It’s interesting here in Romania. If the way Separation of Church and State is in Romania in the States then there would be lawsuits flying left and right on an hourly basis. Ha!
It’s kind of funny, actually. Just how different it is. For instance, having separation of church and state isn’t a priority here. I know, shocker huh? It doesn’t exist, really. Why? Because almost everyone in Romania claims the same religious background : Eastern Orthodox. When you have a majority, such as it is here, then there is no need to create a separation. The rest of the people here are Roman Catholic, Baptist and then Pentecostal. There are a smattering of Jews and Muslims as well as a few non-denominational churches (such as the one I attend in Oradea, Centrul Crestin Salem.) The sad part is, claiming Eastern Orthodox as your faith is about the same as claiming your cultural background. It does have importance and does have an impact on, some, ways you act and think. But your cultural background isn’t what leads you through a day. It can’t save you, can’t forgive you, can’t love you.
Okay, so I’m American. That’s my cultural background. I tend to think that most things are possible and don’t get bothered when others do things in different ways. No way is right, no way is wrong. Try to tell me that something has to be done a certain way “just because it’s always been done that way” well, I’m going to get ticked off. 🙂 If I want to laugh or talk loud in public places, I do. If I want to put fruit salad on my plate along with my meat and potatoes, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I think box cake mixes and jar frosting is GOOD and nor do I think I’m lazy and fat for buying and using them instead of making my own. And, I am not ashamed to say that buying crushed oreos in a box can – sometimes – make life a little easier when you need to make an oreo pie crust. And, when I buy them I don’t feel like it’s a waste of resources for the product to be created. I enjoy fast food – some of it at least – especially Taco Bell and Wendys. (The rest I could honestly do without. ) I am American. These things above, sorry everyone who hasn’t lived in another country for an extended period of time, are some of the things that make us stereotypical Americans. Just take my word for it. There are TONS of other things that are stereotypes as well but I’m just staying on the surface for the moment to make a point, okay? Plus, maybe some of you would feel offended if I went into them. I certainly did my first few years here and it still can get sensitive at times. Okay, getting off subject. SO.
What I’m trying to say is that most people in Marghita only care about their religion when culture brings it about face. Easter, Christmas, Funerals, Weddings etc… Getting the picture? We have 9 churches, off the top of my head and including the Jehovah’s Witnesses, in Marghita. There are what…20,000 people who call Marghita home? Only 1 church is Eastern Orthodox, 1 Roman Catholic, 1 Greek Roman Orthodox, 2 Pentacostal, 1 Baptist, 1 Home Church, 1 Jehovah’s Witness, 1 Latter Days. I might have missed some…just trying to vizualize the streets of Marghita in my head and which churches I see there 🙂 One of the churches above isn’t even done being built, so no services are held, and another is a very small house church. Bringing your faith to even a weekly level isn’t even thought of – or else these churches would be busting at their seams which, they aren’t.
There is one time per year when the E.O. church literally cannot hold all of it’s once a year members : Easter. They hold an all night Easter service and people fill the streets because they cannot fit inside. It’s culture time, so they show up.
Back to separation of Church and State. Sorry, got off topic for the moment. At the beginning of the school year some of our children’s kindergartens and schools gave questionaires to the parents.
They asked : Which religion are you? Eastern Orthodox. Roman Catholic. Baptist.
That was it. Can you believe that? I laughed when I heard it – for various reasons. Won’t go into them now. But the deal is…I mean can you just visualize what would be the response if that was handed out in the States to elementary school aged children with just those 3 options? Kind of funny if you think about it. There would be some serious drama for that!
Then today. Which, is the reason why I was thinking about all of this to begin with this morning. Caleb’s teacher pulled me aside and said that tomorrow all of the children would be going to the Roman Catholic church for a visit.
Okay, so, why are they visiting that particular church? To learn about Easter she said.
(Now, because I remember this happening with some of our children last year I then asked….)
Are they going to be served communion?
I don’t know, she said. If they give them something to eat then they’ll eat it. If they don’t, then we don’t eat. If you don’t want Caleb to take the Communion then he can stay seated and doesn’t need to go forward.
Interesting, isn’t it? I don’t mind Caleb visiting another church, not at all. But Catholicism does have some significant differences in regards to what “I” believe about Christ and communion. So for a visit, I’m totally okay with that. But to “learn about Easter and take communion.” Now, that’s another story. What are they going to teach him about Easter? Is it true Biblically what they will teach the kids? What are they going to say and explain about the significance of the Lord’s Supper? Is it what I explain to Caleb each Sunday that we take it together? Or, are they going to present ideas that I don’t agree with based on what I believe the Bible says about it? How much of an effect will this experience have on Caleb and his thoughts as he grows older. I am a FIRM believer that experiences when we are young have a major impact when we are older. This may seem silly that I am analyzing this field trip planned for tomorrow so much. But this is the same thing that I do with every situation my son is exposed to. Every movie, television show, song, trip to Popesti etc… everything I pray about and ask God if this is what He is desiring for Caleb to be in or not. Caleb is by NO MEANS in a bubble, trust me. He is exposed to more bad behavior and examples than I think any child should be. Unfortunately I don’t have a say in some of those due to educational laws here. I think it’s healthy that he goes to Popesti, I really do. The repeating of the swear words he hears, I could do without, ha! But once I explain to him why he can’t use those words, and what the consequences will be for him at school and home if he does…well, he generally doesn’t use them after that. We visit extremely impoverished families and he, on a weekly basis, is around children with severe emotional and physical disabilities. He’s not in a bubble. When it comes, though, to what Caleb thinks about Jesus. Well, it’s probably the most sensitive for me when it comes to exposure. We talk about other religions he and I and also talk a lot about the choices the Israelites made during their 40 years in the wilderness. It’s easier for him to see the choices they made to worship idols and other Gods and then make the comparison to other religions today. Does that make sense?
Alright, so, what I’m trying to say is this. I kind of almost wish that there was a bit of separation of Church and State here. Just a bit. Hold on just a second before biting my head off for saying that. I think the visit to the church is fine. It’s cool to see where other people worship Jesus. (I do think there are a lot of Catholics who have a personal relationship with Christ!) But I don’t think, without knowing ahead of time, them learning about Easter and then taking communion there is okay. Communion is too sacred and I’m not okay with their decision to do so with all of the kids without knowing what theology will be behind their explanations! (On a side note, all of the schools in Marghita do this same trip each Easter. Caleb’s teacher told me that this morning.) And, it’s not just that it’s the Catholic church. Wanted to make sure that I clarified that. If it was the Pentecostal or Baptist church I’d react in a similar fashion as well.
On the other side of the argument, I think it’s really cool that every student in Marghita is going to a church. That there is no separation of Church and State. They are going, at least one time this year, to learn something about Jesus and something about his SALVATION, cleansing blood and sacrificial, broken body. Who knows how God will use these visits to stir their souls? Could be very awesome!
I don’t know, just running some thoughts on this post. Hoping that you found it interesting taking a peek into a very different aspect of life here vs. the States. Anyone have any thoughts they’d like to add? Keep it friendly ( a favorite word I use with Caleb. Listen, playing with only 1 Lightening McQueen car and 2 boys can get dangerous at times!)