The Pueblo Question: Catholic or Christian?


One strange question is usually an aberration. But when you’ve been asked the same weird question several times, over a number of years, it reflects a broader mindset.

The question is: “Are you Catholic or Christian?”

The following conversation approximates what happens next. We’ll call the fictitious person I’m talking to “Jim.”

Jim: “So you’re a church guy, huh?”

Me: “Pretty much, yeah.” Jim: “Are you Catholic? Christian?”

Me: “Well, yes.”

Jim: “You’re Christian?”

Me: “Yes.”

Jim: “Oh, I thought you were maybe Catholic.”

Me: “Technically, I am.”

Jim: “OK, so what parish do you belong to?”

Me: “I don’t. I go to Milagro Christian Church”

Jim: “A-ha! So you’re Christian.”

Me: “Right.”

Jim: “Not Catholic.”

Me: “No.”

Jim: “No, meaning you agree you’re not, or no to what I said?”

Me: “The last one.”

Jim: “I know, I know, you’re one of those lapsed Catholics, but you still call yourself Catholic, right?”

Me: “Nope.”

Jim: “So you’re not lapsed?”

Me: “I don’t think so.”

Jim: “So you must go to a Catholic church somewhere.”

Me: “I told you where I go to church.”

Jim: “But that’s not a Catholic church.”

Me: “Technically, it is.”

Jim: “Oh really? So who is your bishop?”

Me: “We don’t have one.”

Jim: “No bishop? You’re definitely not Catholic.”

Me: “Actually I am.”

Jim: “Look, you need to pick sides. You’re either Catholic or you’re Christian. You can’t have it both ways.”

Me: “Why not?”

Jim: “Actually, I have no idea why, but that’s just the way it is. You just can’t.”

Me: “If you say so.”

Jim: “So we agree you’re Christian, right?”

Me: “Yes.”

Jim: “Good.”

Me: “And Catholic.”

Jim: “You’re impossible.”

Me: “Thank you very much.”

OK, so maybe this is a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s not like being Catholic or Christian is comparable to being a Democrat or Republican.

Technically, I think what people are getting at with this question is whether I’m Catholic or Protestant, but unfortunately, that doesn’t make the answer any less confusing.

I’m Protestant because I go to a Protestant church, but I’m also Catholic, because the very definition of the word “Catholic” is “Universal Church.”

Some within Catholicism might not recognize me as such, but that doesn’t make me any less Catholic in my mind.

It’s not as if modern Christian faith dropped out of the sky as-is. We’ve built upon the histories, cultures, beliefs and traditions of Catholicism, Judaism, Gnosticism, Paganism and others to arrive at our own faith identity.

It doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

So the next time someone asks you about your faith, consider for a moment all of the things you actually are, rather than defining yourself by what you’re not.