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Posts Tagged ‘Spanish religious history’

SpainI particularly enjoy the alternate history  genre in fiction—often found in the science fiction section of Barnes and Noble.  These works are usually built on suggesting alternate outcomes of major historical events and the author’s imaginative description of the consequences of those alternate outcomes.

For instance, I recently finished Stephen King’s 11-22-63: A Novel, which describes a time traveler’s attempt to stop the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas. The protagonist believes that by keeping Lee Harvey Oswald from shooting the president, that he will not only save Kennedy’s life, but also the lives of many lost in Viet Nam and that it will prevent much of the chaos of the late 60’s, perhaps even the deaths of RFK and Martin Luther King.

You will have to read the book to find out what happens, but just let me say that it is very difficult to write alternative histories because the real world is full of unexpected consequences!!

I was thinking about alternate histories because Sherrylee and I are in Spain on a Let’s Start Talking site development trip.  We landed in Madrid and have already spent good time with a good church in Malaga and a missionary in Murcia.

In the course of our conversation on Sunday, we were asking the brother in Malaga to tell us about the religious climate in Spain.  He began by saying, “Well, you know that Spain never experienced the Reformation like much of Europe.”

Although I have a general overview of Spanish history, that is one of those facts that is so obvious, that I don’t think I’ve ever thought about it.  Of course they didn’t!!

Spain received Christianity most likely from Roman Christians—perhaps St. Paul’s disciples who wanted to complete their teacher’s dream of taking the Good News to Spain.  In the year 711, however,  North Africans crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and brought Islam to the Iberian peninsula.  In just seven years, Islam became the predominant religion as well as the ruling political power—and stayed so until 1492, when the last Muslims were driven from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella.

You church historians will quickly recognize that the first signs of the Reformation in northern Europe were appearing at this same time, but because of Spain’s history, this country experienced the Inquisition—also an attempt to purify Christianity–instead of the Reformation. The Inquisition was not banned in Spain until the early 19th century, but even then Spaniards did not receive religious freedom—not in the 20th century during the Spanish Civil War or under Franco either.

In fact, not until the restoration of the monarchy in 1976 did the Spanish people gain the right to worship God according to their own convictions and religious groups other than Roman Catholicism gained equal legal footing in Spain.

Today, 71% of Spaniards identify themselves as Roman Catholic, but 24% of the general population consider themselves as having no faith.  Islam is the second largest religion in Spain, if you ignore atheism as a religious group.  In spite of the strong Roman Catholic presence, only 3% of Spaniards listed “religion” as one of their three most important values, which is even lower than the 7% across secularized Europe.

So let’s write an alternate history:  what if Ferdinand and Isabella had come under the influence of a Spanish reformer like Juan Valdez, who at 18-years-old published a small work called Dialogue on Christian Doctrine (1529), in which he in a very gentle manner suggested there were only two sacraments—baptism and the Lord’s Supper—and that the Lord’s Prayer was a better model than praying to Mary.

He also suggested that Christians were really only obliged to keep the teachings of God, not the church if the church’s commands were different from God’s. Although Valdez never argued for a break from the Roman Catholic Church, in 1531, his little book was banned by the church for heretical teachings and he had to flee to Italy to save himself from the Inquisition.

Well, when I look at the benefits of the Reformation in northern Europe—at least from a spiritual perspective—I do not see greater faith in Germany, for instance, than Spain. And the native countries of Tyndale, Wyclif, Calvin, and Zwingli are some of the most completely secularized in the “Christian world.”

So after 500 years, the spiritual results of the Inquisition and the Reformation do not appear to be all that different!  That is a very sad conclusion.

What Spain and all of Europe need is an alternate history—one that is written on their hearts and not just in imaginative literature. I’m thankful for every believing  Christian here in Spain, who not only shows their love but bears witness to His great love by living the life of a Christian, by resisting secularization, and by publicly speaking the name of Jesus.

That’s the only way the alternate history of any person, any people, any nation is ever written because, in reality, the God of all nations is the Only One who writes history!!

Thank you Guille and Suzanne, thank you Erick and Sira for being leaders in the real new history of Spain!!

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