Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Another alternative

Joe Eszterhas -- the writer of some of the worst screenplays in Hollywood history -- has written a memoir about his conversion from Hollywood playboy to devout Roman Catholic. You can read more about Eszterhas' journey of faith in this interesting profile by David Yonke. It's encouraging to read testimonies like this that show God working in surprising ways in unexpected places. At the same time, the part of his post-conversion experience recounted below left me shaking my head, and I think it points out a common misconception/false dichotomy about what it means to be Roman Catholic or Protestant. Maybe I'll send him this book.

Although he is a devout Catholic, Mr. Eszterhas writes bluntly of his disgust for priests who are pedophiles and bishops who have covered up for them. He and Naomi decided they could not, in good conscience, donate a dime to the church because of the clerical sexual abuse scandal.

He also writes about the inner turmoil he felt when he took his boys to catechism classes or other church events and kept a protective eye on them the whole time, making sure they were never alone with a priest.

And he complains about priests' homilies being boring and pointless.

When Mr. Eszterhas visited a nondenominational megachurch, he heard a sensational sermon. But he felt empty afterward, missing Holy Communion and the Catholic liturgy.

"It may have been a church full of pedophiles and criminals covering up other criminals' sins … it may have been a church riddled with hypocrisy, deceit, and corruption … but our megachurch experience taught us that we were captive Catholics," he wrote.

Mr. Eszterhas told The Blade that despite his mixed feelings over the church and the abuse scandal, the power of the Mass trumps his doubts and misgivings.

"The Eucharist and the presence of the body and blood of Christ is, in my mind, an overwhelming experience for me. I find that Communion for me is empowering. It's almost a feeling of a kind of high."

It would be sad if the only two options for Christians were "a church riddled with hypocrisy, deceit, and corruption" (his words not mine) or megachurch emptiness. I wish Eszterhas would investigate historic Protestantism as expressed in the Reformed faith. There he would find liturgy, a high view of the sacraments, a robust ecclesiology, and sermons that point to Christ rather than being pointless. He might even find it "overwhelming" and "empowering." I do. And I'm thankful my spiritual journey took me to Geneva, not Rome.

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