Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Rome, 1982: When Rome Could No Longer Be Home .. One Ex-Catholic's Remembrance
I will never forget the moment when it fully dawned on me, a newly born again believer, just how completely opposed the religion of Roman Catholicism actually is to Biblical truth. It was for me a turning point in my life.
Raised a Roman Catholic, it was Baptist and then Church of God believers who began to break down my religious ignorance propped up by pride, carnality and ingrained tradition ... by simply sharing the Gospel of a loving God who wanted to save me from my own sinful self. I came to Jesus and begged him to be my Savior in 1981 while I was in the Navy.
Not having any mentors or believers to fully declare the truth to me, God's Spirit took me on a journey in which one by one all of the connections and revelations began to be made clear to me as to how hideously I'd been deceived into following purely human Roman tradition and not God's Word .. and I don't think it was an accident that the last one finally clicked while I was on a whirlwind 2 day tour of the Eternal City, Rome itself while my ship was anchored in the Bay of Naples in the summer of 1982. The burning into my soul of that moment still blazes in my heart, mind and spirit 32 years later.
I had been in the Vatican Museum and saw all of the unbelievable wealth, ostentation and artwork collected by the papacy over centuries of temporal power. Blow after blow of the truth kept kniving into me. Those who have not lived such a religiously blinded life completely dominated by religious programming can ever appreciate just what kind of white knuckled and soul-shattering agony it is to come to understand how wrong you've been led to live .. and all it means to you, your loved ones, your dead, your past and the present .. and all of the world itself.
This is why I feel the lonely and painful connection with those I minister to who are exiting or considering exiting leaving truly cultic organizations as they agonizedly share on how they have encountered the same kind horrific shock and the uglier consequences of losing faith. While Roman Catholicism is not a cult in the sense of the word as I have defined it, it's underlying culture at many levels can only exist by leveraging blind faith and the suspension of critical thinking the same way real cults actually do. To see this cloak finally slip and be seen for what it is provides a disillusionment like no other.
It took me, however, a quick side stop at some "famous" church in Rome to look at their own little collection of religious stuff when I came across a fresco in the ceiling of one of the church naves that froze my blood solid. Done with no expense spared, it was one of those massive works of stunningly painstaking public oil works that were meant to convey to the faithful an illustration of the faith they were to cling to.
To my old Roman Catholic sensibilities, it should have been absolutely stunning. It instead made me sick.
It showed Mary, standing in heaven with the masses of the world all turning their pained eyes to her with hands outstretched in papal benediction. Jesus Christ was not depicted - but Mary herself was carrying a cross, the symbol of redemption, and was illuminated in a great aura of what could only be heavenly glory in which the Spirit as a dove was hovering above her bestowing it. The painting itself was a magnificent and massive portrayal of the power of the painters of the Renaissance at their best when the papacy put them to work to create the imagery they've used ever since to plug this uniquely grotesque and decidedly unbiblical apostasy as "Christianity."
You simply cannot begin to relate to what I'm about to say until you've lived in a culture bent toward worship prompted by artistic props and images and icons and incense and darkened alcoves filled with candles and pews. I find it difficult to begin to describe the terrible shaking that gripped me momentarily there. A tension of heart, mind and soul that completely tore all of my illusions away made me actually tremble and a cold sweat start out. All of my religious training almost drove me to my knees to do a sign of the cross and genuflect .. I could almost feel myself being pulled down to do so (no, it wasn't demons .. it was only that tradition that I'd been steeped in). All I did, however, was stare at it and feel horror and revulsion fill me to the depths of my soul at what that picture really meant in light of the Bible's teaching on the exclusivity of Jesus as Savior alone.
I had been worshipping a goddess and not God.
I had been deceived!
The Catholics I knew and loved all around me were deceived!
This was a blasphemy of the highest order I was staring at, just one lone man, in the vast, hushed marble-pillared opulence of an ancient Roman Catholic church in Rome itself. For the first time in my life, I understood what the term "seat of Satan" really meant and it filled me with a life-changing heaviness and sobriety I've never forgotten and never shaken since. A line had been crossed in my life from which I would never be the same.
Without really realizing it, still awash in the emotion and impact of the moment, I lifted my new Canon AE-1 with me and I had to snap a picture of the thing to remember this day. I still have it - as if I would forget that kind of abomination, which can be routinely seen in Roman Catholic settings globally.
So when my father, who forsook his pagan Catholic religiosity to become a Good Catholic pulled out in his home a few summers ago a vast 6 foot tall image of Our Lady of Guadelupe he's had brought to his Roman Catholic church home to have it venerated, I had to leave the room.
Roman Catholics are a harvest field of souls of unbelivable proportions that the Protestant Church has largely forsaken and almost abandoned .. but in this Laodicean age in which the church is slouching toward the end of times, why am I not surprised? With a Pope who has buffed off the Christ-figure mythos of his office more thoroughly than any other Pope in recent history, and who receives accolades from televangelists that include high fives, would I really expect the Protestant Church to look beyond Francis' mild image and the mad devotion it has inspired?
And the band played on.