Forget the Church? It’s not the way to truly follow Jesus Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Apr. 12, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

Editor's View by Mary C. Uhler

A recent cover story in Newsweek magazine proclaimed, “Forget the Church: Follow Jesus.” This issue contained a story by Andrew Sullivan that in essence claimed that Christianity has been destroyed by politics, priests, and get-rich evangelists.

The author instead urges people to ignore those who have “destroyed” Christianity and embrace Jesus. Sullivan cites St. Francis of Assisi as an example of what a follower of Christ should be: someone who lives simply and renounces worldly power.

This issue of Newsweek came out during Holy Week, at a time when Christians are immersed in remembering the passion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus. It’s sad that a national magazine decides to publish an article critical of  Christian churches at this time.

The article itself — and the fact that it was even published — also shows an embarrassing lack of knowledge of Scriptures and the teachings of Jesus Christ contained in the Bible. We know that Jesus himself attended the synagogue. He obviously had respect for the Church of his time and was raised according to its traditions.

Jesus founded the Church

Jesus was called “rabbi” or teacher by his followers. He called 12 men to be his apostles and founded his Church with Peter as its head. This passage from Matthew’s Gospel (16: 13-19) very clearly establishes the Church:

“And Jesus came into the region of Cesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples: ‘who do people say that the Son of man is?’ But they said: ‘Some John the Baptist, some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets.’

“Jesus said to them: ‘But who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said: ‘You are Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answering, said to him: ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jona, because flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

“‘And I say to you: That you are Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

“‘And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.’”

Those who tell us “to forget the Church and just follow Jesus” obviously haven’t read this passage. To follow Jesus is to follow his Church. It’s as simple as that!

Church hands on the faith

The Catholic Church has an unbroken line of succession in the pope and bishops. They hand on the knowledge of the faith and interpret it for successive generations. We call this the magisterium of the Church.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living, teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This means that the task of interpretation has been entrusted to the bishops in communion with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.”

Jesus further said to his disciples as recorded in Luke 10:16, “He who hears you, hears me.” It’s obvious that whoever wants to know the mind of Christ should follow what the Church teaches. We can’t truly follow Christ on our own without the Church.

Lack of respect for authority

In the 21st Century, people have a tendency not to respect authority of any kind. There is a “me first” mentality which gives priority to one’s own feelings and opinions. This leads to lack of respect for all kinds of institutions, from parents in a family, to police in a community, to teachers in schools, and to leaders in churches.

Sometimes people need to justify their lack of respect for authority. There’s a “bad cop,” so now I don’t like all cops, they say. Some priests have been accused of sexual abuse, so they say all priests are bad. We know that police officers, priests, and others in authority are human. Some make mistakes. But that doesn’t mean the entire institution is flawed.

How can we deal with this anti-church mentality? Those of us who are members of the Catholic Church should educate ourselves about Church teachings, be ready to defend Church leaders in a positive way, and support the teaching authority of the pope and bishops.

If we do that, we will indeed be following Jesus.