This morning, after my prayer time, I turned on the local news broadcast. I learned some interesting things. First, today (June 24th) is Saint John's Day. Now, you would think that this meant that folks would be excited over the life of John, the Beloved Disciple. He was the one who sat next to Jesus, leaning against him during the Lord's last Passover celebration with the disciples. He was the one who, led by the Holy Spirit, penned simply and powerfully those words that have changed perhaps billions of lives.
The celebration in this part of South America, however, is different. The celebration I saw on TV was the clearest evidence of a successful blend of a form of Christianity and folk religions from both the jungle and the mountains of Peru. Scantily-clad young ladies representing jungle worship gyrated to music, while pythons slithered and slid over their arms and shoulders. To their right, and just behind them, sat six witchdoctors with their potions laid out, calling on their gods. Beyond them were others, vigourously shaking their bottles of beer, spraying one another, and dancing to different kinds of music blaring in the background. It was a cacophony of sounds, none of which had anything to do with John or Jesus, or the true God.
But that is life in this particular form of Christianity. One of their religious leaders once told me that they discovered that, so long as they allowed the locals to incorporate the former gods into the worship, all would be well. So he allowed men and women to worship the sun, the mountain gods, the wind, the moon, and other animistic things. It is not uncommon for a statue of some saint being paraded through the streets to have inside of it the figurine of some local deity. Often, once the local religious leader leaves a mountain church, a witchdoctor will enter the same building to hold his religious services.
"Horrible!," you cry. You turn your head in disgust. And so you should. But before you lift another stone, consider your own ways. What have you added to Jesus that does not belong? I went to a local church in the southern United States not long ago who had to cancel services so that the members could spend the entire day in the cemetary. It's called Decoration Day. I know of churches whose age-old traditions carry more value than the written, clear word of God; is that god any different than those of the mountain religions? If something stands taller than God, it's too big. If something moves you more than God, it's in the way.
It's this kind of blended worship that makes God sick. And you thought I was going to speak of hymns and praise songs...! Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength!