When we are in America, it is really difficult to get work done at home with 2 babies, so I spend at least a few hours most days in our apartment club house. It is usually really quiet, it has pretty fast wifi, and there are very few distractions…Most of the time. Yesterday, however, I had 2 very long conversations with 2 guys I do not really know very well at all. One of them I know enough to know that he walks his dog everywhere and he is getting a Psychology degree from UNF. The other guy I know that his wife is from Latin America, he served in the military, and he has not yet found the right church to go to in Jacksonville (even though he has lived here for 11 years). I am not sure what it was about me yesterday (I was working on my computer, had my head down trying not to make eye contact, and any time there was even a microsecond of a lull in the conversation I tried to work again) but these guys really wanted to talk. I am going to write the next 2 blogs about what we talked about because they are both topics that, in normal circumstances, interest me and the ministry of ATN.
Let’s start with the first conversation of the day that I had with the guy who served in the military. He knew, prior to this conversation, that I live in Haiti and so he started his conversation with almost these exact words: “I am Reformed in my theology and my wife is a charismatic from Latin America, how do you deal with people who believe this in Haiti?” It was quite blunt, and it was clearly from a place of at least a little frustration on his part. He told me that he could tell that I was not from a charismatic background (I’m not sure if he thought that was a compliment…) and that I did not believe in the Prosperity Gospel. I said that he was correct on both accounts, and then he asked me if that was a common belief in Haiti. At this point, I was not sure if he was talking about the Prosperity Gospel (which really has only 1 form) or about charismatic beliefs, so I just answered the question broadly. I told him it really depends on what part of Haiti you find yourself and what Christian influence has been in that part of Haiti for the longest.
He did not really like my answer because I was not really prepared to have a theological discussion with him at that point and I knew he wanted to get back around to a discussion about how he could convince his wife that he was right (never a good starting point for a discussion by the way). Then he finally got to the point of what he wanted to talk about. He told me that his wife was overly emotional in her faith and that he really wanted her to get back to studying the Bible and using “logic” in what she believed rather than just having a blind faith. He asked me what I thought about it and if I had any wisdom on how he could talk to his wife and her family. I want to tell you how I answered him because the way that I answered him is the way I wish I lived but know that I do not.
I told him that for people like he and I (who focus on logic and study at the expense of emotion) having someone in our lives who help us with the emotional side of our faith is absolutely vital. I told him that if we cannot get emotional about who GOD is and what Jesus did on the Cross then we are definitely missing something in our faith. People like us try to “logic” our way out of everything and can often miss out on miracles and supernatural occurrences because we immediately look for a natural explanation. I told him his wife needs him too and it is absolutely vital to spend time studying the Word of GOD and understanding what it says, but the second we leave the emotional side of our faith out of the picture we have missed a lot about who GOD created us to be.
When I finished the “speech” that I was not really in the mood to have, 2 things happened. First, he said that he did not want to get into a theological discussion but thank you for talking. I took that to mean that he did not like what I said and decided to leave. The second thing that happened is that I was glad that I had that discussion. When people in Haiti worship, they do worship with much more emotion (I realize this is a sweeping generality, but I believe it to be true) than what we normally see in America. At the same time, again from my perspective, there needs to be a deeper focus on the absolute truth of Scripture but not at the expense of heartfelt (and sometimes emotional) worship. It was an interesting conversation, and so was the second one that I will blog about next. Just so you know, that one was about economics in general with a focus on 3rd world economics.