Even though we’d already been in Wales a week and a half, I experienced culture shock upon our arrival at the Eisteddfod in Cardiff. Practically everyone spoke Welsh & all the signs were in Welsh (thankfully there were stick figures as well, but Dan doubted his stick figure interpretation skills after 2 girls walked in on him showering). I suppose all the Welsh shouldn’t be that surprising since the Eisteddfod is a festival that celebrates Welsh culture & language, except for the fact that 79% of the Welsh population don’t speak Welsh. But I’ll leave it to Ali G to properly introduce you to Wales:
At Y Gorlan, a cafe open 24-7 to provide spiritual & physical food to festival goers, we got to flip burgers, chat w/drunk students and “pimp my pot noodle.” We also got to explore Cardiff, one area of which totally reminded me of DC… until I spied a 2000 year old castle. We also went to a Cerys Matthews gig, where some drunk lads taught me an old Welsh hymn.
Spiritually, Wales is seeped in religious history and culture, but faith has little impact on daily living. All across Wales there are empty and dilapidated chapels, and those still open have only a handful of elderly attendees. The last big revivals in Wales took place in the early 1900s and to accommodate burgeoning congregations hundreds of chapels were built. But then a lack of discipleship, the devastation of WWI and the rise of secularization meant Christianity in Wales became more about morality and rules. And so, sick of legalism and hypocrisy, the teens of the 70s left church en masse, and few have returned.
Hearing this anaylsis from Rhys, our wonderful host, made me think of the situation in my home country. The large sector of Christians in the US concerned primarily with rules and a narrow spectrum of moral issues (since when were poverty and war no longer moral issues?) reminds me of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. I don’t see the postmodern generation buying into it, and I can’t say I blame them.