Am I a Believer?

Nancy Pelosi met with Pope Benedict XVI the other day.  Papal insiders report that the 15-minute private session was used by the Pope to remind Pelosi of the Catholic Church’s firm stance against abortion and for the sanctity of human life.  Pelosi has tried to position herself as a devout Catholic who believes in abortion.  Pope Benedict took the opportunity to remind her that this was an incompatible claim.

Pelosi released a brief press statement talking about what *she* had to say to the Pope, in terms of complimenting him and reminiscing about a family Papal visit 50 years ago.  There was no mention made of the Pope’s comments to her on the issue of abortion.
This brings to mind the whole issue of how we define ourselves.  Pelosi defines herself as a committed Roman Catholic, and yet she clearly rejects some of the Catholic Church’s key teachings on crucial issues.  At what point does a personal rejection of key theological positions remove one from the pale of a particular denominational affiliation?  Can one be a Christian without accepting the Bible as authoritative?  Clearly, there are many people who think this can be done.  Can you be a Christian while denying the doctrine of the Trinity, or affirming the idea of reincarnation?  Can you be Christian while denying Jesus Christ as the incarnate true-God, true-man Son of God?
There seem to be many folks who feel that they are at liberty to pick and choose the ideas and beliefs and practices that they want from one or more religious traditions, combining them into an entirely new and individualized faith expression that may bear little resemblance in key ways to any of the religions that they borrowed certain ideas from.   Some religious traditions – such as Buddhism – take this all in stride, figuring that a person is going to have multiple incarnations on order to clear up their confusion and proceed towards the proper path of enlightenment.  This looks a great deal to the casual observer as an embracement of all faiths as one, when in reality it’s just a trust that over the course of multiple lives, people will clarify their confusions and follow the right path towards nirvana and moksha.  
Biblical Christianity doesn’t offer the luxury of multiple lifetimes.  We have apparently one shot to recognize the truth of God’s work in the world and our lives, and the particular work on our behalf of Jesus Christ as the Son of God.  While it’s popular to claim that it’s possible to accept and reject different aspects of a faith system while still remaining faithful, this would seem – logically – to be erroneous, and – spiritually – quite dangerous.
I respect the Catholic Church.  I don’t agree with all of their man-made doctrines, and therefore I am *not* Catholic.  I wonder if Pelosi will reflect on her time with the Pope to ascertain whether she is indeed as Catholic as she likes to maintain, and whether or not she as a single individual with a very limited lifespan of experience, is qualified to redefine Catholicism not just for herself, but potentially for millions of Catholics in the US and around the world.  
It turns our that our ‘personal faith’ is sometimes not nearly so personal as we like to think it is.  That ought to give Pelosi – and everyone else – pause to consider what their personal tweaks of the faith are actually doing to themselves, to others, and to the faith they claim to adhere to.

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