When associate news editor John Kennedy was returning from Cuba, he discovered that his seatmate's experience was an interesting contrast to his own. John was traveling as part of a team of religious journalists sponsored by the Center for International Policy, a Washington think tank interested in promoting democracy abroad. His seatmate's official task had been to deliver $100 worth of medical supplies to Cuba, which he did.
John went in order to assess the state of the Cuban church. He interviewed leaders and heard their stories of persecution and their plans for the future "after Castro." (See his report, "Cuba's Next Revolution," beginning on p. 18.)
His seatmate, on the other hand, went to have a good time. By bringing in medical supplies, he slipped through the humanitarian loophole in the U.S. prohibition against visiting Cuba. (There is another exception for the press.)
Once inside Cuba, the willing hedonist gets low rates for room, board, and sex; prostitution has become a major growth industry for women hard pressed for hard currency, and many men are "vacationing" in Cuba in order to engage their services.
Which raises the interesting question: How should we pray for Cuba? After the obvious first petition for the passing of the Castro regime, the rest is not so clear. Before Castro, Cuba was a hedonic paradise where gambling and prostitution flourished. When the Cold War was hot, American Christians passionately supported our government's anti-Communist efforts in the name of freedom. We understood this to mean freedom to worship. But others saw it as the freedom to pursue any pleasure they wanted. If the U.S.'s long-sought dreams come true and Castro falls, should we be thrilled that Cuba will open to satellite TV, McDonald's, and the return of casinos?
John talked to Pastor Jose M. Vera, a Cuban exile in Miami, who has observed a troubling phenomenon among zealous Christians who are forced out of Cuba and land in the U.S. He says many of these Cubans experience a kind of culture shock from a society that offers beepers, cellular phones, and so many other consumer goods. As a result, Vera has trouble keeping Christians on fire once they reach Miami. Few are interested in any church activity beyond the Sunday morning service.
We will pray that the Cuban church receives the freedom to worship and preach the gospel, that persecution will end, and that the church will flourish. But if that freedom comes bundled with coaxial cables and microwave ovens, we must help them understand how to be disciples in a secular, hedonistic, consumerist society. But have U.S. Christians learned how to do that?
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