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Thursday, February 11, 2010

To Trust or Not to Trust?

This is my 3rd article in one afternoon. I must be on a roll here! But I'm having fun and I hope you are too. And I look forward to the fun of getting to celebrate the new year all over again on Feb 14th when we welcome the year of the Tiger. Chinese New Year is a time for festivity and family. I'm the year of the monkey and everyone knows that monkeys love to party! We are the life of the party! And this monkey intends to party well in the year of the tiger.

This Chinese New Year, I will be spending it with my buddies from church at a youth picnic. The picnic that they planned happened to fall on the day of Chinese New Year and Valentines day. So for the third time in this trip, I will be with people that I love instead of being alone. For those of you who don't know the story, I spent Christmas and New Years here and God was so good to me. I thought I was going to be all by myself both times but there were two occasions where I got invited over by someone I met only once. And it ended up being two different sets of people who invited me over for both Christmas and New Year. It is something I will never forget.

Actually, I am glad that I get another chance to go to this picnic. There was actually another picnic for youth that happened in Jan. but I didn't go even though my friends kept inviting me. Why didn't I go? Because at that point I was still having a hard time trusting Christians and allowing them to make friends with me. This comes from alot of the hurt I experienced in North America with church and Christians. For many of you reading this, these words are going to strike a cord very deep within you. The Argentine culture of church seems to be very different. Church is not a political thing. At least my church isn't. People here in this culture know how to have fun and be real. What I love about people here is that they truly live every moment. Being a Christian doesn't mean that you have to listen to Christian music or talk a certain way.

My friends had a really hard time understanding why I backed away from social events or letting people get to know me. It's like "Why doesn't she want to hang out?" It's just hanging out....right? They are kind of clueless of the concept that in North America, religious people sometimes are really nice when you first meet them but after you get to know them and open up, they change and this is how alot of people have gotton really hurt. I told them outright that in North America, I in general do not like making friends with other Christians nor do I enjoy the company of other Christians. It's taking them while but they are understanding that I am going through some cultural differences and feeling some old wounds from my past that are holding me back.

I must say, when it comes to causing damage in other people's lives, no one can do it better than Christians who live in North America. And they almost always have some bible verse on hand as some excuse for screwing you over and totally disrespecting you. Their classic line is always "Oh, I was just trying to be Biblical!" When the fruit of their involvement in your life is you crying in the floor, feeling devastated and hopeless and condemned and that you're not "good enough", trust me when I tell you that there is nothing Biblical about that.

But the hurt I've been through only draws me to the Argentine's way of doing church all the more. One thing I adore about these people is that they can be deeply spiritual and passionate in prayer but they truly believe their fight is within the spiritual realm, not against people. You will hear the prayer volume go up as people here prayer for their nation and prayer against the spiritual darkness that is covering the economy, their lives, and their families and their nation. Never will you hear them single out a people group based on sexuality, race, or political party and pray against THEM and blame them for the reasons that things are wrong in the country. They believe their fight is against the spiritual dark forces that are unseen. That's why you don't see people here going crazy and like doing exorcism on people personally or making them feel that their prayers aren't answered because they didn't have the faith. It doesn't happen here in this country and I couldn't be more glad of that. Bible verses are used as encouragment, not excuses :)

Part of me did want to go to the first picnic with all my heart but there was still a huge wall inside that came from so many past hurts with religious people. When they asked me to come, it was as if I changed into another person. I started to get quiet and awkward and seemed almost angry and defensive. It was like I had an automatic response inside of me that had been built up to keep me from ever getting hurt again. I didn't intend to respond in that manner but it just happened. But the great thing about people here at Centro Cristiano Nueva Vida have done an amazing job of making me feel safe and warm. I've been to church my whole life and this church has given me a bigger welcome than some churches that spoke my own native language of english in my own culture in my own country. They make you feel like you've always been here and they wouldn't know what to do without you. And what is even more incredible is that the church here knows exactly what is going on in North America, the judgmentalism and everything. And CCNV will have absolutely nothing to do with and they are doing everything that they can do be the furthest thing from what we call "church" in North America.

Still, my old wounds caused me to feel anxiety and fear about hanging out with Christians and at the time of the first picnic, I wasn't ready to go. My typical life experience is whether I show up or not, no one really notices. It's as if I'm non existant. I tried that once over here and later on my friend told me that all she kept thinking about was "Where was Angelina?" they do care? That's when I felt my eyebrow raise a little bit on this tough exterior of mine. Then she told me that there would be a 2nd picnic on Feb 14th. Maybe it was time to open my heart a little....

Argentines are pretty much literal. What you see is what you get. And I love it! People here can be totally be serious and spiritual and be into prayer and stuff but when they aren't doing that, they just like to have a good time. They don't create this culture where you have to have this religious personality and fake smile all the time. I think there are several factors that have been influencing the Argentine church. One is that this is that they are not a culture that is obsessed by entertainment or material possessions. So these factors are not a major influence. A really big factor is that Argentines use only the New Testament for life application and the old testament for reference. I cannot tell you how much this actually affects people's behavior. Being around the Christians here almost has an organic feel to it. I think Argentines would make a great social experiment of what happens to people when you take them away from money, materialism, entertainment.

It is really cool to see what people are capable of doing when they have a very organic real belief system that religion has no part of. For example, my church has had several fiestas. And like typical latin americans, the party started around 11pm and went until 2am. And my church loves two things that are considered taboo (or used to be considered taboo) by the North American church. My church loves rock and roll. And there are people in my church that love tattoos. They have no issue with it here and they actually think tattoos are beautiful and cool. And when I say that they like rock and roll music, they mean REAL rock and roll music. Not a watered down version of "Jesus music" that we have in the west. Church members I've talked to love AC/DC, metallica and anything loud. And some of the people who lead the worship music for the services really surprised me at the fiesta when they got up and did covers of popular hit such as "Stayin Alive". When they did the covers, they played incredibly. You should hear some of these voices! They are musicians who are well developed in their craft and are good enough to play at some of the hottest clubs and lounges in North America where people go to relax and have a drink. These people don't write or sing crap and then try to pass it off as Christian and say that it is OK because God is with them. They are true artists who bring excellence to their craft.

It is amazing to see that people can get up on stage and rock away with cover songs and hits until 2am and the next day at a church services, they can play church music that is deep and spiritual and they don't feel anything wrong about it. Being here has helped me heal and it is causing me to begin to trust again that I can build relationships with Christians. It brings me hope that the church culture of North America doesn't necessarily represent the church culture in every country in the world. And the Christians here are people I can be fun, real, and honest with and most of all be myself without having to fit into a cookie cutter.

To trust or not to trust? That is the question. A question that I'm starting to rethink really hard. That picnic will be me taking my first babysteps towards trusting once more....

p.s. If any of you are interested, on the site here I've included feeds of a podcast by a speaker named "Christine Caine". Those are worth checking out. They really vary from week to week and some of them may sound deep and theological and others may be more "fun" and goofy. But one thing they have in common is that they are down to earth and honest and encouraging the church to turn around in it's tracks and start being real and organic with the world and society. It is easy listening and I guarantee you that you have nothing to be afraid of when it comes to "Coffee with Chris Caine"

p.s.s. A blog that I wrote that would be a good tie in with the blog above was one that I wrote a week after I came here called "Tango From the Inside Out". Give it a go.....

Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas