour out at the base of the altar of burnt offering which is at the door of the tent of meeting.” Leviticus 4:5-7 RSVCE
And those who are about to say that the Old Testament no longer matters and does not reflect God’s will for us now, should hold their tongues, because God is unchanging and would not set a clear principle then, only to completely reject that principle later and demand the totally opposite standard in a way that betrays His Word from before. In fact, Jesus says:
“Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.” Matthew 5:17 RSVCE
That is why, in the Catholic Church, you will see the same worship God asked of us in the beginning, not abolished, but fulfilled and celebrated in a New Testament way.
Lastly, I would beg you to consider the motive for this argument and other attempts to put down Catholics as not true Christians, even though we are the original Christians and invented the word that you use today. (You’re welcome.) In Jesus’s last words to the Father before His death and resurrection He prays:
“I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. The glory which Thou hast given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one, I in them and Thou in Me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that Thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as Thou hast loved Me.” John 17:20-23 RSVCE
The apostle Paul also calls for unity in the Church here, and in various verses throughout the New Testament:
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” Philippians 1:27 RSVCE
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” Philippians 2:1-2 RSVCE
Seeing how His followers being “one” with each other and working together for the salvation of the world is so important to the heart of the Lord Jesus, I plead with you to heed His cry. Put aside the fighting, the assumptions, the need to be right and smarter than all your other brothers and sisters, and past grudges. Let us be separated brethren no longer, but a family in love with one another and in love with the Lord. Let us celebrate His Grace and His Word together in peace as we continue to hear each other out in gentleness and humility.
“Come now, let us reason together” Isaiah 1:18a RSVCE