When I visited Cuba three and a half years ago, I observed up close, for the first time, what a closed society looks like. Where there is no freedom of press, where all the news and billboards were nothing but propaganda. Though the United States does not always live up to her ideals, it was discouraging to see that the people of Cuba couldn’t see what’s “really” going on.
What particularly struck me was how the government portrayed the American government, and particularly the American embargo. I’d venture a guess that, apart from Cuban-Americans, most Americans don’t give the Cuban embargo much thought. But the Castro brothers want Cubans to know about the embargo, and want them to believe that the reason their conditions are so deplorable is because the Americans are the ones who are holding out on them.
There were billboards all over the country equating each day of the embargo with the amount of pencils for school children or city buses that could be purchased if the embargo were lifted. The ad campaign was compelling, well done in fact. But it made me so angry. You’re not telling them the whole story! I thought. It’s the leadership’s fault that the people are suffering.
But it also made me sick over my own country’s handling of the situation. I had strongly disagreed with the embargo against Cuba for a long time, and visiting Cuba on a mission trip (yes, I went legally) only strengthened my resolve. Doesn’t America get it? By enforcing the embargo, they are allowing the Cuban government to make such claims. If the embargo were lifted, who would the state blame the suffering of their people on? The embargo amplifies the problem, it doesn’t solve it.
This may seem a random, out of the blue post. But it’s not. As part of a desire to become more involved in service (I’ll explain a little more in my intentions for 2012 post), I started reading Welfare Ministry. Last night, I came across this passage:
When men who have been abundantly blessed of Heaven with large wealth fail to carry out God’s design, and do not relieve the poor and the oppressed, the Lord is displeased and will surely visit them. They have no excuse for withholding from their neighbors the help that God has put it into their power to provide; and God is dishonored, His character is misinterpreted by Satan, and He is represented as a stern judge who causes suffering to come upon the creatures He has made. This misrepresentation of God’s character is made to appear as truth, and thus through the temptation of the enemy men’s hearts are hardened against God. Satan charges upon God the very evil he himself has caused men to commit by withholding their means from the suffering. He attributes to God his own characteristics. p. 16
I was going to bold the parts that I thought important–until I realized I was basically bolding the entire quote.
Just as the Castro brothers and their regime can misrepresent the character of America and our government because of the embargo (withholding of our vast resources), we as individuals, when we claim to be Christians but then withhold from the needy, allow Satan to misrepresent the character of God. The Cuban government’s goal is to keep the Cuban people from softening their hearts toward America, and the same is true of Satan and the people on this earth. The very attributes the Cuban government has (depriving its people), it attributes to the United States. The very attributes Satan has, He attributes to God.
No wonder there is so much confusion in Cuba–and the world.
As I’ve seen dictators tumble across the globe over the last year, my heart has ached that I would see revolution in Cuba as well. The people need to have a true understanding of what freedom is. Will ending the embargo help this? Yes, I think so.
More importantly, though, God’s character has been misrepresented by an evil dictator. This dictator knows his time is limited. It’s time for us to stop playing into his lies by ignoring the needs of the world around us. We must become active in loving service to the world in need so that it can see a more accurate reflection of the character of God, so they too can have a true understanding of freedom. Let’s work to lift the embargo of suffering from this earth.