The Gospel in Mexico: Adaptation or Contextualisation with Said Andrés Herrera Hurtado (Margins 2 Mic: Season 2)

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What are the biggest challenges of spreading the gospel in Mexican society? And what problems do we see in Mexico today? The issues are connected with the lack of a good gospel message. We could ask, why is spreading the gospel still relevant in Mexico? People call themselves Christians: 80% of the population are Catholic, 10% Protestant, and the final 10% atheist, agnostic or of other religions. Is sharing of the gospel still important if 90% of the community claims to be part of the body of Christ? However in spite of this, corruption and gangsters remain widespread in Mexico. So why is the gospel not impacting Mexican society? Is the gospel ineffective in Mexico? It is ineffective because there is not a pure gospel.

So the problem can be seen in that though there are many people saying they know about Jesus, it hasn’t brought transformation. There is a big difference between knowing about the gospel and having a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Origins of the Problem

Mexico is made up of neither indigenous Americans nor Spanish people, but a people descended from both. The Spanish came to America and conquered what used to be an indigenous empire. And part of what they did was preach the gospel, bringing with them Spanish Catholicism. They adapted the gospel to the indigenous society: not contextualisation, but adaption.

Contextualisation vs Adaptation

Here are some examples of adapting the gospel to the indigenous society.

The indigenous people believed in many gods and were comfortable with this. This was a problem  for the Spanish people when they began preaching the gospel. The way that they resolved this issue was to substitute their many gods for many saints, with one more important god. This made a lot of sense to the indigenous people, for whom the problem was the idea of belief in one god. This is the first issue: in the Bible, you do not find that saints can help you become more godly. We are not Jesus Christ and are therefore not the mediator between God and man. So this was an adaptation of the gospel for this society.

The indigenous people also used to praise one goddess called ‘The Mother of Everything’. When the Spanish saw this, they sought to stop it. So they found another way to adapt the gospel. They made the Virgin Mary the ‘Mother of Everything’. So people continued to go and worship at the same mountain, and with much the same concept. The difference wasn’t felt: it was perceived as a new name for the same goddess. This was seen as a success by the Spanish since they were now worshipping Mary, who is connected to Jesus Christ, who is from God. But the indigenous people were not convinced that they were worshipping someone new. 

Protestant Reformation

The Protestant Reformation came to Mexico very late: 200 years after Europe. This was due to the traditional church holding a lot of power, and also because when Protestant immigrants arrived in the country they opened new churches for themselves, but not for the Mexican people. There was a second wave in the 19th century with missionaries coming from the USA who tried to share the gospel again. But the traditional church resisted them, killing some and neutralising their intentions to share the Protestant view of the gospel. Further attempts to spread the gospel in Mexico have seen both successes and failures. This delay in the impact of the Reformation makes sense of why Mexico is still struggling with many of the problems that Europe and the USA had 200 years ago. 

Symptoms of the Problems in Mexico

Corruption, gangsters and poverty are all connected to a bad understanding of the gospel. When the gospel really hits a society, the values of the gospel transform it. There is widespread poverty and inequality in Mexican society. There are very wealthy and very poor people. Mexico is next to the USA, the larger consumer of drugs in the world, and has a government which is very corrupt. This leads to problems. It produces gangsters, since of the course the poor do not want to be poor: this is not the way that people should be living. And the poor look at the government who are taking the money that should be for the Mexican society and this leads to insecurity and lack of faith. In a country where everyone believes in God but there is widespread insecurity, people wonder if they should put their faith in other places.

A corrupted society is not a gospel society, nor is an insecure society or a gangster community. This is why it is important and urgent to spread the gospel in Mexico again. Even though many people believe in the gospel, they do not understand it due to the way that it was preached and the way that it is lived. 

It is as though Mexico has been vaccinated with a poor version of the gospel. A vaccine is like a poor version of a virus, received in order that your body can understand the virus a little, but it is not the full strength version that really affects your body. If we compare this virus with the gospel, the gospel impacts (though in a positive way) and it is the full, powerful version. 

So it is like Mexico was was vaccinated with a poor version of the gospel, and people can say ‘I have had my gospel vaccine’, but the problem is that when they see the real gospel coming, their existing understanding causes them to reject the pure gospel.

We cannot reverse what has happened in Mexico, though it may be easier if nobody had ever heard about Jesus Christ and we had a blank page from which to spread the gospel as good news. But it is difficult when people already have a poor understanding of the gospel.

This is what is happening in Mexico: the origins, symptoms and problems we are facing. Like many countries, Mexico has big challenges in relation to the gospel, that only Jesus Christ through his church can transform. And it is necessary that this should transform all levels of society.