Darker Hues

A soft ball question, sort of.

Not to be romantic about the state of Christianity among our darker brothers and sisters, but why does the Faith seem to thrive in South America, Africa and Asia and not in the West? My wife and I were comparing the churches (Anglican) in Spain compared to the churches in South America, and the contrast is stark.

20 thoughts on “Darker Hues

  1. No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.


  2. Dan, are you trying to say that you think that economic factors are involved here? That’s what I was thinking was part of the answer. I certainly think it is part of the explaination for why Africa, Asia and South America are were the bulk of our people with vocations are found, especially in the Catholic church, where celibacy is mandatory.

  3. I’m saying that we’ve got plenty of other gods to keep us busy and amused here. Who needs a dowdy god who might end up getting us crucified?

  4. How should a white boy like me know? I think Dan may be right is some measure though. That’s frightening too.

  5. Yes, I would agree with that Dan, money certainly being one of our
    Gods. Culture and different approaches to education as well.
    The Catholic population in India tends to produce a lot of nuns due to the dowry system.

  6. Oh, if Money’s my God,
    It makes my decisions
    But if Money’s my God
    I need a new religion.

    -Zoey Speaks

  7. Angevoix said,”The Catholic population in India tends to produce a lot of nuns due to the dowry system.”

    That’s what I mean by frightening.

  8. But there are positive factors as well that might cause the church to flourish in such realms. Phillip Yancey, in his book, “Finding God in Unexpected Places,” talks about how vibrant the church services are in South America as opposed to the U.S.
    He wrote about how the congregations were much more engaged in the services as opposed to the U.S. Where we hire professional worship leaders,etc… and worship becomes much more an act of spectatorship than participation.

    Also I think education has a great deal to do with it. Try telling a witch doctor or someone who has been delivered from voo doo after practising it for 30 years that the spirit realm is just metaphorical and that the Bible is full of nice stories to teach us right from wrong…

    “The ancients knew something which we seem to have forgotten.”
    Albert Einstein

  9. “worship becomes much more an act of spectatorship than participation.”

    Have you ever been to an Eastern Orthodox liturgy? I’m not sure “participation” as we tend to think about it is all it’s cut out to be. Though I’m not sure. There is another side to the argument. I remember reading a comment by Buechner(?) somewhere relative to “high church” (he might have even been speaking of the EO), where he said these type of “services” were akin to a kid pressing their face to the outside glass of a candy store. Who knows? Participate/spectate could also derive from a cultural identity.

    Padre, what is the differnce in your mind btwn your church in Spain and S.A.?

  10. Haven’t been to an Eastern Orthodox service, although I would like to.

    But I must say that St. Sabina services don’t fit the spectator bill at all. We’re more along the lines of the joyful throng…

  11. Of course my observations are based on web info, but it seems with the exception of one or two towns, most of the churches in Spain either don’t have clergy or meet once a month, etc. (I’m talking Anglican churches here.) In Chile for example, many of the Anglican churches are not only thriving, their minstries seem to be top notch. They are web-savvy and generally seem to give a shit. The Province of the Southern Cone is one of the healthiest Provinces in the Anglican Communion.

  12. And it was said of the Christians in the land of Chile, that, verily, they were web-saavy and in general, gave a shit.

    Sounds almost biblical.

  13. I’d be interested a comparison of educational levels to types of faith expression, in any continent at all. And if it were shown that advanced education tends to lead to less acceptance of institutional church or certain forms of worship, does it then follow that education should be frowned on?

  14. Interesting comment, madcap. I’m sure that an Elightenment education or a postmodern ‘deconstruction’ kind of education has an influence on our openness to the supernatural. I can only speak for the Anglican Communion–but I know the African and South American clergy are well educated, often in the West. However, their receptivity to God seems greater because they don’t have what I would call ‘Western sensibilities.’ We have a more materialistic point of view as opposed to spiritual. This is why we put religion in a different category than science. Religion, we think, answers questions of the heart that good people can agree or disagree on without much consequence, whereas science (and especially the social sciences) answer ‘real world’ questions. Hence, religion no longer has a bearing on the important and ultimate questions of life. For the ‘two-thirds’ world, God and the supernatural get more of a voice. Interestingly, our Western idealogy of inclusion and pluralism stops short when people of a darker hue criticize us for being too permissive in moral areas. What is happening in the Anglcian Communion over homosexuality is a great case study for all of this.

  15. I wonder, though, about whether the apparently more vivid spiritual response in third world countries is due more to culture than spirit, as was already proposed.

    For instance, I’m aware that the spoken/written African response to sexual issues is very conservative. However, what I read about Catholic agencies trying to deal with AIDS and related health-crises would indicate that religious adherents have pretty much the same rate of infection as anyone else. (I’m Catholic, so that’s the info closest to hand.)Apparently the walk and the talk differ. Is that any better than western culture that up-front denies the relevance of church mores? I don’t think so, myself.

    I have an acquaintance who was a missionary in Zimbabwe. She said that among the people she worked with, it was considered polite to lie. If someone asked you for a hoe, and you had it but didn’t want to lend it, you simply said that you didn’t have one. That was the culturally accepted way of doing things. That would be considered unethical in my part of the world. I’m extrapolating that theoretically, in some cultures, it might be considered very shockingly rude to disagree with your priest/minister/bishop openly, but just goes as understood that spoken agreement doesn’t indicate real agreement.

    I guess what it all boils down to is this: I’m wondering if what is apparent is actual. Is the enthusiasm culture-conditioned or spontaneous spiritual response? I’m tending on the side of conditioned.

    Also, back to the education issue – if a spirituality can’t stand up to the disadvantages of western education without disintegrating, what good is it? Is God a tame lion who can be barred in, or does he leap over the cages of BOTH ignorance and education?

    I see a greater indication of free-will in a person who is highly educated and chooses to seek a relationship with God, than someone who never saw the choice. I’m not denigrating the faith of the second – I don’t see any difference in “quality” in terms of faith, and I’d like to think that God doesn’t, either. But I don’t think education and liberal speculation are more than God can deal with if he chooses. I find myself speculating more about what God’s up to than the human response regarding this issue. Gushing enthusiasm makes me wary, and I don’t see it as a reliable indicator of what’s going on underneath.

    And now, since I’m sensing incoherency dogging my fingers, I’d better shut ‘er down. Whew! God can take over sorting out the world over the night shift – I’m done!

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