Over the past couple of months I have been reading a good bit about Catholicism, mostly a mix of theology and conversion stories.
From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart: Rekindling My Love for Catholicism is a mix of the two. The first half is is the story of how Chris Haw was born and raised Catholic, but then moved to Willow Christ as an early teen. Haw went to Eastern College and became connected with Shane Claiborne. (They co-authored Jesus for President.)
Part of the story here is a fairly radical ‘conversion’ to work with the poor. In some ways this may be more offensive to some than his later conversion back to Catholicism.
Haw, with his wife Cassie, moved to Camden, NJ. He worked first as a teacher at the Sacred Heart school and later he refurbished homes and became a writer. His return to Catholicism was gradual and at least in part because he was living across the street from Sacred Heart and working with the church on anti-poverty programs
The second part of the book is very different. It is at this point that he starts really unpacking they why of his return to Catholicism. While I was occasionally frustrated by the first part (mostly because it felt like he wasn’t really unpacking all of the story), I really appreciated the second part.
Haw addresses many of the objections to Catholicism that he had to work through (and that most Evangelicals have with Catholicism). Some will be convinced, many will not. But he is clear that part of his point is that there is no perfect church. So has come to terms with the fact that there are pedophiles in the Catholic church, even though they make up a very small part of the church.
And his chapter on conflicts between Ascetics and Aesthetics takes seriously the desire to both care for the poor and needy around us, and to create beautiful things as worship to God. His chapter on ritual also is a significant area that I know many Evangelicals are equally frustrated about.
But in the end I think that it is the issue of authority that really seems to be why Chris Haw returned to Catholicism. For most of the conversion stories that I have read (and those that I have heard from friends) leaving the Evangelical Church and moving toward the Catholic Church is primarily about finding a sense of authority in the church that is greater than what can be achieved in a non-denominational Evangelical church.
Clearly Haw has not worked out all of the issues, and he will not. Some the very reason that he is returning to Catholicism are reasons that I will not. But to read a serious take on the issues is always beneficial.
G K Chesterton is a frequent conversation partner with Haw throughout the book. And it is not a new path that Haw is taking. There are many that have traveled it before. What is encouraging to me is that Haw is not rejecting the Evangelical parts of his faith. He acknowledges the many benefits he had from growing up at Willow and appears to still maintain a good relationship with many at the church. But he felt drawn to the faith community that is a part of his neighborhood and his history and any time that Christians are drawn closer to God, while at the same time clearly radically serving him, is a cause for rejoicing.
From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart: Paperback
- Chris Haw – From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart [Review] (Englewood Review of Books)