Monday, November 24, 2014

Connecting the Dots/Continents

Historical events have a funny way in connecting to other historical events across the globe. Okay, not funny as in "ha-ha" but more of a "ah-ha" moment of making sense of why an event happened and why a country is the way it is. Bare with me for a few moments.



Europe was in a cris during the 16th century from contagious diseases, poor harvests, destructive wars, an obsession with 'death', etc. (Glad to not have been living there). The (orthodox) Catholic communities met (officially known as the Council of Trent) in 1545 to 1563 with a total of 25 sessions. The main topics discussed was the concern of the clergy's morality and to clarify the true Catholic teaching that would refute the theological positions of the various Protestant reformers and become a rallying point for a disintegrating Holy Roman Empire (Early: 2012, 91). Keep a Medieval Europe context... The result was a creation of Tridentine Catholicism. Now in Guatemala, the priests were, for the most part, absent from Mayan communities. As the result of the absence of priests, bishops, etc. the Mayans adopted Catholic practices and beliefs into their traditional culture and religion. A kind of syncretism. In Europe, the Catholics wanted to implement a basic framework that would hold for the next 400 years, but this was difficult to apply in Guatemala because 1. the Maya communities were isolated from the colonized pueblos and 2. there was a language barrier of translating the prayers, sermons, rituals into the native languages (there were over 23!) 3. when the priests did preach to the Maya communities, they were unaware of their culture (a.k.a. ethnocentric) which easily absorbed elements from other 'systems'. Big picture take away point- the Catholics were missionizing to the indigenous Maya population predominantly from the 1500s to the 1600s.

Connecting to another "dot" 400 years later--- there is a shift from Catholic missionizing to Protestant missionizing. Why? For one, the goals of the Council of Trent were not making enough of a dent in the issues that Mayans were facing such as: hunger, malnutrition, land loss, unusable land, poverty, lack of access to water, low literacy, lack of education... Thus, evangelism came on the scene in Guatemala. Interesting point- when I was researching the trial of former Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt, I read an excerpt that he claimed himself as a born-again Christian who gained quite a large following, almost having a 'mythic status'. Montt called for Pentecostal missionaries to come to Guatemala to provide food, medicine, and 'spiritual guidance' (Little: 2009, 44). Do not forget, Montt was responsible for the worst crimes against humanity in Guatemala's history (1982-1982) as he conducted an all-out genocide and scorched earth campaign against the Maya population (also known as la violencia). This shift from Catholicism to Pentecostal between 1976 and 1983 accounted for an increase in Pentecostal congregations in Guatemala by up to 35%.

Alrighty, those are some big leaps and a lot of dots to connect. On the bright side, will have plenty to analyze for the final write up.

"First comes creation, then comes country."
Jon Sobrino, SJ
November 20, 2014

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