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Spain 2005 3/22/05

Journal 3 – As followers of Christ we are called to be counter-cultural

Gallery 2 Gallery 2When I first arrived in Spain, I could sense that I was missing something. It wasn’t that I had left something at home or that I was just homesick. I was missing something really important, but I couldn’t quite identify it.

Soon I realized that the “empty feeling” I had was my lack of Christian community. I had left behind the safety of my church, my Christian family, and my Christian school, and I suddenly felt like I was on my own. It made me realize just how much I need to be part of a group of believers, and it became my mission to find a place that I could truly call my “church family.”

Sure, Spain has a long history of Catholicism, but we have to take into account that this includes the Catholic Monarchs, the Inquisition, and as late as the 1970s, a dictator who made Catholicism obligatory. With a history like that, the Catholic Church now finds itself near the bottom of the list of “Most Trusted Institutions in Spain.” Very few Spanish youth take the Catholic Church seriously, so I knew it wasn’t going to be my best resource for making Christian friends in Spain.

The little Baptist church I found has been one of my greatest discoveries in Cádiz. Even when the distant attitude of Cádiz makes me feel like an outsider, I feel welcome at this church. It’s a place where I can meet other Christians and find support and encouragement within a group of believers that includes both Spanish youth and other international students. I’ve been amazed at the sense of kinship despite our different backgrounds, nationalities, and languages.

This church has also provided me with a more balanced view of Spanish culture. I have been able to hear the opinions of Spanish non-Catholic Christians on cultural norms like the late-night partying during Carnaval and the processions of statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary through the streets during Holy Week. While the society encourages me to join in these parts of Spanish culture, the church reminds me that they are things I should avoid getting caught up in. This balance has been an essential part of keeping myself grounded while I’m in such an unfamiliar context.

When we place ourselves in cross-cultural situations, it is generally with the goal of learning about the other culture and, to a certain extent, integrating ourselves into it. However, there are aspects of Spanish culture that I don’t feel comfortable conforming to. At first I felt like I wasn’t being “intercultural enough” until I realized that there are plenty of ways that I don’t fit into mainstream culture in the U.S., either. I just tend to forget that while I’m surrounded by my safe, Christian community.

Coming to Spain has challenged me to put the familiar “be not conformed to this world” into practice in a very different context. Finding the subculture of Spanish believers has reminded me that even when we’re being intercultural, as followers of Christ we are still called to be counter-cultural.


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