I will be committing my sin of the week right now. Today.
My sin will be running my mouth about stuff I don't know enough about to merit voicing even the smallest opinion.
Would it be too much truth for you if I admitted how many times I have googled "ten commandments" in order to scan the list of BAD THINGS NOT TO DO in search of blog material? In fact, what the hell. I mean heck. I will list them now.
I lifted this image from Wikipedia, so don't get all excited and act like I am calling myself a theology expert. I am not. For all I know, this Wikipedia chart may be wrong, too. But for the purpose of saying what I want to say today, I am going to pretend it's true. (Any of you who would care to post a comment in support of the image's veracity or lack thereof, please do so. We could all use the info).
From where I am sitting, I can tell you that the Catholic column looks accurate. Notice that for Roman Catholics, there are three parts to commandment one: I am God, no other gods before me, no making idols. For other folks, that second bit about no other gods before me and idolatry merits its own commandment.
Now, I know very little about what the Protestant protesting is all about. I have heard of Martin Luther and his list; I know there was some argument about whether statues were appropriate and there was also some stuff about priests being able to marry. Oh and some people say that the Hail Mary is like acting like Mary is God? Oh and I think there was a king in England who wanted to get divorced and he made some objections to Catholicism too. Right? Or? See how educated I am? How embarrassing.
Notice at the other side that Catholic's have a separate commandment for not coveting other people's stuff. For other people, that gets lumped into the one about not coveting other people's wives.
I respect other people's faith traditions and I will tell you without further adjective that most of my actual real live friends are non-Catholics. In August, I will be climbing Kilimanjaro with one Buddhist, one Jew, and one Muslim. I will be the only Christian on the team. I have no problem with other folks and their beliefs.
That said, I am rather partial to the Catholic commandments. The three part version of commandment one, at least according to the people who wanted to call it two commandments, is what helped me come back to the Church after I did what many people do during college: I left the Church and went on my merry way feeling spiritual all by myself. It worked out ok in a lot of ways. I wasn't in the habit of killing, stealing, insulting my parents or coveting much anyway, so all it really allowed me to change in terms of behavior was quitting that enormous hassle that was going to church. Hooray!
To this day, I have no idea what turned my feet the other direction. I do know that some time just after I moved to New York, I was rushing to the train and I was late and freaking out and I was about 100 yards short of Grand Central when I became aware that I was passing a church. I looked at it. It was obviously Catholic. I kept going, but I said to myself, "When I go back, that will be my church."
I didn't think of it again for a while. Six months, probably. Then I started, without much reflection, to choose the route to the train that went past that church, even though there were four other routes to the station that were just as fast and maybe a little faster. And when I did, I would look at the door of the church and think "my church."
Within a few months more I was touching the door as I went past.
Then I stopped to peer through the window.
I noticed that if I looked through the west door window, I could smell incense.
But I kept walking by for a month or so longer. And then, of course, I went inside. And then I stayed long enough to get through a whole lunch-hour Mass. And then I stayed for two of them and paid attention for at least ten minutes. Within a year I was ten steps from confession. Then five. When I finally made it into the confessional, I believe all I was capable of saying was "I have not been to confession in ten years. I suck at life. I don't belong here." (But that's another story).
A bunch of folks would call what I was doing - setting up a building as something to work toward - idolatry. Was that false God worship?
I say it wasn't.
I say it was noticing that a certain place was sacred, and little by little, allowing myself to be drawn to it. I no more think that God is physically located in the door of that church than I think that God is going to do as I like and deliver unto me a notarized list of items he would like me to accomplish in my life. (I did ask for that. He didn't give it. Darn). But the idea, anyway, that a place, a space, or even an object can having meaning is most assuredly not the same thing as setting up a statue and calling it God. Catholicism allows, as far as I can tell, people to call places and things meaningful without calling them God. I rather need that. If I didn't have it, I wouldn't have my church. I could write all day and not come close to telling you how much I love this church. I have been to dozens of others in Manhattan and I can tell you that of all the ones I could have been drawn to, this was the right one.
Of the other difference between the Catholic commandments and the others, I will say only that I rather appreciate there in-writing notation of the difference between coveting people's spouses and people's property. That's not the same thing at all.
OH. And please go easy on me. I did in fact start this post by admitting I was too ignorant to be writing it in the first place.