- Religion and Philosophy
A brief history of Spain. Part Five
Spain is different, I keep stating that and it remains true.
For the British, Germans and Scandinavians, Spain is a convenient hop on a cheap fare airline and is less than three hours away from the hustle and bustle of their home countries.
Since the first intrepid explorers arived here in the early 1960's many things have changed.
A country which had been isolated for 40 years after the civil war, which had been a prelude to WW2, and a training ground for the German and Russian armies and especially the Luftwaft, Spain progressed temerariously into the world again with the opening of it's borders to first selective tourism, then mass tourism as the package tour was born and those people who had previously spent their vacations in their home resorts, ventured into Spain's exotic climes, to taste a new cuisine and swiftly reject it demanding 'familiar' food which reminded them of 'home'.
The 'international' cuisine was born to accommodate these new food requirements and the pace was set for what became millions of tourists, bland and nutritiously deficient 'set meals', included in the cheap holiday's cost.
A poor peasant farmers son would dream and yearn to work as a 'camarero' (waiter) instead of toiling long hours on a hot and barren terrain to harvest vines or olives as his family had for generations.
Soon the demand for new hotels was joined with the desire for holiday apartments, as the 'aparthotel' was created to combine self ownership with holiday rentals, and another whole segment of Spanish youth learned building skills to become 'obreros' (workers) in the fledgling construction industry.
The green shoots of modern Spain were emerging from a history steeped in endless poverty for most whilst the few enjoyed regally splendorous lifestyles.
Tourism, and the later ex pat invasion changed that forever.
Since those days the now educated Spanish youth no longer want to wait table, they aspire to be lawyers, bankers and property speculators, just like their northern counterparts, and until this present financial meltdown, this was possible, now maybe not so much, and possibly in a short while, waiters jobs may well be sought after again.
But sadly not in construction for a long while I think.
Until this time the Catholic Church had reigned supreme in the religion stakes after the reconquest of Spain from the Moors in 1492 (when America was just being discovered) for 500 years until 1992, when Spain capitulated to the inevitable and joined the European Union.
When I first came to faith it was still illegal to meet together in groups of more than three people, a law instigated by Franco to stifle public dissent to his policies.
It was not enforced in my time in Spain, but it could have been, and our AoG Christian fellowship was strictly speaking an illegal assembly which could have been stopped at any time.
Of course the vast cash injection that 'winning' entry into the Common Market (as the European Union was disguised as in those days) and the death of Franco in 1975 had tempered the Spanish authorities zeal for stamping on those it did not trust or understand.
The main thing Spain was concentrating on was adjusting to a fresh Socialist government and watching cautiously as they instilled new ideas into Spanish society. Their popularity was cemented by a young firebrand called Felipe Gonzalez, who won four elections on the trot and ruled Spain from 1982 - 1996, a died in the wool socialist from Seville who had impeccable credentials to lead the country into it's new age of libertarianism.
The list of 'achievements' that he could name is considerable, and in those 14 years of socialist rule the State managed to rewrite laws concerning abortion, which was legalized in 1991.
By 1995 the rate of abortions had risen to 49,000 babies killed, by 2005 that rate had risen to 85,000 lost souls in that one year.
No wonder then that Spain, probably for the first time in it's history, now has a negative birth rate and therefore a declining population, repopulated by immigrants from both wealthy and poor nations.
It would seem that the policy of whoever actually controls the EU is to produce a bland and tasteless society that no longer recognizes nationality or traditions evolved over centuries, and it is obvious that you only need to captivate one generation with glistening toys to destroy all sense of heritage and common sense.
Bullfighting is now under attack, and whatever you think about bullfighting (and I don't enjoy it at all) it's a national sport and tradition, one which sets Spain aside from most of the non Hispanic world. It is a serious affair and many Spaniards will learn that death is a normal thing from watching bullfights. The bull does not always lose.
Soft drug use was also decriminalized for up to three marijuana plants per person per household, which seems fair, however it has led to an increase in drug abuse in the younger generation.
In modern Spain Franco is nothing more than a history lesson on the evils of dictatorship, but in his time, Franco had a mandatory sentence for drug possession of six years jail, now these youngsters echo their counterparts in other more 'enlightened' youth cultures, using drugs widely and without regard to the consequences, which in any case are insignificant.
For the first time a nation who have a long tradition in educating their children to drink with moderation from an early age, where children were given wine with water at dinner times, now has a developing binge drinking problem.
The laws now state that it is not allowed to give a child alcohol, and people have been reported to the police for nothing more than allowing their own child a sip of beer in a public place. Likewise to spank a child is now a criminal offense, and the children are encouraged to report their parents if they are chastised.
All these happenings would have been inconceivable during Franco's rule, when the Catholic Church had his ear and was able to veto anything that was considered against the bibles teachings, yet during Gonzalez's years the church slowly lost authority as people, exposed to what had been available for many years in other countries, turned from faith to fortune and sought not the kingdom of heaven, but the earthly pleasures previously unobtainable.
Into this social melee I was brought to faith, a defector rather than a convert, a poacher turned gamekeeper, who had (and still does have) a healthy disregard for the church of man, but was seeking the kingdom of God, and who believed that if the bible was true, then all the promises of God were Yes and Amen, and if Jesus told us that these things and greater we would do in His name, it was us that were in error if they did not happen, not the word of God.
He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
‘ This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me, and in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’.....
......He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand:
There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man.
If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!”
When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable.
So He said to them, “Are you thus without understanding also?
Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?”
And He said, “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man.
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
This simple faith was possible because the Evangelical church in Spain was also in it's infancy. America, who send the most missionaries into the world, had largely ignored Spain with the exception of the Mormons, who seem to have their austerely dressed 'Elders' (who all look to be too young to order a drink, even if they would never dream of doing such a terrible thing) on every street. marching purposefully in pairs looking for more Latter Day Saints to join their crusade.
Thankfully trying to persuade the Spaniards that alcohol, coffee and cigarettes are a sin is a virtual impossibility, especially when their native Catholic church accept all three 'vices' as normal for believers to partake.
Indeed, there are no verses in the bible that condemn the practices in moderation, so why should they desist when alcohol, coffee and cigarettes form a large part of the social life of families?
Spain adopted the normal 'no smoking' rules a couple of years ago, but made a ruling that premises less than 100 m2 were exempt from the regulation and could choose to be either smoking or non smoking.
Now the average bar owner here has a shrewd idea of who buys his product, and thats a middle aged man, who smokes, drinks and eats tapa's whilst playing dominoes or cards at the corner table with his mates, all the time keeping a watchful eye for when Barca or Real Madirid score a goal, when the air will be punctuated by a chorus of men shouting Goooooooaaaaaaaalllllllllllll at the top of their voices.
This may be different in Madrid, and indeed the bars there may be populated by the local intelligentsia who gather to savor their fine wines and dry sherries in a smoke free environment, but in Andalucia, smokers rule, so most bars chose to keep the doors open and the till ringing by being smoking friendly bars, some, who were larger than 100 m2 closed off sections or added more cigarette machines to reduce their footprint and get under the proscribed limit for freedom of choice.
Spaniards will agree to any law you want to make, they just are not very good at complying with them, and conversely are very good at finding out the loopholes that allow them to do as they wish.
Now, in the flush of prestige that accompanies the country becoming the lead country by holding the Presidency of the EU for six months (starting Jan 2010) Spain intends to push through legislation that will ban smoking in ALL public areas, and a third of bars expect to have to close the doors, for smoking and drinking goes hand in hand.
The irony is that it will be the 'liberal' socialist governments that will have banned smoking, making millions of people not just social pariahs, but criminals also, if they carry on smoking in any public place.
Now this was not the hub to discuss the lunacy of smoking laws, but we are here now, so lets look at them a bit.
Supposedly the reasoning is that stopping smoking will reduce the death rate from smoking and save resources for the health services.
Unfortunately smokers pay more in taxation than they cost in health expenditur, so if the smokers stop smoking, and therefore no longer pay the high taxation attached to smoking, the health service will suffer a nett loss of revenue.
Another reason is to stop smokers dying of lung cancer, however the statistic states that smokers have a 25% chance of dying from cancer, which raises another question, why do the 75% who don't smoke get cancer then?
I mean statistically you are safer smoking, for the latest scientific evidence (so it must be true) tells us that 33% of ALL people will suffer from cancer, so again statistically you are better off smoking, because your danger level drops to 25%.
Like I am keen to say, Spain is different and it will be interesting to see whether the police will enforce this non smoking rule if and when it is introduced, for most policemen smoke /and drink) making them more 'simpatico' to exercising common sense and turning a blind eye.
There is also the fact that fortunately here in Andalucia we have plenty of outside terraces to sit upon, where the draconian legislation will be exempted from, so bars will simply empty their clients outside and continue as normal.
Now having said all that, I don't smoke, but I do believe that when the state imposes minimum intervention on citizens (who (in reality) employ the politicians to manage their affairs) things run better and we all enjoy life a mite more.
Lets face it, if non smokers were a major market force seeking a smoke free environment to enjoy a drink in, there would be millions of bar owners willing to accommodate them.
The whole thing is an exercise in nanny state control training, and if people accept nonsense like this, the next thing will be telling you what dustbins you can use on which days...... whoops, wait a minute they already do that in the UK... so you can see what I mean.
Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on.
Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.
Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?
And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?
Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?
“And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind.
For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things.
But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.
My son, who is just back for a flying visit from New York, where he works for a Christian ministry helping children from dysfunctional families, tell me I would be far too liberal for American believers, and I guess from my limited knowledge of them, he is correct.
But I started of stating that the Evangelical church in Spain was in it's infancy, when I came to faith, and frankly the numbers of believers speaking English here were not very interesting to the main stream religious franchises that sought richer pickings, after all who wants to open a church that costs you money to run?
So our Evangelical church structure here was short on all the normal trappings that being indoctrinated into a large denomination imposes on a baby church.
As members of the AoG we in theory had an administration over us in Madrid, but it was the Spanish AoG who ran that and were responsible for us 'extranjeros' (literally strangers, meaning foreigners) who they did not understand anyway and who in any case acted differently from their Spanish congregations, who all came out of Catholic church backgrounds.
So for as long as we sent whatever 'tithe' (or franchise fee) they required, we were left alone to develop on our own.
So when I presumed that simply because the bible, and specifically Jesus told us that certain things were within our remit by faith, it was not stomped on in the same way as a more established denomination may have done, one which had given up on believing that miracles still happened, or that Christ could set you free from (say) alcoholism.
You see it seemed bizarre to me that a church that read scripture out to it's members concerning Christ raising folk from the dead, could then limit the same faith from not being capable of dealing with alcohol... if you can raise the dead, you can defeat the demon drink.
If you believe alcoholics are a gene short, or suffering a disease, then look towards deliverance and healing, because I see them in scripture, but I cannot see any twelve step programs with a higher power.
My faith deals directly with the HIGHEST POWER, why settle for anything less?
So my son reckons, after exposure to American traditional Christian teaching, that I am a liberal, and maybe I am, but I am a liberal who subscribes 100% to the teachings of Christ and will broach no bending of the scripture to fit what I want, but seeks to bend my life into the scriptures that I believe control what I should do..... and that's what's strange, because to the Christian right I am liberal heretic, yet to the secular world I am a fundamentalist right wing Christian.
Obviously neither side read the same bible that I do.