Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

My Photo
Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Double Crossed The Tiber?

It has been a little more than three years since PD and I reverted to Catholicism. Shortly after my reversion, I received an e-mail that predicted that once the "pomp and circumstances" of my conversion had worn off, I'd be left with nothing but the "empty promises that Rome can't fulfill." I responded to that e-mail by politely requesting he send me a list of the converts/reverts he was aware of that were reverting back (double crossing) to their previous protestant denomination. I never received a reply.

I am not sure what the person described above meant by "pomp and circumstance." I must admit, I get a little less emotional describing my conversion these days but still get choked-up when I speak of Christ in the Eucharist and how He has been there all the time, unrecognized by myself. I wonder if he meant the aesthetic aspects of Catholicism? Quite frankly, the local Church building we attend is shaped like the mother ship from Close Encounters and the interior design is Frank Lloyd Wright meets IKEA (So it's not the architectural majesty and iconic brilliance that drew us, nor keeps us!) There's not a whole lot of pomp or circumstances there either, just the 2000 year old divine liturgy and the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist confected by two godly over-worked and under-paid pastors.

I still pray as much now as when I first returned and in many ways have a deeper "filial" affection for "Mother Church" that was not there three years ago. I still desire frequent reception of the Eucharist and do not grow weary of daily Mass. Sometimes, I am less enthused about going after a long day, but have never once left Mass saying to my spouse
"PD, what a waste of time, I wish we stayed home instead!" The stack of new and Amazon-used Catholic-related books on my night stand shows no sign of shrinking anytime soon either. So it's been three years and counting I haven't yet seen the "empty promises that Rome can't fulfill."

But, in all fairness, maybe I am not aware of a Double Crossing Phenomena that my e-mail interlocutor is aware of. In light of all the conversions that have been tracked by Coming Home Network or such I was wondering what the percentage of convert/reverts have decided to go back to non-Catholic faith expressions. Does anyone have data on this type of "double crossing?" I am sure it has occurred and in the days of the hubbub over the Beckwith Incident this past May, there was a well known Catholic convert blogger going the other direction with less fanfare. This former 7th day Adventist -Catholic convert recently returned to his 7th Day denomination and posts an interesting discussion on his journey to and from Rome. About a year ago, Rod Dreher of Crunchy Cons blog left Rome to cross the Bosporus.

  • Are there any other revert/converts any out there currently, who long for their previous fellowship experience and question their Crossing Over?
  • As an aside, does anyone ever wonder why we are referred to as converts and reverts rather than just Christians who changed churches and became Catholic? When I went to the Methodist church for a time before coming home, I wasn't referred to as a "Methodist convert." I think it is an interesting phenomenon. The media use this nomenclature as well so it's not just Catholic-speak or "Catholese*."

*Catholese= the use of terms to describe religious experience within the confines of Catholic culture and faith practices. This is a term that is analogous to "Christianese" or my personal favorite "Spirit-speak."


Blogger Pilgrimsarbour said...

I don't have any data on these things, but I know from talking to people online that it does occur. I think "revert" is just convenient shorthand for giving a little backstory to the person's spiritual journey. It's helpful to know that a "revert" is someone who has had real life first-hand experience as a Catholic, and gives added credibility to the person's views on the matter.

June 21, 2007 7:07 PM  
Blogger onionboy said...

"empty promises that Rome can't fulfill." Oh my goodness, thank you, I needed a rollicking laugh today.

O ::thrive luminousmiseries ||

June 21, 2007 7:50 PM  
Blogger JP Manzi said...

Great thoughts here.

I guess I can consider my self a revert (possibly for the 2nd time)

I was born and raised Catholic, left the Church in my teenage years after coming to a "born again" experience. Summer of 2006, I reverted back to the Catholic Church, went to confession for the first time in 15 years, attended Mass regularly. I had some folks from the church I was attending "talk me back into the Protestant Church" Couple that with that fact that I could not receive the Eucharist (for reasons I'd be more then happy to share, but will not bore you here on this post) I left after only 3 months. Here we are, 1 year later, I am on the verge of making that jump...or swim home to the Faith that I am falling in love with. This time around, I am doing it for myself and making sure my heart and head are on the same page.
By the way I "tagged" you. Hope you will partake.

June 22, 2007 7:29 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

My story sounds so similar, as you know.
I am looking forward to hearing the whole story sometime.
I will pray for your decision.
As a charismatic evangelical, I would say that my heart and head were usually not together. I think the reason that Catholicism has taken me so deeply is that my heart and head are both engaged simultaneously, perhaps for the first time in 30 years.
If you ever want to discuss issues of reversion, I would gladly "cross the Delaware" and chat.
God bless

June 22, 2007 8:05 AM  
Blogger Gretchen said...

Oh, thanks for such a great post! I am so glad that I had to go through the gamut on the Christian spectrum, so I lost that peculiar desire to find a 'perfect' church long ago! Went to a ministry meeting at our parish the other night. At the end of two hours I was so darn grateful for Mass and the expectation of the Eucharist. It is that and Tradition that keeps me from ever thinking I could become a Protestant again! Though, I tell ya, that ministry meeting was something else. All churches suffer the human element.

June 22, 2007 9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JP: maybe you shoud buy a boat.

June 22, 2007 11:38 AM  
Blogger JP Manzi said...

Nah, I prefer swimming anom.

I'd love to talk with you sometime. My wife and I both born and raised Catholics, married outside the Church I am unable to receive the Eucharist. We could have our marriage convalidated but my wife, sadly, wants NO part of that. Hence, my frustration. It was not easy sitting there during Mass unable to receive Christ in the Eucharist. I have heard mention of a procedure called
"radical sanation" but I am not too sure what the entails.

June 23, 2007 6:59 AM  
Blogger Joyful Catholics said...

"People are human and human is messy." Peggy Noonan

Being from "RECON" husband revert, me a convert' I'm fluent in Christianese, Catholese, Spirit-speak : )
I 'joined the CC in or around 79. Back when Sloppy Theology ruled the day. THEN had my true heart conversion in late 2004. 26 years out in the 'fast-food' world of great messages, rockin' music and starbucks (or in our case "Crane coffee) served in the newly remodeled 'Fellowship Hall' to keep us coming back for more.
Well, after 13 years there, we both have crossed the Tiber for the LAST TIME and in ONE direction, to the DOME OF HOME. (That's for onion boy who had a good laugh at that when he visited our blog.) Returnees, reverts, converts. It's all so many words. I've used the "coined terms" because I kept hearing them and reading them in Catholic books and publications. It is an interesting phenomenon that we're not simply Christians who 'changed churches and became Catholic. But then, are Catholics really Christian??? : O Am I really saved? I made that 'decision for Christ' when I was 19...and was "saved" but now that I'm Catholic, some no doubt wonder if I was ever saved! : o But of course, because I believed I was for 30 years...and was told I was "saved" forever, signed sealed and delivered to Heaven with that 'decision' I was! I'm Catholic??? Maybe I never was saved? : o Oh how cwazy it gets without ONE CHURCH AND ONE AUTHORITY!

CATHOLIC NOW and have NEVER LOOKED BACK. Smells, bells and most of all the look back now would be unthinkable! There's no longing for anything less that Christ's all!

Proud prairie papist!

June 23, 2007 8:06 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Proud Prairie Papist:
Wow! There's no ambiguity in your decision.
I do have one regret, my old church used to let us drink coffee during the service, that would never fly in Mass. LOL

" I'm Catholic??? Maybe I never was saved? "
That's a good question, for all the folks who claim I have apostasized, doesn't that mean I was never saved to begin with? It makes my head hurt to think about!
The thought of going back, where would I go, which church has the right answers, what would be the basis for my decision to join another church. The authority issue
really is significant for a lot of us revert/converts.
Thanks for the comments, and by the way, Did you hear my song Prairie Dog Exodus on my Scarecrow's lament album?

June 23, 2007 10:24 AM  
Blogger Adam Roe said...


As an aside, does anyone ever wonder why we are referred to as converts and reverts rather than just Christians who changed churches and became Catholic?

I suspect this has to do with the nature of faith. Most Protestants view a sacramental faith as misguided, for they believe that God wouldn't limit himself to working through material means. That's why there's such a huge reliance upon a self-sustained spirituality within evangelicalism. They view the physical means as a lesser filter for God's grace than the ambiguous zeal they're able to create within themselves through things like accountability groups and purpose-driven theology.

June 23, 2007 1:43 PM  
Blogger Pilgrimsarbour said...

Hi TJ,

As always, I humbly offer my opinion for the purpose of "clarity over agreement," to quote Dennis Prager.

Adam Roe said...


As an aside, does anyone ever wonder why we are referred to as converts and reverts rather than just Christians who changed churches and became Catholic?

The short answer, to my way of thinking, is that the nature of salvation (specifically justification and sanctification) is different enough between the Catholic and Protestant communions that the word convert is appropriate. The word revert merely indicates that the person had previously been a part of that communion. I don't think either term should be thought of as pejorative, although they have often been used that way. It seems that moves within the broad expanse of Protestantism are (wrongly, in my view) thought of as roughly "lateral," while a move to Catholicism is assessed (accurately, in my view) as requiring a major reorientation.

There's a lot to be said for Adam's assessment of evangelicalism. I recall, from my pre-Reformed days, experiences of being consciously aware that people in the room, whether worship service or other meeting, were attempting to "whip up the Spirit," as it were, for the purpose of "proper" worship. This kind of thing has always struck me as distasteful, in addition to being downright unscriptural and wrong. I would consider the excesses of emotion and practice within the charismatic movement as one example.

Adam Roe said...

Most Protestants view a sacramental faith as misguided, for they believe that God wouldn't limit himself to working through material means.

Speaking for Reformed Protestants, I don't think it's a matter of seeing physical means of the impartation of grace (sacramentalism) as somehow "limiting God." The Reformers saw both water baptism and the Lord's Supper as two signs and seals through which God imparts grace. The real issue for Protestants is the conflating of signs with the reality to which they were designed to point. The question is, are the signs in themselves salvific? For example, the Protestant asks "Did God really intend for us to understand that water cleanses us from sin? Or did He intend for us to understand that water is the sign pointing us to the reality that it is the Holy Spirit who cleanses us from sin?" Jesus performed many miracles called signs and wonders in the Bible, which are meant to point us to a higher spiritual reality. The healing of the man born blind in John 9 goes well beyond the physical description of the story. After all, if his spiritual eyes are not opened, his physical sight is ultimately useless.

All God's Best,


June 24, 2007 12:49 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

So you think the sacramentality is the divide? That's interesting.
You sound like me in many of my posts regarding material /spiritual paradigm.

June 24, 2007 9:13 AM  
Blogger Adam Roe said...

Sorry it has taken me a while to respond. I do believe sacramentality is the divide. As Pilgrim alludes to, there is a hesitance to ascribe spiritual realities to physical means within most of Protestantism, though I would argue our Reformed brothers and sisters aren't quite as anti-sacrament as those who descend from the Zwinglian tradition.

Blessings to you,

June 26, 2007 9:52 AM  
Blogger + Alan said...

Well, I suppose I will, as of tomorrow, have born both monikers. I wasn't raised in any church, was not baptized, etc. and became a Christian and a Catholic "on my own" at 13. So, because I wasn't a "cradle Catholic," on the inside, I was referred to as a "convert." Eventually, probably 10 years or so later, I eased my way into the indy Charismatic world (more complicated story than that - didn't leave to "get saved" - knew I already was a Christian)...

Anyway, I made my way through that, pastoral leadership, etc., ordained locally, left to plant a small church which has met in my home for around 7 years, growing more liturgical and embracing more of my Catholic roots every year. Emerging church, moving along, lots of monastic spirituality, etc. So, here I am, strongly drawn back inside the big walls. OK, didn't mean to get into all that.

On the terms, I think it has to do with the BIG divide - convert/revert to or from Catholicism, because for a lot of Protestants, still, it's about "not being Catholic" - the reformation spirit is still alive in that way. Just read Beckwith's reversion post comments, wow. There are a fair share of Catholics, too, of a certain stripe, who have a hard time seeing Protestants as Christians too, even if the Church says they are. Both these things are unfortunate. So, to become a Methodist if one has been a Baptist is not SO much of a big deal. But to become Catholic, oh my. It's still a very big deal.

Sorry for the long comment. I got carried away there. :) Peace to you. Been reading for a little while, first comment.

June 29, 2007 6:19 PM  
Blogger Jeff Tan said...

The Pertinacious Papist mused on this matter here:

and I had just tonight read something in the Screwtape Letters concerning how disillusioned converts can become over, what else, the imperfections of the Church. My wife was a devoted Evangelical until a scandal broke out involving some members of her congregation. That was close to 10 years ago. She still hasn't joined me across the Tiber, but I keep praying.

From my point of view, coming and going is like being in love, and the object of that love has got to be Jesus Christ. The Church is his body and his bride, so she must be loved -- warts and all -- but she must never be the end. We don't love the Church because of the Church, which is not perfect by any appearance. But we love the Church because of Christ who established and continues to consecrate her.

It is a shame about Bill Cork and Rod Dreher, really, because they might be in for future disappointments when the imperfections of the Adventists and the Orthodox become apparent. The city built on a hill is only a beacon calling us to Christ, not to the city itself.

And yet, woe to those who cause scandals indeed (liturgy-lite, anyone?).

Concerning the Reformer spirit still being alive, yes I've noted that, particularly to former Catholics who converted in their adulthood, they are almost defined by their opposition to anything smacking of Catholicism. Some go pretty close to the line (like becoming Lutheran), but there's this need to simply avoid becoming Catholic again.

July 12, 2007 10:20 AM  

Post a Comment