In our recent trip to Spain, part mission scouting and part vacation, Barbara and I got a chance to see what people say is the future of the U.S, at least spiritually. It is not a pretty picture. Spain is similar to much of Europe in that it is has moved away from religion into a secular belief system, post modern agnostic. The beautiful cathedrals in Spain are mostly museums filled with a lot more tourists than worshippers. The older generations still cling to their Catholic faith, but middle aged Spaniards seemed to have broken free of the chains of legalism and religion for the younger generation doesn’t even register on the map.
Visiting the churches from the small Iglesias to the mammoth Cathedrals, you get a mixed feeling of awe and revulsion. There is a sense of the admiration of the incredible devotion that the people had that motivated them to build such magnificent buildings. But as you look at the incredible opulent religious adornments you can’t help but ask yourself why people would spend so much not just on one church but several in every town. Lavish furniture, golden altars, untold dollars spent on magnificent paintings, adornments that in today’s dollars would add up to the billions. You can almost feel the religious bondage as you visit the churches. Adding this to the ugly church history, you begin to understand why when people were given the choice of religious freedom they began to run from the church.
I asked one of our missionaries who hosted us this question. Who do you think is better off today in a practical sense, those who place their faith in the religion of works and penitence or those who have freed themselves from religion totally to a humanistic faith? Neither choice is good. Unfortunately that seems to be the picture of religion in Spain today and much of Europe.
Our job is to present another option, a religion based on grace and the love of Jesus Christ. The alternative is a faith that frees one from the bondage of legalism and works and gives one a reasonable faith and hope for the future. The task is an uphill battle for sure. But you would have to believe that people of Europe and Spain would soon begin to seek something of real substance, not tarot cards, palm reading and superstition of the past religions.
Can it be done? Perhaps not in our life time but we must begin to get the message to the younger generation in Europe. That is the challenge, just how do we do that. The new missions’ strategy is trying to do it through relationships. It is not a quick fix option, but one that will need time, involving Christians from all over the world and the help of the Holy Spirit.
Pictured is an interesting vessel called a monstrance used in the Roman Catholic church to display the Eucharistic. These are very large elaborately adorned vessels made of gold which in today's time would certainly cost millions designed to hold a wafer (believed to be the body of Christ).