Thursday, September 11, 2008

Disturbing

Right after we got back home from Bulgaria, I got a phone call that disturbed me.
It was the mom of one of the girls who had come to know the Lord at English Camp, and who had asked to be baptized at the baptism will we have in 2 weeks at a lake outside of Eger. She was calling to tell me that she had forbidden her 18 yr old daughter from coming to our church.
I asked her why, and she said it was because we are a sect (actually she thought we were Methodists - and that Methodists are a sect). Then I explained to her that we belong to the Hungarian Evangelical Alliance, a group which validates that we hold orthodox protestant Christian beliefs. Then she told me it was because I wasn't Hungarian. I explained that I speak Hungarian and even teach the Bible in Hungarian (we were talking in Hungarian). Then she said it was because my wife wasn't Hungarian...
She went on to give me many other reasons, none of which held much weight. In other words, these weren't the real reason she was forbidding her daughter from attending our church.
She eventually told me that she simply doesn't think that becoming a Christian is a good choice for her daughter to make, because it will drive her away from her family and make her a social outcast.

Needless to say, this call was disturbing. And whats more disturbing to me is that this isn't the first time this kind of thing has happened.
Here in Hungary - especially more in Eger than in Debrecen, this kind of attitude is something we have had to deal with.
Perhaps its hard in this area because there isn't really any other church like us - a young, modern, protestant church - but I also know that the other churches in town struggle with the same thing. I think another possible reason is that the older generation of Hungarians who were raised under Communism view religion in all forms as a negative thing - as detrimental and unenlightened.
Another issue here is that many Hungarian families are very tightly knit, and the parents are somewhat controlling. They often view the church as something which takes away their influence and control over their kids, in spite of the fact that we would never encourage kids to disobey or rebel against their parents.
People say that Europe is a "post-Christian" place, and I think there is much truth to that. We have had people in the church before, whose parents encouraged them to practice Eastern Religion or the New Age - but were not happy at all that their child (although already legally an adult) wanted to be a Christian. In America, even if a family does not consider themselves Christians or go to church, they still often view church as a good thing.
* Hungarians - what do you think about this? Am I getting this right, or am I way off?

I find it disturbing that in this part of "Christendom" being a follower of Jesus and studying the Bible is viewed by many as a bad thing.
One friend of mine in another town in Hungary leads a youth group, and they had the problem that their kids had stopped partying and their parents were upset by it, and started telling their kids - You need to leave that church! What they are teaching you is unhealthy! You are teenagers; you need to be going out and partying and having sex! That's the normal, healthy thing to do!
I have a catch-phrase that I always tell our church: Jesus makes you normal. And I really believe that to be true. The view of many people in the world of what is normal and healthy has been skewed so badly, that they call good what is evil and evil what is good.
When studying the Bible and being a follower of Jesus is called a bad thing, but premarital/extramarital sex is considered a good thing - something is wrong.

On Sundays right now we are studying through the Acts of the Apostles, and one of my favorite verses in the book is when it says in Ch 17:8, that in Thessalonica they people dragged some Christians before the city counsel and said: These who have turned the whole world upside down have come here too. My prayer is that God would use us here in Eger to turn this city "upside down" with the Gospel. If things are already upside down - where right is called wrong and wrong is called right - then turning it upside down again would be like turning it right-side up. Again, "Jesus makes you normal."
One thing I love about the book of Acts is that you see that through very small groups of people, God changed the history of Europe - and really the history of the whole world. I love that, because I know that God can use us to change our city - and I pray that He will.

5 comments:

  1. Anonymous8:53 PM

    Egyáltalán nincs igazad. "I think another possible reason is that the older generation of Hungarians who were raised under Communism view religion in all forms as a negative thing - as detrimental and unenlightened". They DO view religion as a postive thing.But not ANY form of religion. If you did not live in this country (that has been an officially christian country for about 900 (!!) years, it is hard to understand how the mentality and belief of the people was developed here. We are not dumb, we do think that religion is a good thing. But with such a deep cultural and historical background that we have it is hard to accept just any stream that comes from the other side of the ocean...from an artificial country that is so shallow and poor in culture.

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  2. **They DO view religion as a postive thing.But not ANY form of religion.**
    Well, this is exactly my point - that I see a trend in Hungary, that even in this country which has a Christian heritage, some people view Protestant Christianity (including groups led by Hungarian pastors - as I mentioned) as a negative thing, while they are quick to embrace other forms of religion, such as Eastern Mysticism or the New Age.
    I obviously know that Hungary has been a "Christian nation" for 900 yrs, and that is precisely why I find this kind of attitude disturbing.
    I do not think that people here are dumb, by any means - and you don't need to be dumb to view religion as a bad thing.
    I could understand it if someone wouldn't want to go to a church with a foreigner as a pastor for cultural and historical reasons, and instead chooses to go somewhere else. That wouldn't bother me; but that's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about an attitude that I have seen, where parents are opposed to their kids (often adult kids) becoming active Christians (again, not specifically in our church, but in any church in general). For example - I know some people here in town who have to read their Bibles and meet with Christians in secret, because they live at home and their parents are opposed to Christianity. I knew people like this in Debrecen as well. And I find it disturbing that this attitude would be present, even somewhat common, in a nation like Hungary - part of Christendom, with an almost 1000 yr history of being an officially Christian nation.
    És egyébként, ahozz hogy értelmesen érveljünk, nem szükséges bántó szavakat használnod.

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  3. may i just have a question to "anonymous"? have you ever been in the U.S. before? Have you experienced life there yourself? Although no matter your answer, I think we should be careful with our words and how we comment and judge other cultures and countries. By the way, I am Hungarian, before anyone would slap back that I am talking out of patriotic pride or something. Really, read this post again and realize that Nick was not talking the way you attacked him for...

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  4. Anonymous3:33 PM

    ..good luck then ;o)

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  5. Anonymous,

    I am very sorry to have read the things you wrote. You definitely misunderstood what Nick said, and just for your information, out of all the American missionaries I have met over the past 18 years, Nick is the one who has embraced Hungary and its language, and culture the most. So you chose the wrong tree to bark at.
    Also, if you don't like somebody, don't read their personal blog.
    And, if you choose to insult someone, be a man/woman of integrity and sign your name.

    Andi Horvat-Kavai

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