How did Gerson Mercadal Enter Apologetics and What are Current Challenges for Christianity in Spain?

@Gerson_Mercadal Thank you for taking the time to answer questions this week. I have a couple to start:

  1. What prompted you to enter the world of apologetics after earning your degree in building engineering?
  2. What are the top three challenges for Christianity in Spain right now?
5 Likes

Hello Brendan! Thank you for question! I think that my first encounters with apologetics were not as something I was aspiring to do, but as something I desperately needed to hear. While I grew up in a Christian family, and as part of a church, my faith was very shallow. I don’t think I realised I needed answers (I definitely hadn’t heard the term “apologetics”, and I wouldn’t do for years), but Christianity remained little more than a social interest with not much to offer. Discovering that I could ask questions, that there were answers, but more than that, that the gospel was credible and relevant changed my life. Ultimately, faith went from being a little tale to being the story of reality, with a personal God underneath all that I could meet personally. A lot of these developed in my years at university, and so when I finished I spent some years trying to help students think through these questions and considering who Jesus is and what he means for our lives. It’s now been 7 years since I graduated university and, much to my joy, I am still doing the same (not only for students, although it is always a highlight to go back to a campus!).

Some of the biggest challenges for Christianity in Spain might be:

– Fresh memories of religion at its worst, siding with political extremes and sending an overall picture of religion as a control system that favours certain people.
– As a reaction to the aforementioned, actual belief in and commitment to God is very rare. While this is normal around the globe, the evangelical church is very small and badly resourced. Christians often grow up with a sense of isolation and defeat.
– Students don’t move out of their parents’ homes until later in live. It is therefore harder to see big opportunities to rethink who you are. Churches can be possessive and afraid of losing their members. This often results in a lack of unity.

4 Likes

Gerson, thank you for your enlightening response. Your story is very interesting. I am curious to find out more about your concerns about Christianity in Spain. You mentioned “fresh memories of religion at its worst” and churches that are too controlling and “possessive.” Can you expand on this without creating difficulties for yourself or people with whom you work?

Hey Brendan! Thank you for your sensible reply. It’s not a problem to be more specific. I was thinking about the 40 year long dictatorship of Francisco Franco during the XX century, until 1975 when he passed. It wouldn’t be as simple as this, but in general terms, Franco took power by force during and through a civil war that started in 1936. All throughout his regime, he was closely associated with the Catholic church. It is of course very hard to establish to what extent one could genuinely speak of the catholic church in Spain (hard as it is to speak of collectives) willingly siding with Franco, but that is what it appeared as and what everyone experienced. So, for 40 years, at least, it was hard to separate the catholic church from a far-right political perspective. Even today these can get easily mixed here. Again, I want to emphasise I am not saying that every single member of the catholic church would have support Franco, but the institution, as a whole, was behind him. How much they would have resisted, or wanted to, it’s hard to clarify. In any case, my point wasn’t necessarily to say that the catholic church had messed things up, but to say that that is the impression that people has.

And so, even to this day, Christianity is often associated with a narrow political view, often mixed with nationalist or political reasonings. And I can understand why people may think that. My parents’ generation grew up being forced to sing and pray in schools. And so my generation grew up educated by parents and teachers who had experienced the evils of religion being abused.

I often say that it is a shame that people often think about Christianity in terms of what they think Christianity is against, instead of thinking what Christianity is in favour of. This phenomenon probably has mixed reasons, including failures from christians. In any case, I hope and pray for the day when people can think of Christians as people who are primarily for rather than against specific things.
This is very necessary in Spain, partly due to its history.

2 Likes

Gerson, thank you very much for your detailed history. You have helped me to understand the historical context much better. The lessons from Spain’s history apply all over the world. I will ponder these matters and possibly ask you more questions later this week as long as you are open to them.

1 Like

Gerson, I have done some pondering, and I have a couple more questions:

  • I am concerned about political divisions that I see within American Christianity. We do not have a national church, of course, like Anglicanism in England or historical Spanish Catholicism; but we have liberal and conservative branches. I see a lot of hurtful rhetoric. People like me are caught in between these two poles. What have you seen from across the Atlantic? Can you give some insight about how Europeans view American Christianity and how this may affect their views about Christianity as a whole?
  • What Biblical words of comfort have you found that sustain you in your work?