Emperor Charles 1 of Spain leaning on William of Orange

Spain still needs a reformation …

how Spain is different from the rest of Europe

Living in Spain for a while I start realizing how different Spain is from the rest of europe. At least from the part of europe I am from. Dutch people are even reminded of that when they sing their national anthem. A part of the histories of the Netherlands and Spain are common. But the way the countries evolved from that point was so different. Spain always was, and in a way still is fighting against the rest of Europe. Both religiously and politically. But I think it is this same freedom that creates a void, an empty spot. A whole in the heart that only Jesus can fill. Lets pray for a revival among Spaniards. They need it…

a while ago I had to present a short presentation as a part of an exam in level B2 in the Spanish language. I started looking for a theme to talk about. It had just been 31th of October; the reformation day. I had visited a congress where a number of Spanish leaders and theology professors talked about the reformation and its impact. In this same period the government of Spain had finally formed a government after 3 elections and a complicated process of negotiations. It dawned om me how the Netherlands and Germany where actually a Spanish ruled territory by the time of the reformation. All ruled by the powerful emperor Charles 5th (Rey Carlos 1 for Spaniard). During the congress one professor talked about some revolutions that occurred in Europe between the 16th and 20th century. The reformation where freedom of religion was fought for. Than the French revolution where the monarchies where replaced by republics and freedom in thinking was one of the main values. Where churches marginalized and countries where ruled by all people of the country (democracy). In the 19th century the industrialization brought that farming was replaced by factories and trade as a countries main income. After talking about this for an hour he said one short sentence that amazed me. “all of this never really had much impact in Spain”.

It became clear to me how different Spain is from the rest of Europe. The first difference is the multi party government which has started ruling Spain for the first time ever in November 2016. From the second world war until 1975 we had ‘generalissimo Franco’ as a monarch of the country (however he was more like a dictator). After Franco died in ’75 eventually 2 political parties arose. The government was always formed by one and the other filled the rest of the seats of the parliament. This years process of 3 elections was the first time for Spain that a political party was not able to reach absolute majority and the 4 major parties (and some small ones) where fighting for their place in the government.

Most strikingly the reformation and the French revolution did not have any real impact in Spain. Until the early 1970ś General Franco forced people to be Catholic. It is said that the police would visit the people that did not show up at the mass. There was no alternative, either dead or Catholic. Yes, there always where some protestant churches in Spain. Praise the Lord, He always had his remnant in Spain. Protestants where declared a sect and dangerous, and persecuted actively. And this not only happened during th reign of Franco but all the way back to the 15th century when Protestantism was born. In 1542 pope Paul 3th established the auto-da-fé or act-of-faith. A way of publicly punishing heretics, apostates, or anybody they wanted to get rid of. That’s when they actively ‘punished’ all heretics like protestants, Jews, Muslims, witches, on burning stakes or using other rather horrifying ways.

In the Netherlands our national anthem reminds us on this time. The ‘wilhelmus’, as it is called, was probably written between 1568 and 1572 in the early years of the 80 years war between The Netherlands and Spain. As the anthem talks about serving the Spanish crown it shows that for the Dutch people the Spanish King in itself apparently was not the problem. It was the Inquisition that the Duke of Alva brought from Spain after the revolt against the Catholics by dutch citizen. The Spanish King Philip 2nd was setting up a system of inquisition to defeat the protestants. The Dutch people revolted and destroyed a lot of Catholic churches, art and statues during the ‘beeldenstorm’ in 1566. The revolt started a war and eventually lasted 80 years of more and less intensive warfare. In effect this was a war against the inquisition, not against Spain in itself.

Where Protestantism started off in western and northern Europe and eventually spread over the world, Spain remained largely Catholic. Until today many people see Protestantism as a sect much like Jehovah’s witnesses and Mormons. This is the reason why almost all protestant churches are called ‘Evangelico’ in Spain (there are some exceptions). This is also why many people have enough of what they know of as ‘church’. They do not want more of this corruptible, money seeking, power abusive institute. Statistics say the Spanish protestant church is not more than 1% of the population, and consists of 50-80% non-Spaniards. Even though after the death of Franco and the establishment of democracy the freedom kicked in. Freedom is celebrated in such extreme that everything seems to be possible and religion is something from the past.

But I think it is this same freedom that creates a void, an empty spot. A whole in the heart that only Jesus can fill. Lets pray for a revival among Spaniards. They need it…

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