just an apprentice

the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...

Friday, June 30, 2006

Truth fears no questions

I saw a t-shirt in the Madrid airport yesterday that caught my attention. The shirt said, "Truth fears no questions."

The Gospel of Jesus Christ, Truth as revealed in the Christian worldview should be open to engaging any questions. Christianity should also be open to accept (at least not kill--Crusader model; or ridicule) those who reject the way of Jesus. Or, as is more common in this day, those who reject the Church and organized religion as the primary (or even a necessary) agent of Jesus on earth.

Most of Spain is agnostic (according to our tour director). Spain has lived through the harsh, repressive dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Following the Civil War, 1936-1939, until the death of Franco in 1975, Spain was a fascist, totalitarian state.

After the fall of Madrid he began his personal campaign to unite all of Spain under his personal rule. By assuming the identity a pious and virtuous man, even going so far as to command his own priest for daily masses, he created a religious fervor that held sway over the minds of the people and blinded them to the events around them.

The practicality and foresight in this was a stroke of genius. He could simultaneously guarantee the Catholics of Spain that they would not be persecuted as they had under previous rulers, he could create enthusiasm for his regime and he could seek the approval of the Church so necessary to his success.

So generations grew up with a view of the Church that iconed an angry and violent God. Many lost faith in traditional Catholic faith. They rejected the form of Christianity embodied by a Church that supported the violence and repression of Generalissimo Franco.

The fruit of this history is an agnostic Spain. The Catholic Church is scrambling for a footing in the culture, where the new Zapatero government has introduced many new reforms that have helped women. Women had very little power or voice until very recently. Along with the reforms are increasing freedoms--including abortion and gay marriage. The vast majority may maintain some ties with the traditions of the Church--baptism, first communion, but for all intents and purposes this is just an exercise in social tradition. The abuses of the past, with the Church alligned so closely with the Fascist state of Franco, have hampered the Church's witness in an increasingly secular and agnostic culture. The hope of the younger generations seems to be englightenment humanism, mixed with an eclectic spirituality that draws from eastern traditions such as Buddhism and pre-modern peoples such as the Mayas and Incas.

The truth of history is hard to avoid. The truth of historical events such as the bombing of Guernica is difficult to categorize. It defies trite explanation. The depth of human suffering cries out from beyond the borders of our Homes and Gardens lives. Christianity that is True must be willing to confront the world with more than pat answers in the face of hypocrisy and evil.

Pablo Picasso (not a Christian) helps shine the light of truth on the ghastly reality of the horrific bombing of Guernica with his masterpiece.


Someone sent me this article reviewing a new book by Randall Balmer. Dare I express so openly my own misgivings for the trajectory of the Evangelical Right? My own misgivings are several. How does the Gospel not avoid the questions of history? How is the Truth of the Gospel reconciled with the neo-crusader mentality of Pax Americana? How is the Truth of the Gospel expressed by coercive means. Isn't that the lesson of the Crusades, of Franco's Spain. How can Christians enforce the values of the Kingdom of God through the mechanisms of the State?

I am deeply appreciative of the freedoms of democracy. The vision of the United States has created a stable society with admirable ideals. Yet, I am very aware of the plummeting respect for our country around the world in the wake of Iraq and the war on terror. I read an editorial in the Spanish newspaper ABC yesterday. The piece was called, "With America, against Bush." It was representative of a broadly held belief that America has lost its mooring, that America has strayed from its core values of goodness and decency. That the vision of the world must be more nuanced than, "if you are not for us you are against us" kind of rhetoric.

Franco used the Church. He postured himself as a pious man committed to Catholic traditions. Yet history tells another story. Truth is full-orbed. It is not just the facade. It is that which goes on behind closed doors. It is not spin. It is not easily explained with words. There are no words that can capture the atrocities of the bombing of Guernica. But Pablo Picasso has spoken with brush and canvas. I am not afraid to listen.


  • At 7:23 AM , Anonymous Michael Hardin Lancastser PA said...


    Don't ya sometimes think this is 'deja vu all over again' or that maybe history is on a spin cycle? All the incredible lessons of the 20th century seem to be forgotten or blurred and here we are again.

  • At 3:46 PM , Blogger Mark-E-Roberts said...

    IN your fearless search for truth, try querying your own attribution of a "neo-crusader mentality" (obviously pejorative) to "Pax Americana." These works will help you: The case for Goliath : how America acts as the world's government in the twenty-first century by Mandelbaum, Michael (New York : Public Affairs, c2005); and American Providence: a Nation with a mission by Stephen H. Webb (New York: Continuum, c2004). Perhaps the God whose prophet called pagan king Cyrus "messiah" (Isa. 45.1) uses even George W. Bush and America (whose founders believed unanimously that their fragile republic existed only because of Providence) for his worldwide purposes today, regardless of negative (and easily changable) polls.

  • At 8:20 AM , Blogger Brian Miller said...

    You raise a good point. However, King Cyrus notwithstanding, I find little impetus for such a view within the Gospels. I don't see Jesus expressing a message that would endorse the type of foreign policy we have had in the United States in the wake of 9/11.

    I don't doubt that the providence of God is able to redeem and bring about his purposes within history. He uses donkeys, shepherds, a virgin girl, fisherman... I would be cautious to attribute too direct a correlation between the actions of one man, or one administration and the purposes of God.

    The two books you suggest seem like worthwhile reads. I will look them up.


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