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Paige Courtney

Romance, race and religion

After my second break up with a Pentecostal, I've been encouraged to blog about my issues. I blame Martin Luther first and foremost. But it does bring about an interesting reflection about the intersection of romance, race and religion. As a Black Catholic in Nashville, TN, I imagine I am more likely to be struck by lightening than to find a single Black Catholic man my age. Recently I have dated Black Protestants in hopes of either converting them or convincing them to raise Catholic children. That hasn't gone so well for me thus far.

I refuse to compromise my faith. Ideally I would marry a Catholic man that calls me on to holiness, and with whom I could raise a beautiful Black family, vibrantly practicing the fullness of the faith. The compromise would be marrying a Black Protestant that is amiable to Catholicism and open to attending mass and raising his children in the Catholic Church.

As a Black Catholic in the American south I often feel the tension between my race and my religion. There are few Catholics in the south, and even fewer Black Catholics.

Yet the plot thickens once I encounter the doctrinal differences between the Protestants I have dated and the fullness of the faith. In particular, my most recent ex-boyfriend did not believe in the Trinity. Even though he was an incredibly sweet man who had a similar temperament to my own, and the same desire to raise a holy family, he did not believe in the Trinity. One evening we actually stayed up two hours with our Bibles. I felt like St. Dominic passionately trying to correct error, and I am sure he felt like the righteous man saving the wayward Catholic. We reached no common ground.

To me Matthew 28, the Great Commission said it all: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit." For him Acts 2:38 said it all: "Peter said...'Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit." I have encountered this misreading of Acts before. Peter is distinguishing between the Baptism of John the Baptist and the Baptism of Jesus so he refers to Jesus's command to baptize in the name of the Trinity to baptism in "the name of Jesus Christ." This is not the only passage in which either Paul or Peter makes a comment that seems to be dis-congruous with the words of Jesus. It is a principle of Biblical interpretation to take the authority of Jesus first and to see how the words of the apostles fit into that context.

Nonetheless it is also true that Jesus did not leave us to the mercy of our own skills in Biblical scholarship. Therefore I truly blame Martin Luther for confusing well intentioned believers, for being the one to assert his own private grievances above the authority of the Holy Spirit to guide Christ's representatives on earth.

I also pointed to the Baptism in the Jordan, the Transfiguration and all the theophanies I could recall from memory. Yet I was forced to acknowledge, this was not just factual information to be understood once clearly articulated. These are profound supernatural mysteries revealed to me by the gift of faith. Thus I actually felt more sadness over the fact that a believer did not know the true God, than sadness that I had lost a potential soul mate.

I know that when someone has been taught a doctrine their entire lives, a hard swerve to a new doctrine is highly unlikely. Yet I also know that God is a Trinity and I would never betray that truth. Furthermore, I could only marry a man who knew the Trinity and could lead his children to worship God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Actually this encounter ignited a greater devotion in my heart for the Trinity. I began to actually pray more to each person of the Trinity, thanking them for revealing God's true nature to me. I promised the Trinity I would be faithful and that I would not betray the name in which I had been baptized.

So what is a Black Catholic girl to do? I have dated outside my race and I am certainly not closed to the idea. Yet I feel more at home with a Black man. I would love to fall in love with someone who lives my culture and to raise children who inherit the rich patrimony of the Black American experience.

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