Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
Warning: This blog post contains many questions and few answers. If you're here looking for answers, well... I'm so sorry. I wish I had them too.
Over the past couple of years, I have spent a fair amount of time travelling in, learning about, and generally hanging around South America. Over the course of my travels, I have participated in many discussions about religion, and with every one I have become more and more aware that, due to the history and religious climate these topics are even more fraught with misunderstanding than I am used to. Any discussion of God, Jesus, the bible, or any other related subject is often, in peoples' minds, associated with the conquest and colonization by the Spaniards who, upon arrival, raped, pillaged, and destroyed most everywhere they went. In the modern day, some see God, the bible, and the church as instruments of oppression to be wielded against any woman who dares to disobey her husband or to rebel against beatings, infidelity, or inequality. Certainly many people, regardless of whether or not they profess some religion, are willing to try to put aside their prejudices and listen; Many others are so exhausted by the endless abominations committed in the name of christianity that any mention of God is the end of any useful discussion.
I do not wish do be associated with the world view that drove the Spanish conquest, so I have taken to avoiding the topic entirely. If pressed, I usually provide a long explanation of my religious beliefs, trying to distinguish myself as much as possible from the catholic church. Regardless of the beliefs of the other person, this is often met with, "Oh... so you're an athiest?"
Truth be told, I would rather pass for an athiest than be thought believe in a god that sent a horde of violent criminals to destroy the (none so estimable) Inca empire. I sympathize far more with those who, like me, choose to reject the religion that has been passed off as christianity for hundreds of years. That leaves me at a loss for names to hold even the most basic of conversations about incredibly important subjects. How does one talk about the One True Christ, who leads us from, and commands us to go from, darkeness and wickedness into peace and righteousness... when the very words "Christ", "God", etc. are so strongly bound up with hundreds of years of darkness and wickedness? How can one talk about the central tennet of the Quaker faith, that we are commanded to follow Christ whithersoever he leads us, if we resort to vague metaphysical terms such as "The Light", "The Spirit", etc? I feel stumped. Most of all, I feel stumped because avoiding these subjects is hardly any better than the other two choices. These, for me, are very hard questions. I suspect that good answers simply do not exist.
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As I have observed this process, I have had a growing conviction of purpose behind these visits to South America. I am not surprised at these questions. They are vital questions to be asked. That word "asked" is hardly adequate to express the urgency behind these sorts of questions, but I don't have a better word. Many people can (and may) jump in with answers, but such answers do not speak to the urgency behind the question. Fox's "When I heard it my heart did leap for joy" expresses our response to the true answer to such questions. These true answers come from Christ, sometimes after years of struggling, sometimes sooner. They come in his timing.
Lewis, I appreciated hearing your heart regarding this grievous thing. I don't have any pat answers, but here are a couple of suggestions.
An old friend our ours once advised, "When I become the victim of counterfeit money, I don't go and burn all my money." The point is that if there is counterfeit money, there is most certainly real money. The only reason there is counterfeit money is because there is real money. So, beware of the counterfeit; get the real, and transact with it.
The other thing that perhaps you could suggest to these people is that what has happened in history was actually prophesied in the Bible-- that certain ones who went forth in the name of the Lord actually caused His name to be blasphemed among the Gentiles. (Romans 2:24, Isaiah 52:5)
First it was apostate Israel that caused His name to be blasphemed, now apostate Christendom. God has the solution. "Therefore my people shall know My Name; therefore they shall know in that day that I am He that doth speak: behold, it is I" (Isaiah 52:6).
That people use the language and ideas of Christianity for their own selfish ends is commonplace. You are seeing some gross forms of this perversion in South America, but subtle forms of it are just as deadly to the souls and cultures who succumb to this or to any other corruption. The need to dominate is always a fear of death, which is Satan's reign, whether it's dominating women, other cultures, or language (as did Humpty-Dumpty!).
Upon seeing corruption, you must take care of yourself first (like putting on your oxygen mask before trying to help others with theirs): don't let resentment or grief take up residence in your soul. Recognize the corruption you're seeing, but don't let negative emotion or thought overcome you; despair is "of the world," and Christ within overcomes the world. You can be ready to act on the Lamb's behalf only if you abide in his power. Let his light preserve you in righteousness, his power be your readiness to act, and his wisdom your guide to victory.
The victory will not always manifest as an immediate reversal of the world's corruption, but it will always manifest as soul-satisfying peace and joy, which gives you strength to continue in the face of what appears to be overwhelming odds, for the whole world lies in wickedness. Though you may or may not effect change in outward circumstances, know that you are not working alone: For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men (Titus 2:11). Though it be in the darkness of men's souls, the light, grace, and truth shines in everyone, and is forever one's Lord: in faith, a formidable ally.