Friday, December 19, 2014

The Gospel in Cuba

No doubt because it's something President Obama is doing, a good deal of the American church will mindlessly and predictably condemn the idea of opening up relationships with Cuba again. I don't know enough to have an opinion that matters, although it seems to me I'd rather Cuba be friends with us right now than Russia.

That's not the point of this post. The opening of relations will undoubtedly open up more opportunities for Christianity in Cuba. In fact, it already has. We've already seen in recent years increased opportunities for the church in Cuba.

I hope we'll be very careful about this re-entry. On the one hand, I suspect this one will work a lot better than our work in Russia, which has seemingly evaporated after over two decades of work with little to show for it. One of our difficulties in Russia, I believe, was the fact that the Baptistic form of Christianity we tried to plant in Russia had little traction with the culture of Russia. Why didn't we try a reform movement within the Orthodox Church, much as Wesley did within the Anglican church? My hunch is because we didn't have enough historical or theological depth to see what that would look like. My hunch is that we just assumed a Billy Graham church growth approach was the Christian approach. I could be wrong.

The situation is different in Cuba. There is already a virulent form of Protestant Christianity in Latin America, and it fits much better with the culture of the Wesleyan Church than Russia did. In other words, we might be historically and theologically unaware of ourselves and still be able to present a form of Christianity there that resonates with the culture.

What I do hope is that someone somewhere in our church will actually be thinking about these things. I would hate to see happen what seems to have happened in Russia--initial great openness to spirituality after the iron curtain came down, followed by somewhat of a rejection of the cultural form of Christianity that rushed in thereafter.

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