MAN OF THE HOUSE | All around us are disagreements that have gotten out of hand

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Every weekday during my 30-minute commute to work, I drive past 15 Christian churches. They're quite diverse, ranging from St. Monica Catholic Church to a large non-denominational one to churches named Ark of Safety, Matthias' Lot and Destiny Church.

Seeing those non-Roman Catholic churches always makes my heart hurt.

When I see those 14 churches, or any Protestant church, I see places filled with men, women and children with whom I would love to worship but probably never will. Yes, for the most part we pray to the same God. We might recite the Lord's Prayer together in unison of spirit and intention. We can all kneel at the manger on Christmas Day, cry as one people on Good Friday and rejoice with one shout of "Alleluia" on Easter morning. We are Christians, one and all.

But some of the other details — many of which are vital to understanding how God loves us — differ as profoundly as people living in one part of the world and those living in a different hemisphere. Even if our Nicene Creed bears a semblance to the beliefs of Lutherans and Anglicans, for instance, is it immediately clear what the people at Ark of Safety, Matthias' Lot and Destiny Church believe?

For me, when I see all those different churches with my Roman Catholic eyes and heart, I perceive disagreements that got way out of hand.

I've never liked arguments. It goes back to my childhood. I can't remember ever seeing my parents have a serious argument; perhaps a mild disagreement, but never a shouting match. They reserved their arguments for later, in their bedroom after I was supposed to be sleeping.

My bedroom shared a wall with their room. Whether I wanted to or not — and I didn't — I could hear much of what they said and always knew when their voices filled with anger or hurt. In those moments, I always feared the argument meant the worst eventual conclusion: divorce.

That turned out to be a baseless worry. My parents were married 53 years until my mom died a couple of years ago. But that concern has led me to avoid emotional disputes whenever possible. Oh, I didn't mind a good, healthy debate now and then, especially in my high school and college years. If things ever turned too personal, though, I immediately got a bad feeling in my stomach and stopped.

I've felt those sensations stronger than ever lately. They reverberated in my soul when I heard the first reading from Scripture on the 24th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Among the words from the Book of Sirach were these:

"Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. ... Forgive your neighbor's injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord? ... Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; remember the Most High's covenant, and overlook faults."

Five hundred years ago, on Oct. 31, 1517, a disagreement began to turn into a world-changing, angry debate as Martin Luther reputedly nailed his list of criticisms of the Roman Catholic Church on the door of a German church. Whether that action is fact or mere legend, it ignited a splintering of the one true Church into what are now several thousand denominations.

What began as internal discord frequently has disintegrated into vicious language, hateful speech and condemnation between groups. It's not unusual to hear a Protestant call a Catholic "non-Christian." Nor is it unusual to read about a misinformed Catholic declaring that no Protestant can go to heaven.

There is plenty of hateful argument and violent disagreement outside the realm of religion, of course. There is screaming on TV and radio talk shows, yelling and violent protesting in the streets, vicious howling between people born in the United States and those who immigrated here in search of a better life.

We find it even within our own beloved Catholic Church. For instance, one doesn't have to poke around social media long to find people who love Pope Francis hatefully squaring off against folks who actually call the pope the "anti-Christ."

It's too much. My heart is hurting again. I wonder how Jesus' heart can take it.

Eisenbath is a member of St. Cletus Parish in St. Charles. 

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