Jesus Es Verbo No Sustantivo.

One of the harder things for me to deal with here in Guatemala is the religious situation.

See, I’m an atheist. I grew up Catholic, but I am an atheist…and those who know me well know that I’m a pretty outspoken atheist actually…I don’t like hate religious people or anything (after all, my family is religious and I love them)…but I’m certainly very critical…

But here, things are very, very different. When I told one of my teacher’s that I was an atheist, she was like…”hmmm, interesting, I think there might be a few of those here in Guatemala.” And soon I actually discovered that she is an Evangelical Christian…a feminist, socialist evangelical christian.

And this is the situation: Basically, there are two major religions in Guatemala, Catholocism and Evangelical Christianity…it used to be much more Catholics, but during the 36 year civil war, the US evangelical establishment worked with the Guatemalan government to evangelize the population…because the Catholic church had an increasing number of clergy and parishoners actually starting to fight poverty…and even supporting the guerillas, and the government wanted to use evangelism to counter that…to spread the idea that yes, suffer here under us on earth, but be happy in heaven…in fact, many catholics were killed, priests, nuns…and in some villages the evangelicals would come in and say: “when the army comes, if you are catholic you will be killed, but if you are Evangelical, you will live.” And so now the evangelicals are almost outnumbering the Catholics…

But even more confusing than this…which was confusing because I’m not used to thinking of Catholics as socially progressive, powerful activists (and it should be made very clear that even here they are still pro-traditional gender roles, anti-birth control, and anti-choice…)…is the fact that, given this history, all but two of the teachers at my school are EVANGELICALS (the other two being Catholics)…yet these women are feminist, they are socialist, they are at least somewhat anti-homophobic…I just couldn’t get my head around it…they were so different than any evangelicals I’ve met in the states…

And still, I don’t know what to make of all of this…in a future post, I want to write about my atheism, because I’m actually quite proud of it…of how I started with a lack, with a rejection of religion, and how out of that…with my partner and best friend Briana, I feel like I’ve been able to build a uniquely atheist spirituality for myself…I think that will be a fun post.

But for now, I’m just weirded out…I just don’t understand so many things about Guatemala…but what I have heard from one evangelical woman is that during the war she lost so much, she suffered so much pain…that she felt like in religion, through the notion of a personal relationship with god, and the idea of heaven…she felt like at least someone understood her and was paying attention to her…this is something I can understand, although it makes me sad…because there really should be tons of people, living flesh human beings, family, friends, neighbors…who can provide that kind of recognition and support…

But we don’t have that kind of world yet…

Finally, in my experience here, and hearing all of the work that the Catholics have done for social justice here…I have become a lot more softened toward the need to work with religious folks in the states…something I’ve been avoiding for awhile…

Because as a really good folk song down here says: Jesus is a verb, not a noun…and there are those fighting for a church of the poor, for a church to improve the world here and now…and there are those who just claim their religion and then go on raking in their cash…clergy definitely included.

Currently Reading:

-Dispersing Power by Raul Zibechi