Still, I have a great appreciation for the good work done by people of faith, and up until today have not felt the urge to cry out, "Oh, come ON!" at the Monday-morning devotionals at my new workplace. In a country this religious, I feel like I'm participating in the culture by attending the devotionals, and I usually find them quite sweet sessions that bond my co-workers in a much more meaningful way than a garden-variety staff meeting ever could.
But today, something got to me. The topic was harmless enough - a reflection on God as artist - but I found myself squirming at the heartfelt statements of my co-workers as they talked about their faith. Perhaps it's because my cousin died yesterday, too young and too soon. More likely it's because I'm living in a country that has such deep faith in the face of intense problems that are very much man-made.
Moments before the devotional started, I was talking to my boss about a doctor in Santa Rita - a few kilometres down the road from Copan - who was kidnapped last week and hasn't been seen since. Rumour has it that one of his young kidnappers was killed shortly after, as can happen when stupid young boys keep the company of some of the very dangerous men who do dark business in Honduras.
Nobody at my workplace was particularly surprised by either crime. Murder and mayhem is something that touches virtually every Honduran family sooner or later. There's an astounding 19 murders a day here, in a country with a quarter of the population of Canada. And that's not even counting all the robberies, assaults, kidnappings and freaky accidents that routinely happen to Hondurans - from the old guy killed when a load of plastic pipe fell off a truck and knocked him to the ground, to the toddler that drowned in the pila where her mother does the laundry
And yet they have faith. They go to church three or four times a week. They thank God at every opportunity for whatever small thing is going right in their lives. They shrug off the sheer madness of this place as being "God's will," and carry on.
But if this is God's will, how do you explain a place like Canada? I come from a country where churches are closing for lack of a congregation and the number of secular citizens easily outnumbers the religious ones, and yet things are going pretty good there. What kind of God would give a good life to those who don't believe in Him, while endlessly punishing those whose devotion is absolute?
Violent crimes have been decreasing for years in Canada. Murder is a rarity. No Canadian hotel clerk ever has to fear that she will go to a guest's room to shush a noisy party and find so many armed men in the room that all she can do is back out quickly and forget the whole thing, which happened this very weekend here in Copan. (And let me assure you, calling the police is not really an option here.)
I get that faith brings comfort to people living in difficult times. Hondurans need God because life here on Earth is cruel and harsh for so many of them, and if you couldn't believe that things were going to improve in the afterlife you'd probably go crazy.
But maybe a little more crazy is in order right about now. All of this violence isn't God's will, it's just what happens when the rule of law is completely negated, the tentacles of the massive cocaine industry seep into all facets of life, and a government is too weak and compromised to act. Violence has been normalized in Honduras, and it seems to me that accepting that as God's will is virtually a guarantee that nothing will improve for people here.
Matthew 18:21-22: Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times."
Even Jesus had a line in the sand. For the sake of this country, I pray for a little fury amid all that faith.