The wider context for the evangelical churches in Spain

It has taken me time to get to this page! How can anyone describe the situation in which the churches have to work? If you are based in a western country you could well consider Spain to be a very similar land. It is and yet at the same time there are a number of differentiating factors which confuse the situation more.

Many readers will be living in countries with a long established protestant, if not evangelical tradition. It is 'normal' and still almost acceptable to be an evangelical christian, at least if you don't push your views too hard. Spain is not a land with a protestant tradition to any great extent. Yes, the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church traces back similarities with the non-Roman church in the peninsula before the 10th century, and yes, there were a few converts in Spain at the time of the Reformation, but the oldest evangelical churches in Spain are in 2003 just 134 years old and the vast majority of the 1800 churches and mission points are less than 30 years old.

Cathedral, León (CJM)

Cathedral, León (CJM)

100 years ago, there were two main streams in Spanish thought about things 'Christian'. There was the part of the population who went to mass regularly (which in those days meant daily), often with a strong devotion to the virgin or a saint and there were those 'enlightened' people who were strongly anti-clerical.

In a Holy Week procession

In a Holy Week procession

Today, the majority of the population is on the anti-clerical side and the arguments may have become more sophisitacted and diverse, but basically they would say: 'if there is truth about a God it can be found only in the teachings of the Catholic Church, but the Church itself is an unworthy bearer of that message, so we will not trust anyone speaking about God'.

Meanwhile, many of those who lived under the spell of superstition have moved seamlessly over to the New Age movement, which in any case suitably combines elements of eastern and western pantheism such as most can hardly tell the difference. Those who attend mass regularly (3 times a year) are in a small minority and in fact Spain, 'land of Mary' according to the Pope on his recent visit, has thoroughly turned its back on organised religion. Religious attendance and fervour are much more related to invitations to a meal afterwards (weddings, etc..) or to colourful festivities such as Holy Week or the 'Romeria del Rocío', a spiritualised orgy which continues much as it did in Roman times.

Meanwhile, 'everyman' is more likely to worship (wash) his SEAT (dream BMW) on a Sunday morning, although in true Spanish fashion that doesn't mean actually getting wet, but rather queueing for the car wash and then vacuuming the inside a little. Saturday's mass attendance is at the shopping centre for the married, while young people are more likely to be out on the town in a disco or wine bar.

So, indeed, similarities, but differences. But above all, the fact that an evangelical is one in a thousand makes him or more likely her feel unattractive to others in this day of movements of mass appeal rather than individual reflection. The ghetto mentality has been strong since the days of persecution during the Franco era. Today, with so many apparently more glittery options available to the man in the street, it still determines activities, if not conscious attitudes.

More coming soon!

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