Mark Galli surprised a number of people when he announced that he was converting to Catholicism. It was a long journey from evangelicalism to Catholicism So why does a person convert to Catholicism from evangelicalism? What are the reasons for crossing the Tiber? This post tries to explain some of the motivations behind it.
“Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be, even as wheresoever Christ Jesus is, there is the catholic church.”
Ignatius of Antioch
And I tell you, you are Peter,[a] and on this rock[b] I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.
Matthew 16:18 NRSVCE
St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Mark Galli talking about Christianity Today about his editorial on the Trump Impeachment hearings.
Here in the Washington, D.C. area I have met a number of people over the years. I am an individual who values friendships and relationships and I love to get to know people. A few years back my paths crossed with someone who in time became a friend. In one of the conversations religion came up. I can’t remember how but this individual shared with me his religious background. Raised in Chicago as a Southern Baptist his family was still involved in a SBC church. This individual tried to practice evangelicalism and then attended a Calvary Chapel. But he was tired of the evangelical culture. In the course of time he converted into the Greek Orthodox faith and left evangelicalism behind. From time to time he would call me up and tell me about it and I would listen. One of his fears is the reaction of how his Southern Baptist family would react if they learned. When I asked him what led him to leave evangelicalism he told me that he was exhausted. He was tired of the politics in evangelicalism and he wanted something that was peaceful. Evangelicalism for my friend was a religion about conflict. It was an interesting process to understand and watch. To observe someone leave behind evangelical culture was fascinating to watch up close.
Mark Galli Former Editor of Christianity Today Converts to Roman Catholicism
Mark Galli was the former editor of Christianity Today. He authored an editorial in December of 2019 that called for Donald Trump’s impeachment and removal from office that got a lot of attention in December of 2019. You can read about that in, “Preserving Christianity Today’s Editorial by Mark Galli Calling for Donald Trump’s Removal From Office” and “A Pivotal Week in Evangelical Christianity. A Christianity Today Editorial Calling for Trump’s Removal. A President Responds in Rage While the “Court Evangelicals” Double Down and Other Moderate Evangelicals Begin to Push Back.”
It was a long journey for Mark Galli from Presbyterianism to Catholicism. His conversion took place on September 13, 2020 in a Jesuit church in the Chicago area. His journey from evangelicalism went to Episcopalianism, to Anglicanism and finally to Catholicism. He started the Rite of Christian Initiation in 2018. There are many reasons why Galli converted. Some had to do with the Catholic church being intellectual and deep. Likewise he was also tired of the constant conflict and fighting. He described evangelicalism as being exhausting. It is nothing but chaos. Galli acknowledges the Catholic sex abuse scandal and knows reforms need to be made. He is not in desire about that. In the Religion News Service Galli says the following about Catholicism. “One thing I like about both Orthodoxy and Catholicism is that you have to do these things, whether you like it or not, whether you’re in the mood or not, sometimes whether you believe or not. You just have to plow ahead. I want that. If it’s left up to me, I am one lazy son-of-a-bitch. I will not do anything unless someone comes along and says, ‘You need to do this. This is really important. This will shape your life. Come on, Galli. Get off your butt.’” If you would like to read more about this you can do so at the following sources.
- Religion News Service, “Mark Galli, former Christianity Today editor and Trump critic, to be confirmed a Catholic.“
- Defenders of the Catholic Faith, “Evangelicals Becoming Catholics: Former Christianity Today Editor Mark Galli.”
Why Do Evangelicals Convert to Catholicism?
I grew up in Catholicism and was baptized, confirmed, and have a long history with it. Toward the end of my parents lives I went to Catholic mass when visiting because I felt it important to show honor and respect to them. When both my parents died knowing how they felt about Catholicism I worked with family and Catholic leaders to plan a funeral that Mom and Dad would have wanted. Catholicism was their faith and I wanted to honor that in the spirit of what they believed. While Catholicism has its challenges it also has it strengths. And those strengths are very appealing to many people. These are some of the reasons why I believe people convert to Roman Catholicism from evangelicalism.
- There is less narcissism in the Catholic church then in evangelical Protestantism. Catholics place more of an emphasis practices like communion than preaching. Catholic homily or talk can last for about 15 minutes. Compare that with a long winded Southern Baptist or other evangelical sermon which can be at least 40 to 50 minutes. Its harder to be narcissistic in Catholicism because those same platforms in evangelicalism are not there. Catholic seminary roots out a lot of people through psychological tests. Evangelicalism which can be hostile to psychology doesn’t have these kinds of vetting process in place.
- Catholics embrace science and the wars over science were settled centuries ago. You will not find World War III over evolution or science. Now in the past that happened and its fair to ask why it took the Catholic church hundreds of years to apologize for how they treated Galileo. That today still bothers me. But Catholics also embrace science in many different forms – modern medicine, astronomy, biology, etc.. As someone said on the Internet Monk years ago the Catholics have an observatory while the evangelicals have hucksters like Ken Ham and his Ark Park in Kentucky.
- Catholics value education deeply. Education is held in high esteem. And different religious orders like the Franciscans or Jesuits push education. Some of the best schools in the United States are Jesuit. I went to Marquette University in Milwaukee which is one of them. But you also have schools like Boston College, Xavier University, Loyola University Marymount, Fordham, Seattle University, Gonzaga, Creighton, Georgetown University, and Saint Joseph’s University are but a few of the at least 28 in the United States. In Catholicism in addition to science other parts of education are strong disciplines. History and math, as well as English and Literature. Yes in a Catholic High School you will read books like J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. You don’t have the censorship crowd that tries to remove such books. Catholics are committed to education because of their intellectualism. In Protestantism you have gaps like the scandal of the evangelical mind which exist. And that punishes those who seek intellectual knowledge. Oh and by the way…does anyone know where Mark Noll teaches today?
- There is a stronger embrace of tradition and the Catholic church doesn’t fall to fads like evangelicalism does. In the Midwest when I lived there they used to say if you don’t like the weather wait five minute s Well in Evangelicalism there are fads that sweep through on a regular basis that are exhausting. The Prayer of Jabez fad, The Left Behind fad, the Neo-Calvinist fad, The Purpose Driven Life fad, etc… The Catholic church does not have those issues.
- The Catholic church has a more international appeal. Over the years I have spoken to people who have attended the Catholic church in Africa, South Asia Europe and the United States and find the same style. They feel like they are a part of something bigger then themselves.
- Catholicism is a-political. Some on the Catholic right are challenging this, but for the most part Catholics are a-political. You wont have people like Robert Jeffress who use the Catholic alter for political rallies and movements. Catholics have divorced faith from politics.
- Catholics have a deeper sense of social justice and taking care of the poor than evangelicals. With the exception of the Salvation Army Catholics do an amazing job of helping the poor. They help the poor and have fused the gospel together in the process. They feed, cloth, and provide a lot of medical care.
- Catholics are healthier on mental health issues than evangelicalism. Over at the blog Sovereign Grace Ministry Survivors there is talk from time to time of how people who had mental health issues committed suicide because psychiatry and psychology were discouraged. In the end all you need is Jesus. I have known Catholics over the years from time to time who had issues with depression, schizophrenia, bi-polar, etc… that could pursue mental and medical treatment free of guilt and shame while also being Catholic. I am thankful that a number of those individuals I have known over the years were not part of evangelical organizations like Sovereign Grace Ministries or Acts 29. Because with their hostility to mental health issues and psychology and psychiatry this blog believes they would be dead today or killed due to ignorance.
- In Catholicism you will find more universalism and unity. Protestants are known for splintering. You don’t like the theology of a place then you leave. You don’t agree with a pastor you then start your own church. This type of behavior does not happen inside Catholicism, though its common in evangelicalism.
Some Evangelicals Will Not Understand and Their Ignorance Will Show
The other point to make is that many evangelicals will show their true self in how they respond to this news about Mark Galli. Many will say that Mark Galli was never a Christian to begin with. They will call him lost. Many evangelicals can not understand why someone would go this route. Since evangelicalism has an intellectual deficit that will make it even harder to understand. One of the major downfalls to evangelicalism is an inability to talk about the flaws or problems of a movement. There is no course correction especially when it comes to the flaws and problems of evangelicalism. But expect to see many evangelicals criticize and cling to half truths as they go after Mark Galli and other Catholic converts as well. Evangelicalism can have the mentality of a rabid pack of stray dogs who pounce and attack.
Some Closing Thoughts
IN working on this post I have great sympathy for Mark Galli. I can understand where he is coming from. I can understand why he has gone the way that he does. It makes sense and to leave the evangelical culture and be free of it has to be refreshing. This blog wishes him well and hopes to read more about his thoughts as time marches on. If you have problems with evangelicalism maybe Catholicism can be an option for you as well.