Boatswain’s Log October 29th.
Yep. This month is drawing to a close. We had class today in which we were introduced to our locations and assignments for our concentration. We write 3 essays and Andrew Brauer and myself head out to the overly warm region of Guanacaste to work in farms planting stuff. The old journey to Sarapiqui stopped existing because it didn’t work out. Sad day. Now I get to be all sweaty elsewhere. I am kind of excited though because this gives me the opportunity to experience what my dad did when he was growing up in Texas picking cotton. I get to see what he means (or at least to a small degree).
John Stam came back and talked to us today. He was great again. He talked to us about the church in Latin America. He started talking about the second Vatican council and how in his mind it marked a historic peak in church history. He said it was on the level with the council of Nicea…In essence the first real church council since the year 500. In the 60’s. He gave a lot of credit to Pope John the 23rd. This guy sounded pretty cool. He was apparently one of the only Popes who saw the catholic church as needing the “wind of the spirit”. As a result the council of Medellin in 1968 in John Stam’s opinion was better than Vatican 2. The documents were great I am told. Between the 2 of these councils the catholic church recognized the protestant churches officially as a Christian churches. Before this we apparently weren’t given any official status as a church. Nowadays it is harder to find Catholics that won’t say Protestants are Christians than it is to find the opposite. At this time injustice was labeled a sin, as was the status quo in Latin America because it killed people. The church began to get involved in real life in Latin America in the slums. John the 23rd did a good job. The problem was that other popes were to follow.
John Stam described Pope John Paul II as a tyrant who brought back the inquisition and silenced voices speaking out against oppression. Furthermore, according to John Stam he was a very ideological Pope who supported right-wing capitalism. The next and current pope (Mr. Ratzinger) isn’t much better in his opinion. He called him a hatchetman of the inquisition. I am inclined to agree. He talked about a whole lot of things really. All very interesting things that I never get to hear in any other context. So I am going to give you a bunch of highlights.
He mentioned that the protestant church in Latin America became very anti. Anti-catholic, anti-socialist, etc… He then said that, “Negation has significance only as the shadow side of affirmation.” That was impressive. What you deny is seen in the light of what you affirm. Interesting.
“It’s not an airplane flight that makes you a missionary. It’s God’s calling.”
“Sometimes wisdom is letting people make their own mistakes.”
He talked about the way authority had changed over time from the authority of church fathers, to the authority of scripture, to today where post-modernism is creating an environment where the authority of scripture may not hold up in the opinion of everyone. That is kind of a scary world. He said that the authority that people would see would be intrinsic authority. The sort that is won by love and example. The same kind of authority Tony Campolo mentioned when he came to SPU.
He mentioned the fact that power as and end is unchristian, but power as a means of service is what Jesus wants. He said that Christians should be leaven in national parties and up to our necks in politics. There was no worry in his mind about being too political, but rather too unethical or too untheological.
Okay. That is enough John Stam. What do I think? Well, that last paragraph was really important for me. I have been thinking about that for a long time. What is the Christian response in the political sphere? Oscar Romero obviously thought the gospel had implications as far as real life goes. So did Jesus. Where does that leave us? So many of the things we want to see changed in the world don’t have a likelihood of changing without our active participation in the political process. My friend Ben Climer says that Christians cannot or should not be senators. I don’t know that I agree.
The problem I see in Latin America is so many of the problems here are caused by United States policy. We mess things up. Look at the financial crisis. It hits people here very hard because the price of their exports drop and suddenly there is less money and therefore less workers. It hit the whole world. We meddled in governments here, and as a result there is more inequality. Something that I think is that if Latin America is going to really change in the way we as Christians desire it to on the macro-scale the United States needs to change to allow that. How does the government we have change without us as people wanting and acting so that it does? I don’t think Christians can just sit around or pull back from a system that is broken and wait for it to change. We have to be involved in changing/fixing that system. Does that mean politicians who are Christians? I think so.
I don’t think Shane Claiborne and myself see eye to eye on this one. I read some of that Jesus for President book, and while I agreed with 95% of it. I found myself frustrated by his tendency to say that we should have radical politics but not be involved in politics. What does that mean? We cannot be separatists. Jesus engaged the Roman Empire’s policy. We live in a participatory democracy in the US. I think that the reality of life forces us to think about our political system in different ways. Christ changes us from the inside out…can we (with Christ in us) do the same in the US government? Or am I an idealistic fool who believes that Americans really think that we as human beings have 3 inalienable rights “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness”? I think the baseline ideas of things like the constitution and the declaration of independence give lots of room for Christians to use them in the way they should be used: for God’s Kingdom. Still, others may disagree. I suppose that I would like to see them propose solutions to structural problems that beset our world without getting involved in politics.
What about the Pope bit? What do I think about that? Well, I don’t think that the Pope is necessary. When the apostles died we never lost the Holy Spirit. End of opinion.
Let’s see now…after class I went to the pharmacy among other things. I bought some antibacterial ointment. Neato gang. I watched the legend of Zorro. Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins made a great film. It’s good in Spanish too.
My mom asked me what I was going to do to make a memoir of my time here. I decided I would try to edit a video together with my host brother’s help. I hope it works.
I am seriously ready to come home now. It was actually chilly today and that reminded me of the autumn that I am missing. As the title says it is already almost Halloween and I am itching to see funny little kids scampering about the neighborhood seeking free candy. The issue is that I have about another month of time here. There are things I still really want to do. I want to go to Cuba, I want to go work in Guanacaste, I want to spend time with people in the program….however, I also am ready to go home. I never really thought that those 2 things would coexist. They do. You could pray for me to live in the moment. It is harder than I had thought it would be.
I still have a headcold, so I am going to go to sleep early. Gotta kill it. I will give you a Nicaragua day another time.
PS: Ben Weins said he would register for me because I won’t be able to do so in the campo in Guanacaste. As academic counselors go he is my hero. I plan on getting him a gift from Cuba.