Yesterday I was teaching a Latin Link Stride Orientation group on “Latin American History and its Relevance to Today’s Mission.” I was struck again by the irony of how Christianity–both in its Roman Catholic and Protestant forms arrived in Latin America. Without wanting to perpetuate the so-called “Black Legend”, the Conquistadores were pretty brutal. There was little grace and humility towards the indigenous people who were enslaved and slaughtered. Even great men such as Bartolome de las Casas could not halt the brutalization. The Protestant missionaries didn’t arrive with military force but rather financial force and political backing.
The Twentieth Century saw some of the most brutal regimes exploit and murder its own people. Between 1976 and 1983 the Argentine government kidnapped and murdered in the region of 30,000 people. Yes, not too many 0s, 30,000! Many of the Latin American governments were backed by the US government. The UK also has blood on our hands. The Truth Commission in Brazil are yet to hear from the UK about its involvement in the training of Brazilian military interrogators in psychological interrogation techniques.
Latin American governments were often supported by both Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches as well.
When we think about the Christmas story it is such a contrast. Maybe we know the Nativity story too well. The shock that the saviour of the world would come to earth as a helpless baby, born to a single mother, who came from a peasant family, betrothed to a manual worker, in a country oppressed by the Roman Empire doesn’t shock us, but it should.It is crazy!
When we see the rest of Jesus’ life we come to see that this God is different. This is our God. Is this not typical of who he is, demonstrating his greatness by coming to this world, in this way and ultimately saving his world by being executed as a criminal in the most brutal way.
This Christmas I am re-examining my own life to ask, am I following the servant saviour or the conquistador?