Sunday, March 26, 2006

So you're looking for a new job???

"Well, the first thing that you need to do is go down to your local church and get a letter of recommendation from your priest stating that you are a good citizen. Oh, what's that? You haven't been attending mass or giving any tithes? Yeah, I understand that you don't have work and money has been tight, but if you want this letter that is what you are going to have to do. So, why don't you come back in a few weeks after you can demonstrate to the priest that you have good attendance and that you are paying your tithes. Then, we'll see what we can do about getting you that job."

From the 1930s to the 1970s that was the reality in Spain. The church was in essence married to the state (or married to the power of the state), but had to sacrifice a lot of it's soul in exchange for the power it received. This was a time of extreme poverty in Spain, when the church could have been an element of health, life and change to the Spanish people, but instead partnered with a dictator who decided who should be oppressed and who should rise to power.

Fast forward some 30 plus years and what is the cultural climate in Spain? First, most Spanish people say something along the lines of "yes, I am catholic, but I am not practicing". The evangelical church was persecuted and forced underground and treated as a cult under the dictator Franco. Eventhough Spain has had religious freedom for over 20 years the evangelical church is still having difficulty coming out of hiding and in a "roman catholic" culture the evangelical church has trouble shaking the cult label. Not to mention that spending so many years institutionally separated from the mainstream culture it is often hard for evangelicals and non-evangelicals to relate.

Among a lot of youth and students they see the hypocrisy of the culture that calls itself Catholic and does not live it. They also look back and see the way that the institution of religion has abused this culture and other cultures in it's own history and want nothing to do with any religious institution. They look around the world today and see Muslim, Jewish and Christian nations fighting to promote their own ideas and ways of life and don't want to have anything to do with any of it.

For all the advances in technology people often act very much the same today as they have in the past. I am reminded so much of the climate that Jesus entered in Israel in the first century. There were those like Herod Agrippa, who even though he was a Jew was married to and lusted after the power of the state. There were those in the Pharisees who claimed to follow the commands of a loving God and be his light in this world, but instead lived a life contrary to that God and whom Jesus called "play actors" (or Hypocrites). There were also zealots who thought that the advance of the Jewish state must be done with the sword. These people were waiting for a revolution where you would either see things their way or die.

So which of these groups did Jesus belong to? None. Which group do I belong to? This is the question I keep asking myself daily? Jesus confounded the people of his day by calling them to a life that was very different from any of these and setting up a kingdom that was very different from all of humanity's preconceived notions. So, I ask myself, "Am I living as a citizen of the new "way" or new kingdom that Jesus set up or am I still participating in the manmade institutions that are the old way?" How about you?

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