Mexico City Undoing
It was early 2005 and I was running like a live wire off the energy of a recent awareness of a call to missions. I was in one of the biggest cities in the world, the City of Mexico… helping to put on a conference in the north of the city. It was my first time in Mexico beyond the cities that skirt the Texas / Mexico border. I was an easy target for the Lord, tho at the time a clueless one.
Don’t get me wrong here, I want to let you inside the story. I hope I can, but it’s not just a story, if it were there would be no real casualties…. and yet, there are.
You know if you’ve been there, out there in the far reaches of the world, beyond the scope of your life and experience. You really are an easy target for the Lord to hit you in a way you are a much too small to take.
We had been in the conference for a few days. Meeting new people and doing our best to communicate across linguistic speed bumps. We were making progress. I was there with two brothers who were older than me, one of which was struggling with blood pressure problems exaggerated by the altitude – Mexico City is as high as Denver. He had a hard go early, but was stabilizing after seeing a doctor and following her instructions. I found myself in the company of the young adults, who seemed to have more English than the other folks, and who were good sports when it came to my attempts at their language.
While lounging one afternoon between meetings, I began to pray over the time and group, and the Lord began to speak to me with some clarity, thru some of the experiences I had had in the meetings. It seemed that a lot came at once, and I saw many things. I saw that the church in Mexico had been young, innocent, and vulnerable, much like many of the young people I had been hanging with in the conference. I saw that many from the US who had come in the past had discerned this as their opportunity to shine, and had taken advantage (in every sense of the term) of the warm, loving, and hospitable culture. I saw how repentance was needed, and forgiveness, for the attitudes of cultural supremacy that had been exercised against kind and gracious hosts… In a moment I was broken, as I not only saw this, but I felt it, and it was real as anything I had ever felt before. I was broken in a thousand pieces in my heart.
I felt the love of the Lord, the hurt of the people, and the self-importance of a thousand wanna-be’s who had mishandled the Lord’s own household, and I was much too small to feel what I was feeling… and so I melted down. Thankfully, the Lord spared me in that He visited me in this way while I was alone. Naturally, I am sure it wasn’t a good look, but spiritually, I was receiving a huge upgrade.
God Loves Uganda
Have you heard of this movie? Actually, it’s a documentary, and it’s on Netflix. It has been out for a little while now, so you may have heard of it. Recently I watched it. Afterward I was left disturbed, but maybe not in the way that the film is intended to disturb. Give it a look when you get a chance if you haven’t already and are interested.
My basic impression is that the movie is intended to showcase the contrast between (extreme) evangelical and GLBT perspective. It takes some liberties in that direction, and is, at times, crude and indecent. It tells parallel stories of a guy from Africa, not Uganda, who has been in Uganda previously – now in the US, a group from International House of Prayer – Kansas City, USA, who are doing some work there, including short term missions, as well as showcasing some people on both sides of this issue who are also from and living in Uganda.
This movie was written with specific takeaways in mind and builds in that direction. These takeaways are not crafted in favor of the evangelical perspective, and that should be noted. At the same time, I think we would do well to look at these things to see what we can learn. Bear in mind, I am not seeking to decide my belief about LGBT from this or any movie’s input. My foundation of belief about this has been decided by the Holy Scriptures, and my hope is that I can faithfully hold to them just as they are set forth there, with a huge measure of love. We should not compromise our standards of life and our message based upon cultural pressures, nor should we react to the pressure and make ourselves (rightly) out to be goons.
What can we learn from God Loves Uganda? Does God love Uganda?
Tho it is clearly intended to show the people from the US as goons in this movie, we would have done better not to have given so much rich and abundant material to work with! Stupid is as stupid does, as I recall.
There is no pressure from me to share my perspective, by the way. Hopefully I can be a help and encouragement to you, and to any who hear my voice. Here are a few things that I learned from this movie:
I saw a parallel theme in this movie – although perhaps unintended by the filmmaker – that I saw in Mexico City in 2005. I have seen it in many of the places and with a large percentage of the teams I have taken abroad to do missions in countries outside the US. I know that I, too, have struggled with this. It is called American Cultural Imperialism. It’s the idea that if we could export the US and it’s culture to these foreign, lost, impoverished, idle and useless souls, along with the gospel (of course) that would be a best case scenario!
That is a lie – false gospel, a different gospel than the gospel of Christ, and an enemy of the cross of Christ.
Keep in mind, cultural imperialism isn’t just an idea from the US. I would imagine that many, if not most, cultures see themselves as superior – and not only in man’s eyes, but in God’s eyes. And this is where we go astray…
The Lord does not intend to export the values, behaviors and ideologies of the US (or other countries) to other nations abroad, but that is impossible to miss the fact that this has often led the way as you go abroad and have a few interactions. We from the US have exported everything but the cross of Christ, in many cases. Religious and stylistic preferences, materialism, and money-lust are often the most lasting monikers of our efforts abroad. While this is observable, I don’t think it was, in most cases, intended.
A lot of these big stands that we take around the cultural issues of our times, that fulfill our needs for self-expression and the taking of the idealogical high ground, have unforeseen and unintended consequences. We want to appear open to this group, so we wave the flag of a God of mercy. We want to appear closed to this group, so we put on the scowl of the God of wrath. Most of this is self-motivated, and largely serving our need to be right, if only in our own minds. Who is benefitted from this? Who is hurt by it? And you shall know them by their fruits, is what the judge Himself said. A high casualty rate should be avoided.
Taking issue with what someone says or someone does can be a huge part of the problem, especially if you don’t know any people on the other side of the issue that you don’t hate. All of these things have people attached to them, but we make them into issues so that we don’t have to act humane when we are firing our guns. They are just issues, after all, not people. And that is a major source of our misbehavior and unkindness, hatred, etc..
The unwise approach that we often take to those who are different from us stresses the fact that we consider ourselves superior, and that our superiority is the main thing to us. But, Jesus sent us to serve and bless, and, as He did, give our lives. It is hard to give your life away when you are defending your point of view and stressing how you are the only one who sees it clearly. This is foolishness.
We are all weak; humans, that is. The stressing of our superiority is (foolish and empty) pride. Furthermore, it’s just not true. What are the consequences of the approach we take? Do we pile high the casualties on our quest, our crusade to be right, and to be known as such? I hope not. Humility, seen in the form of listening and desiring to understand (as a precursor to love), is a great start when dealing with people who are different from you. It’s hard. I often do poorly at this, but, it’s our calling nonetheless.