Christian Coalition head moves to Catholicism (AP, 5/24/04): As president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama, John Giles is no stranger to a pew. Yet he remembers well the time he got lost in a Roman Catholic church. “I couldn’t even follow the order of service, it was so foreign to me,” Giles says of that day some six years ago.
Since then he’s found his way and a new home in the Roman Catholic church—a home that might seem foreign to the overwhelmingly Protestant church population of Alabama.
“I have to admit to you that the whole time that I was in that church service, I was reduced to tears, and I couldn’t explain it,” Giles said Monday in an interview with The Associated Press. Giles and his wife, Deborah, were confirmed at St. Peter’s Parish in Montgomery on Easter Sunday. Once he visited the Roman Catholic church, he found himself in awe of its history and ritual, particularly its use of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch in each service. And the deeper he looked into the faith—which is the largest in the United States but lags behind Southern Baptists and other Protestant denominations in the South—the more he says he realized that many of his beliefs about Catholicism had been wrong.
“There is a perception among Protestants—you kind of have this perception that if you’re Episcopal or Catholic, you’re not even saved, you’re not born again, which is totally a myth,” he says.
He recalls one example from the New Year’s holiday, which he spent in Florida with the chairman of his board. He had told the chairman of his and Deborah’s plans to convert, and he says they were well-received.
“But we went to some other friends of theirs’ house on one of the nights we were down there,” Giles remembers. “And so we’re sitting around visiting and this one lady was teaching a Sunday School class on cults. And she began to name off all the cults that she’d be teaching and named Catholic in there.”
He acknowledges that the reaction by his Protestant constituents may be mixed. But he hopes they, like he and his wife, will keep an open mind.
“We hope that we could have a small contribution to building bridges where there weren’t bridges,” he says. “Because Christians are Christians. There’s no such thing as Christians and Catholics.”
[TBC: The Catholic Church teaches that a person must be baptized and become good enough to enter heaven. That is supposedly accomplished by receiving the Sacraments here on earth and being purged from one’s sins in purgatory after death. But the Bible declares that no one can ever be good enough to merit heaven. Salvation, it states, is a gift of God that can only be received by grace through faith alone. Trusting completely in Christ’s full payment for our sins is humanity’s only hope for eternal life. Sadly, ecumenical entities such as the “Christian” Coalition seem to favor political expediency over biblical truth.]