Friday, July 23, 2004

Me and Jesus

Since we've been in Antigua, we've only been able to find two main brands of Christianity: Catholic and Christian they call them here, both of which are quite a bit different than the sometimes tired old Methodism with which I'm most familiar.

So anyway, we've been to a few of these evangelical-style (for lack of a better description) Christian services, both in English and Spanish (and even one that had simultaneous translations into English via a short-range FM broadcaster, for us gringos).  I've noticed a few things.  First off, I'm very impressed by the spirit and energy that these people seem to have in worship.  They really seem to be having a religious experience, something that's sometimes lacking in the "mainline" denominations.  They really seem to be fired up and committed about their faith.  And they're not afraid to celebrate the faith that God has given them.  I can even get into some of the songs, though they are little bit repetitive for my taste.

However, from a theological perspective, I'm really having trouble.  Of course there are the trademark surface differences, like exclusive use of father language, a generally sexist outlook, and focus on personal holiness issues like drinking (and by the way, if you have an alcoholic in your family, it's because you personally don't have enough faith, in case you hadn't heard this yet (ughh!)).  But there's some other stuff that's even more difficult to take.

First is the singular nature of the whole thing.  I mean, here we are all coming to church in a group, and the pastor prays every prayer using "I".  It makes no sense.  We're all here.  Can't we pray too?  What is the point of even coming together if we're not going to acknowledge that we are re-membering (the opposite of dismembering) the Body of Christ?

Second is the whole issue of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  As is expected, there is huge emphasis here on one-time, personal conversion.  You've got to get saved.  But what then?  What does accepting Jesus into your life do to you?  They actually do have an answer to this, I was surprised to find.  What do you do in response to God's awesome, overpowering, all-sufficient love that we keep hearing about???  That's right: convert other people.  It's all about the one-time acceptance.  Just pray the sinners prayer with them and you're done.  No need to help them grow in the faith.  No need to help them discern what Jesus call to them.  And no need to help anyone with the struggles in their lives.  If you see someone by the side of the road sick, just pray for them.  Don't help them, don't give them one of the oranges you have in your basket, don't help them to get home, just pray and forget.

I can't handle this.  Jesus would want us to do all we can to help the suffering.  The Parable of the Good Samaritan is but one of many examples.  We are called to be God's healing hands for the world, to be instruments of God's love, not just to get more notches in our Bibles.  God help us to reach out to the poor, oppressed, needy, broken, despised, and hurting for whom Jesus most cared.

2 Comments:

Blogger Brian said...

I guess it shouldn't surprise me, but it does make me sad that the insanity (I'm not feeling particularly charitable at the moment) of fundamentalism is as pervasive there as it is here. This weekend walking around downtown Joseph (during Chief Joseph days) the Baptist Church was putting on a passion play billed as "The Rest of the Story", in response to Mel's version.

It seemed funny to me to be worrying about that while having a celebration in honor of a Native American who, along with the rest of his tribe, was forcibly expelled from that very place and shipped off to Oklahoma. Apparently, the powers that be in Wallowa County have renamed the area the "Nez Perce Valley," which is probably a small consolation to the people who had their lives stolen from them because they had the audacity to live somewhere where white people wanted live.

Not that I think there shouldn't be a Methodist camp there, I just wish we would have tried to coexist. I suspect Chief Joseph would have been willing to share.

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