The faith of the people we encountered was very strong. It was evident in the worship services and the Bible study I conducted (for 500 people) that the Christians in Cuba take their faith very seriously. The entire team remarked on this when new were able to sit together to talk about the things we saw and heard each day.
As I step back to think about it, I believe there is a reason they seem to be more passionate about their faith and worship than we do—I believe it has to do with their needs. With an average salary of $30 a month and meager subsidies from the government, it is natural to be more dependent on God. This has been true of Christianity from the beginning. Those who seemed to have the deepest faith are the ones who had very little or next to nothing in the way of material goods. In their poverty—maybe even in their desperation—faith in God was the oasis in the desert and the place where one could have hope.
What I’m about to say may sting, but in the United States where mainline churches are struggling to survive against an increasingly secular culture, and in Europe where the worship attendance now hovers around 6%, the factor listed above for Cuba, namely need, isn’t felt here in the same way. To put it another way, most of us are blessed to meet our own needs. The level of poverty here is very small compared to Cuba and other places like it. And because we feel confident to meet our own needs, we feel less compelled to lean on God. People like us have the power to manufacture our own hope.
Please don’t take this as “America bashing”. It isn’t. It is merely an observation of how faith in God is lived out in two, very different places. I tend to believe that when God equips certain people or nations like us that we have a unique responsibility to reach out and help. We have been blessed in order to become a blessing to others. Our peculiar sin isn’t found in the fact that we have things. Our peculiar sin is that we have allowed the “things” to control us—the quest for them.
I think the old story of Samson is instructive for us. Samson was undeniably a person of great strength—whose strength came from the Lord. Only when he forgot and allowed another to “steal” his strength (by cutting his hair) did he recognize his failure. To press the analogy, our “hair” might just be our wealth. Only when we recognize it as a gift from God and meant to be shared is it sanctified. And only then can we share our Cuban friends' recognition of our own dependence on God.
It’s certainly worth pondering.