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Monday, December 20, 2010

CayHistory - Disappointed about Pirates

I've heard this said a bunch of times, but it was Karl Barth who first said Christians must "hold the Bible in one hand and a Newspaper in the other." Barth was speaking to the importance of Christians knowing the culture around them well enough to relate eternal truth to it. This is true anywhere and it is especially true for those of us who live in Cayman.

Called to Engage Culture

We are called to engage culture -- and in order to engage culture we must know & understand the history of the particular culture in which we live (there are some great discussions defining 'culture' elsewhere--but I'll leave that aside for now). This call to engage the culture around us is critical because (a) We love God & His Word in doing so; (b) we love our neighbor in doing so.

We love God because we honor & emulate the example set forth in His Word of relating the good news of the gospel to different people in different contexts. The Apostle Paul says as much in 1 Corinthians 9.

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews, I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside of the law I became as one outside of the law (myself not being outside of the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel (I Corinthians 9: 19-23).

I'm not the biggest fan of country music. But once being a Pastor of students in a Southern U.S. town, I at least had to grow familiar with country music beyond Garth Brooks & "Achey Breaky Heart." So I'd make a habit of checking country music pop charts, read an occasional article, and even put in a Brad Paisley & Rascal Flatts CDs. This is not a Country Music love story with a happy ending -- I still cringe when I hear the twang of a guitar-banjo-harmonica combination. But, for that time & place, to the Country Music Fan I needed to humble myself ("made myself a servant" Paul says) and become a country music to win a hearing and, ultimately, to win Fans to Christ.
We also love others by engaging with culture. A piece of advice people in my line of work are often given: "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." People know how much you care when you get to know them, where they live, their history.

Engaging with Cayman's History

Since arriving in January, I've attempted to ask questions of various pastors, leaders, 'old-timers' of Cayman in order to get to know its cultural history. Indeed, people have proved to be the greatest resource in this endeavor. However, you have to do both the social interaction and the hard work reading objective history to get a full picture.

Accordingly, I recently picked up the book Founded Upon the Seas: A History of the Cayman Islands and their People by Michael Craton. It's an exhaustive (500 pp.) but lively work. What I'd like to do over the next few months is regularly post re: a little tidbit of history...CayHistory -- whether merely interesting or immediately impactful for current life in Cayman.

This post especially goes out to those of us who are not originally from Cayman but currently live here. If you only plan on living here for 2-3 years, I recognize it's hard to get motivated to get to know & engage culture. But I'd encourage you to not make this season that God has prepared for you merely a blip on the radar or a fun fling -- rather, that God may use this time in your life to leave behind a spiritual lineage on this glorious island.

You can start by getting to know a bit of the history of Cayman, its culture, its people.
So without further ado......

Disappointed About Pirates

Everywhere you turn in Cayman, you can spot a Buccaneer statue, paraphernalia, or a person dressed up in the garb -- like this morning when I awoke to my son Mason dressed as a pirate, with the tip of plastic sword near an inch from my eye.

He received his pirate costume for Pirate's Week, which takes place each November. Pirate's Week is easily the most popular & attractive organized event we have here in Cayman. One of my favorite moments from the week was when a man, dressed as Blackbeard and emceeing a children's costume contest, stopped his playful 'avasting' to say, "You know kids, Pirates get a lot of flack for bad things they've done...but we don't talk about all the good things they did..." This made my Dad and I chuckle as this man went on to laud the positive effects of pirates on society (even my oldest son laughed).

But with all the fun & hype surrounding Pirates on this Caribbean Island, pirates had very little presence here during the golden age of pirating (1670-1730).

WHY? As Craton explains, there was simply not enough to plunder. You could only plunder other visiting ships, which were sporadic in frequency. "Unlike the Bahamas," writes Craton, "[Cayman] had no town where pirates could purchase provisions and supplies or spend their ill-gotten gains on riotous living."

Also, compared with the seven hundred islands of the Bahamas, the three Cayman Islands were too little and too close to Jamaica to offer easy hiding places, either for pirate ships or for ex-pirates seeking a life on shore.

Basically, pirates would make brief stop-offs to grab a bite of turtle to eat and for some wood with which to patch up their ships.

In other words, to Pirates, the Cayman Islands were the 7-Eleven of the Carribean. And that's a little disappointing.


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