Monday, November 28, 2005

Dispatch From Geneva

First things first ... why did the French decide that they needed a different keyboard from Americans? What is wrong with the one we use? (I would add a few exclamation points here for effect, but I cannot find them ... ok, and I cannot find the apostrophe key either, so no contractions ...)

I had almost forgotten what it is like to be cold, but the gently falling Swiss snow has reminded me. I am in Geneva to attend a meeting of Francophone Methodists who are discussing the future of theological education. This is incredibly important to me and the pastors of Cameroon. We are not only waiting to ordain pastors, but we also want to train lay preachers and pastors.

The meetings dont start until Wednesday, leaving me with a few days to walk the town and look at the Christmas decorations. Fortunately, I have already done most of our Christmas shopping. I read in todays paper that the Swiss voted over the weekend to repeal their blue laws. In a vote of only 50.4% to 49.6%, they decided to let stores and businesses open on Sundays.

Personally, this is not a huge issue for me, and never has been. But I am slightly sad because this is just one more nail in the coffin for European Christianity. I am sure that the Reformers are rolling in their graves today to see what Geneva has become -- not an evil, degenerate, or pagan society, but one that simply just has moved beyond Christianity. The Church is almost entirely irrelevant anymore.

I noticed that the Catholic Church received some press over the weekend, but only because of their position on homosexuality, not because of anything vital they have done or are doing.

Yet this is the place where the Reformation flourished, the place where the Bible was reborn and popularized, the cauldron of Protestant faith and thought. I refuse to completely canonize the Reformers, because they were, after all, flawed human beings like us all. Calvin was not above burning so-called heretics at the stake, and Luther had a mean anti-Semitic streak. Human rights advocates, they were not.

But one can argue that the Reformation did lay the ideological foundation for the birth of human rights, as well as the Protestant hallmarks of Scriptural integrity, the priesthood of all believers, and the primacy of grace over works. These are things that are still vitally important for the modern Christian.

And much of it was born here, among the people of Geneva, who believed a simple Protestant faith. In the future, however, they are going to be shopping on Sundays.