Fascinating conversation via IM with coworker:
[Liora]: How are you?
[Liora's Friend]: hey [Liora]!
[Liora's Friend]: Fine thanks, and you?
[Liora]: Having fun in warm, sunny, Mexico?
[Liora]: It's cold here....
[Liora's Friend]: yeah, yesterday the sun was hot
[Liora]: wow. sounds wonderful.
[Liora's Friend]: i was sleeping in the cab I took, because it was so warm
[Liora]: you took a cab?
[Liora's Friend]: yes, I went to show [Our Company's Software] to a professor of my old school
[Liora]: So people take cabs in Mexico City?
[Liora's Friend]: and because I was carrying my laptop, it was better to take a taxi
[Liora's Friend]: yes, why do you ask that?
[Liora]: we don't really take cabs in [our town]
[Liora]: Do you actually live in the city?
[Liora's Friend]: oh, safe cabs... that's another matter
[Liora]: Where do you live?
[Liora]: Apartment, house, etc... nice neighborhood, ok neighborhood...?
[Liora's Friend]: in Mexico City... I have my office in the middle of the city
[Liora]: did you rent an office?
[Liora's Friend]: and my apartment is a little bit in the peripheria of the city
[Liora]: so how do you get to work?
[Liora's Friend]: yes, I had to rent the office because I need a DSL internet service
[Liora's Friend]: and it's being implemented right now
[Liora]: Did the building you rented provide it?
[Liora's Friend]: I don't have a car here, so to got to work, I take two buses, and then the subway
[Liora's Friend]: but when I'm in rush, or I carry my laptop, I take cabs
[Liora]: Does it take a long time?
[Liora's Friend]: one hour
[Liora's Friend]: but it's really a lot of time... withouth traffic and in a car, it would take 20 minutes
[Liora]: so did you just get to work a little bit ago?
[Liora's Friend]: yes
[Liora]: Do people in Mexico City really take siestas?
[Liora's Friend]: no, that's only lazy spaniards
[Liora's Friend]: and fortunately, we didn't inherit that
[Liora]: everything I know about your culture is probably wrong....
[Liora]: Is there virtually no middle class - all either upper or lower?
[Liora's Friend]: there's actually a middle class... but it's small
[Liora's Friend]: small, compared to the middle class in the US
[Liora]: yeah.. here virtually everyone in [our town] counts as middle class
[Liora's Friend]: actually. I just read a book, that probably culd interest you
[Liora]: what book?
[Liora's Friend]: it's called "Distant Neighbors" by Alan Riding
[Liora]: about US and Mexico?
[Liora's Friend]: It's a book that describes mexican culture, economy, and its relationships with the US
[Liora's Friend]: it's very interesting and nice to read
[Liora]: cool. I might order it.
[Liora's Friend]: the author is an english/american journalist that spent a lot of time here
[Liora]: ahh. Did you know that the Vineyard church movement has planted a lot of Vineyards in Mexico?
[Liora's Friend]: and although he has an american vision of things all the time, he's very objetive
[Liora]: Ellen has been to visit the one our church sponsors
[Liora's Friend]: yeah I knew that
[Liora]: It's very hard to be objective about things like culture
[Liora]: and worldview
[Liora]: at least I find that it is.
[Liora's Friend]: and in the book, he mentions that at one point in the 1930's the government allowed that american religions tcome to Mexico
[Liora's Friend]: in order to end the catholic monopoly in mexico
[Liora's Friend]: that always has had a lot of political power
[Liora]: At least for the Vineyard, being a church in Mexico is way different than being one in the US
[Liora]: It's a lot more outreach/service to the poor oriented
[Liora]: One of our churches is actually in a garbage dump
[Liora]: inside of it - these people live in it and scavage it and look for food in it and build shacks and stuff
[Liora's Friend]: yesterday, I was thinking about the differences in how mexicans and americans perceive religion
[Liora's Friend]: wow
[Liora]: what observations did you make?
[Liora]: Oh, about that Vineyard - our church spends 20% of its money on missions, and one of the things we do is feed the children in the dump
[Liora's Friend]: that's good
[Liora]: What did you come up with about Mexican's and American's perceptions about religion?
[Liora's Friend]: For mexicans, religion is a mixture of aztec beliefs (gods demanding sacrifice all the time) and catholic beliefs
[Liora's Friend]: so, for mexicans, religion is more an obligation, having fear of God most of the time
[Liora]: yeah. in Brazil, missionaries call something sort of similar (the Brazilian equivalent) Pagan Catholicism.
[Liora]: A lot of Americans also have that fear of God obligation thing going on
[Liora]: Usually they're Catholics or old-line denomination protestants
[Liora's Friend]: for Americans, it's more like an informal God, a God that laughs
[Liora]: Like Lutherans
[Liora]: yeah. I believe that God laughs.
[Liora]: The church in America is so fragmented that there's like a whole spectrum of attitudes. There's the stoic and somber German Lutheran church in the mid-west
[Liora's Friend]: I was thinking that for mexicans a God that allows laughing in church is sort of herecy (?), whereas for americans a God that demands sacrifice and respect is unthinkable
[Liora]: There's the California Casual Vineyard denomination.
[Liora]: Yeah. That's true of people in the Vineyard. But there's a whole series of totally devout Catholics (especially among the poor here) that have a similar problem with the Vineyard's theology - they would say that laughing in church is disrespectful.
[Liora]: The church that most of [our] Vineyard's pastors came from was VERY formal - no laughing, no smiling, women weren't even allowed to talk.
[Liora's Friend]: Maybe, but I also went to the Catholic church
[Liora's Friend]: and I was surprise of finding no connection with the catholic church in Mexico
[Liora]: This town is a pretty educated town, so I think that probably even bleeds into the Catholic church here.
[Liora]: Did you go to a contemporary service?
[Liora's Friend]: The priest there was joking there!!
[Liora's Friend]: I have no idea... There's no different services in catholic churches
[Liora]: Or did you go to a traditional one? Joking priest - sounds like a contemporary service. Catholics here have traditional Latin masses here too.
[Liora]: Serious affairs, they are.
[Liora]: With lots of standing and sitting and reciting things in Latin and standing and sitting.
[Liora's Friend]: but then it's the only country where catholic churches have contemporary services
[Liora]: well... Canada, but I'm not sure that counts.
[Liora's Friend]: Canada is very similar in culture to the US
[Liora]: Have you ever heard of Vatican II?
[Liora's Friend]: but I was with a Polish friend, and she was also very surprised of the priest joking
[Liora's Friend]: Vatican II???
[Liora's Friend]: no, I haven't heard about it
[Liora]: That's like a few years back, when the Catholic church decided they weren't relevantly reaching the culture anymore
[Liora]: So the Pope declared that churches can do what they want to reach people
[Liora]: and can even have different types of worship services
[Liora]: See, I think that the Pope believes in a God that laughs.
[Liora's Friend]: That's what I thought... Religion in the end mirror sthe relationships of the society
[Liora]: But I think the message of a loving forgiving God doesn't reach the population much anywhere.
[Liora]: so in the US the freedom to develop a contemporary service helped
[Liora]: I'm not sure it would help any in Mexico or any other culture, really....
[Liora's Friend]: Yeah, because relationships in Mexico are different
[Liora]: I think there they just need loving Christians (Especially loving Catholics) to help them out.
[Liora]: But let me ask you - would people still come to church in Mexico if they played mariachi at mass?
[Liora's Friend]: No, I don't think so
[Liora's Friend]: mariachi is to have fun... religion is to regret your sins
[Liora]: I think there they want to keep attendance up so bad that they don't want to accurately communicate the relevant information to people - sobriety is all good and well, but it doesn't really help people much.
[Liora]: Which I guess is a pretty serious decision to make - I wouldn't want to have to do it - good thing I'm not a bishop.
[Liora's Friend]: yeah...
[Liora]: Nah - religion isn't about regretting your sins. There's a place for it, but that's not what it's about. If you read the Bible, Jesus only talked a little about sins, and mostly talked about how you should act - loving and helping and healing people.
[Liora]: churches that turn a minor point into the major focus I think are missing the point completely - but that's just my opinion.
[Liora's Friend]: that's the way it is here... and that's the way it has been in Europe for a long time (and probably still is)... I don't believe in that anyway
[Liora's Friend]: Look. I'm not a catholic anymore... I dont like church here... but in the US, I felt like in a show
[Liora's Friend]: and I didn't like that
[Liora's Friend]: either
[Liora's Friend]: but that's only my opinion too
[Liora]: For a long time I felt like the 703 service was the [Pastor's Name] Show.
[Liora]: But then other people were more involved ([The pastor] got over his need to run everything), and I got over that feeling
[Liora]: But it's still sort of less like a sober service than a rock concert.
[Liora]: I've never been able to resolve a happy medium - either in real life at another church, or in my head.
[Liora]: The German Lutherans do about as good a job as there is I guess - they're all somber until the pastor says something funny, and then they laugh, but then when the laughing's done, it's right back to sobriety for them.
[Liora]: But it's sort of countered by the number of potlucks they have (every family brings a dish and they all share) after their services - lots of smiling and happiness and little kids running around to lighten everyone up
[Liora]: something about eating together makes for happy fellowship I guess.
[Liora's Friend]: I'm telling you, at the end religion is part of the culture, and then it mirrors the way people interact
[Liora's Friend]: Mexicans are sober in their relationships with people
[Liora]: Well, that might be true, but I'm not sure it's bad. (Mexicans are sober in their relationships with people?!? I was expecting them to be a little like the South Americans I know and love - happy, smiling, do anything they can to help sorts of people.)
[Liora]: Our church's main value is "To Extend the Truth, Love, and Power of Jesus Christ in a relevant way to today's society" or something like that.
[Liora's Friend]: We're fun when we're in parties... but in normal life, we are serious... Mexican society is a hierarchical one
[Liora]: Hmm... I never thought of it like that.
[Liora]: Yeah, we Americans are pretty informal - look at me, I'm wearing blue jeans today at work....
[Liora's Friend]: we are fun and similing, but mostly with people we know, and we have confidence in... but not with everybody, especially if we don't know them
[Liora]: Hmm. I think I smile and talk to just about anyone - it doesn't matter if I know them or not.
[Liora's Friend]: yeah, here I wear jeans and they call me "young man", but if I wear a suit, they call me "sir"
[Liora]: Here's a funny thought - I wonder if my personality type is more rare in Mexico because of that - society frowning upon people like me.
[Liora's Friend]: here you smile a guy you don't know, he will think you have a crush on him
[Liora]: eek. that's no good at all.
[Liora's Friend]: or something like that
[Liora's Friend]: once you know people here, then relationships are informal and fun (and mostly sincere)
[Liora]: Well, going back to what you were saying - I'm not sure that religion being culturally relevant is a negative thing at all.
[Liora's Friend]: in the US I never know if people like me or not, because all of them treat me well and smile to me
[Liora]: [Liora's Friend], everyone likes you, you dork.
[Liora's Friend]: no, I mean not in PW, but in parties, at the stores, with people I don't know
[Liora]: They do.
[Liora]: They may not want to become your next best friend, but they like talking to you.
[Liora]: You're an introvert, right?
[Liora's Friend]: when people here ask me about racial discrimination, I can't say anything for personal epxerience, because everybody everywhere treated me well
[Liora]: Then you were never discriminated against.
[Liora]: If you were, you'd know it.
[Liora]: People here are indeed capable of being rude.
[Liora's Friend]: I know
[Liora]: I can't even count the number of times I've been referred to as a "White haired bitch."
[Liora's Friend]: then I guess I was lucky, because I didn't have that kind of experience
[Liora's Friend]: never never in 3 years in the US
[Liora's Friend]: And I'm an introvert, yes, but it's also relationships here with people are different
[Liora]: Education breeds tolerance. Christianity breeds tolerance. In some ways, financial security breeds tolerance. What you have here in [our town] is a largely educated, Christian, middle class culture. Very very tolerant.
[Liora's Friend]: that's very true
[Liora]: If you'd gone to high school here it might have been different - there you would deal with people of all educational, financial, and cultural stratii.
[Liora]: Or if you had been in a different city.
[Liora's Friend]: yeah,that's true... I don't have broad references to distinguish social relationships in the US
[Liora's Friend]: the only reference I have is [our town]
[Liora]: well, even within [our town], if you had lived in certain neighborhoods, or met certain people, you would have had a broader social segment to consider.
[Liora]: In your volunteer work, were you mostly working with Mexican kids?
[Liora's Friend]: yeah
[Liora]: Because you were volunteering, I doubt they would have said anything, but if you had been with other kinds of kids, you would have noticed something for sure.
[Liora]: lower incomes tend to produce more people with definitive prejudices.
[Liora]: it's sad to say, but it's true.
[Liora]: But, if you get to the very very low end of the income spectrum, you find tolerance again.
[Liora]: America is made up of very odd people.
[Liora's Friend]: Yeah, and in any case I guess they would consider me as part of their social stratii
[Liora]: They did, I'm sure.
[Liora]: Well, I've got a ton of work to do.
[Liora]: I finally got the [something I needed for work], so now I have to [work on it]
[Liora]: This has been a very enlightening conversation.
[Liora's Friend]: ok... it was nice to talk to you... talk to you later
[Liora]: Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
[Liora]: later. Have fun today. don't work too hard.
[Liora's Friend]: thanks to you too