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An Inter-Menno Debate...About Honduras?

Ok, so those of you that know me well, know of my deep and abiding love for all things Mennonite. From the culture, to the theology, to the hymn singing, to the recycling of tin foil; I think we've pretty much got this Bride of Christ thing locked down. It should come as no surprise then that I belong to an online forum called MennoDiscuss which as they describe it is "A place where Mennonites (and others) can gather to discuss...". The three dots I imagine are a clue as to the open-endedness of possible topics of conversation; which pretty much is the case. There have been topics as disparate as "Amish in Israel" to "How Anabaptist are Mennonites?" to "Nonresistance & Malpractice" to "How Long Does It Take You To Sew A Capedress?" to "Iced Mint Tea". The forum tends to be populated by Mennonites from the more conservative and plainer churches and was actually started by a man from the Beachy Amish Church but there a handful of we "liberals" from the main body of Mennonites (MCUSA/Canada) and even a smattering of Quakers, Eastern Orthodox, Church of the Brethren, German Baptists "and others". It's a lively place and I have had my world and walk with Christ both enriched and strengthened by participating in (but mostly observing) the conversations and relationships that develop there.

I'm telling you all of this because the other day a topic developed under the title of "Eastern Orthodoxy: Convince Me Not To Convert" and while that may be an engaging enough topic for some of you out there, it really did nothing for me. Eastern Orthodoxy, I've got nothing against you personally and I love that you basically laugh and roll your eyes everytime you hear Roman Catholics yammering on about that 'papal infallibility' thing but seriously, you just don't have it goin' on for me. Like I said, we Mennonites.....anyway I was content to sit back and observe the exchanges that took place until a certain person, who is not Mennonite or even from a Mennonite/Anabaptist-related church (he would be considered one of those nebulous "others"), chimed in and started making what I considered to be factually specious claims about the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics and countries that are dominated by those church cultures.

Let me just diverge here for a moment and give you some insight into how this person is wired. Have you heard about a recent spate of parents essentially physically disciplining their children to death and claiming to have been influenced by a certain book by Michael Pearl, entitled: "To Train Up a Child"? The book essentially advocates beating the snot out of your children for the slightest infractions which is far cry from 'spare the rod' type punishment, which I am all for. Anyway, this person has a tag-line that he leaves at the bottom of every message he posts in this forum pleading with we non-children-killing Mennonites to read Mr. Pearl's book.

So, Crazy was proffering all sorts of wild claims about the high churches and various people groups around the world, most notably the Greeks, that were either trite and well-worn lies or outlandish claims based on hearsay and his own synaptic assumptions. As I mentioned, usually I'm content to observe and learn but there's something about presenting misleading facts and playing fast-and-loose with truth that really gets me angry so I jumped in with a quip about his remarks being baseless and absurd. My comments pertained mostly to the churchy aspects of his attacks but I also threw a zinger in there about his attacks on whole cultures and nations. And that's where things turned personal. He came back at me launching into a diatribe about the high churches but then reserved 5 paragraphs to attack Hondurans (he calls them hondurians) and their Godless culture. My name on the forum is HondurasKeiser and I've talked about my life and work in one of the conversations so the attack on Honduras wasn't coincidental. I almost lost it but then collected my thoughts and wrote this:

(Just as clarification, I responded to each thought or point regarding Honduras and not necessarily to each paragraph. The following conversation then reads as me quoting an individual point, responding to it and then moving on to the next point. If you'd like to read the entire topic from beginning to end, all 67 posts, you can do so here. Also, I'm sharing this with you all, not to show off my debating skills, and I think they may be wanting; but to show my true feelings on Honduras and the people here.)

Now your Honduras comments are what got my gander up.

LibertarianChristian wrote:My solution for honduras would be the death penalty and way tougher punishments for crime.
WHAT?!? I don't even know what to do with this. You mention it again so I'll come back to it.

LibertarianChristian wrote:In Honduras (And El Salvador, etc), life is cheap. There is no death penalty. People shoot each other like they go to the mall. There is no serious punishment for crime,
All true, sorry to say.

LibertarianChristian wrote:and most hondurans are godless. Their religion stands as far as they get benefits from it.
Again, WHAT? Have you taken a poll, are you quoting statistics or are you basing this off of the handful of Hondurans you've known over your lifetime? The majority of Hondurans I know, and I've met a few in my time here, are devout believers in God and tend to belong to the Evangelical/Charismatic wing of Christianity. They're not in this thing to see what they can get out of it. Most are here because they recognize that their very existence is a gift from God, that they can't make it from one day to the next without his grace and mercy. Your cheapening of these people's faith is offensive and wrong.

LibertarianChristian wrote:If you are a missionary there, you probably are being wildly successful?
What do you consider to be wild success in a missionary context?

LibertarianChristian wrote:I would recommend no one to send their daughters to a mission to Honduras. The guys, yes, the guys are highly recommended to go on a mission to honduras.
That has to be one of the most absurd, closed-minded and culturally clueless things I've ever seen you write. And believe me I've seen you write some doozies. I know many, many single, young ladies here working in the country. Do they have to be more cautious than males? Yes. Are they faithfully serving the Lord and leading others to Christ? Yes. Have they been acosted, violated or otherwise taken advantage of? Not a one. Come to think of it, I need a lady to help me reach the young girls and single mothers of the community here. Know of anyone?

LibertarianChristian wrote:But, I think that it would be more fun if an American organization doesn't support you, but if instead you try to make a living there. (But it can be dangerous). This would enrich your experience a whole lot.
I'm actually starting to get a taste of this. Fun isn't quite the way I'd describe it. Becoming more incarnate and learning more of what the average, poor Honduran lives through day to day, is.

Here we go:

LibertarianChristian wrote:When you are in Honduras, just by being white you are immediately HIGH class, even if you are a dirt poor american. Also, by being American, you are already not only high class, but royalty. You can expect royal treatment everywhere you go, and people shining your shoes and showing particular deference to you. You might think: "Ain't these people nice"? "Hondurans are so kind and welcoming". But be not deceived: How are they to each other? Hondurans are among the most selfish people on the planet. If it were not so, their country would flourish, because in a country where most people are THAT nice, prosperity is the natural, unavoidable consequence. But honduras is dirt-poor, and despicably corrupt, in all spheres of life. It is because each person basically seeks AVIDLY their own benefit, and couldn't care less about their neighbour, or about God. They care about their families, because they are THEIRS. Even we, who are bad (said Jesus), know how to give good things to our children.

There are two opposed qualities among people: "NICENESS" vs "Godliness".
Be guaranteed that if you are a white American missionary, hondurans will be EXTRA nice to you and will listen to everything you got to say
After I calmed down from reading this all I could think of were my neighbors, all 1500 of them. I live with the community of people that has set up life around the municipal garbage dump of La Ceiba. These people would have to be some of the poorest and most desperate within the 2nd poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. They more than any other demographic ought to be the archetype of your "greed hypothesis". By virtue of their cyclical and hopeless poverty, they ought to be the greediest, most selfish and most corrupt people in all of Honduran society. Unfortunately, they blow your hypothesis to shreds. I have never seen a group of people more self-less, more giving and more open with each other than I have amongst people here. One of my first memories from this community and one of the things that impressed me most was watching a young boy share his food. I had given an obviously hungry boy a small bag of chips expecting him to devour it on the scene. Within seconds he was swarmed by his friends and brothers and without complaint he gave each eager hand a chip or two until he was left nothing but a few chips himself. I've seen that scene played out here more times than I can count. If that's not self-less compassion I'm not sure what is.

I myself, that rich, white Gringo that lives in this community have become the receiver of countless acts of generosity over the course of my time here. From people loaning me a vehicle, to people loaning me money, to helping me with physical labor or opening their home to me so that I can use their water spigot to fill up my barrels. I have received far more from this community in the form of love and generosity than I can ever hope to give.

The same holds true for the wider swath of Honduran society I know. Is there greed out there, selfishness, evil? Yes of course, I don't idealize this place but Hondurans are not the most selfish people on earth and their poverty has nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with political corruption and a governing class, most of whom aren't from this culture, and their treatment of the average Honduran more as a slave than as a fellow human.

LibertarianChristian wrote:Honduras BADLY needs the death penalty. All murderers and "mareros" should be put to death if they insist in their ways, because violence is just completely out of control.
Honduras badly needs father figures. Honduras badly needs Jesus. Honduras doesn't need the death penalty anymore than they need the U.S. army training their military for them. Turns out they don't need a military either (we all know what a threat Costa Rica is). What Honduras needs is a political class that isn't corrupt or selfish, a police force that isn't corrupt or more concerned about drivers wearing their saftey belts than gangs going to war in certain neighborhoods. Honduras needs fathers that won't abandon their families and that will be strong, guiding influences in the lives of their sons. Honduras needs Jesus.

LibertarianChristian wrote:Nobody is safe in honduras, they extortion you when you have a business, you have to pay "taxes" to the gangs, and to the government. You can buy someone's life for like 1000 dollars or less. Everybody will be nice to an American white, except someone who might be interested in kidnapping you. Everybody will try to get advantage of you, either by befriending you, by marrying your sisters or your friends, or more extremely, by kidnapping you.
I am safe in Honduras. No one I know has ever been the victim of extortion. There are places you have to pay taxes to the gangs but then again you may have to do that if you live in Brooklyn as well. I've never felt taken advantge of except for a few unscrupulous taxi drivers. I have a girlfriend, we're talking of marriage, now that you've so deftly pointed out the cultural flaws here I'm quite certain she's trying to marry me for a visa. And heaven forbid one of these Honduran natives tries to woo my sister. What would my lilly-white family do?

LibertarianChristian wrote:But their hearts... are they close to God?
More than you'll ever know.


Allen King said…
Interesting to see you rebuke LC. I wish he'd get the experience of worship in Spirit and in Truth. He'd be a changed man.
Dan Rosencrance said…
As the Aussies say, "Good on you mate!" Well said.

The fallacy in the "punishment paradigm" is idea that that the child is naturally good. So, if you are successful in pounding away the bad stuff, you'll be left with good stuff.
Of course, when questioned closely, I suspect that the "punishment paradigm" folks hold a view that the child is inherently bad. That makes it sooo much more difficult punish goodness into the child.

Actually, as you are finding, in most cases it is the father's task to teach, by word and deed, the good stuff, not to punish the bad stuff. Accompanied by lots of verbal and physical loving. Sadly, few fathers "get it" and fewer have had that kind of father example so pass it on to the children, especially sons.

Matt, you are getting to "father" by example. As before, well done!

Z.inah said…
Its really beautiful what you're doing. Keep up the good job!!

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