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Culture and country

"Culture and country" Continued...

Issue: "A warmer Chile," Nov. 9, 2002

U.S. influence is evident almost everywhere. In a downtown diner where meals are served a la pobre-one big course for the poor, with fried eggs and chicken jumbled together-the jukebox plays Led Zeppelin and the Backstreet Boys, and a waiter puts on a Spanish rendition of "The Little Drummer Boy." U.S. TV shows popular in Chile range from Battledome to Teletubbies, with Friends and WWF wrestling vying for prime positions alongside numerous subtitled U.S. movies. On the telephone, Chileans say "OK" to other Chileans.

Theological imports from the north are also challenging and changing traditional Chilean culture. Protestants, mostly Pentecostal, now make up one-fourth of the Chilean population, and in poor areas of Santiago and Valparaiso probably more people on Sunday can be found in Protestant churches than Roman Catholic ones. Catholics, facing competition, now sport praise choruses in their worship and more Bible studies in homes. Pastors of many denominations offer topical sermons about focusing on the future rather than the past, on working to glorify God rather than working only when absolutely essential, on practicing good stewardship rather than spending whatever is earned, on loving rich and poor rather than envying or despising them.

President Ricardo Lagos's center-leftist national government won a very close election two years ago and is already campaigning for the next one, in 2006. Official buildings and construction projects sport signs such as ASI CERCE DE CHILE 2002-2006 ("Chile grows up like this with you"). The government also banners its feminism with noncontroversial signs like MUJER: CONTIGO CHILE ES MEJOR ("Woman: with you Chile is better") and the partly true LA MUJER EL APOYO DE NUESTRA SOCIEDAD ("The woman is the foundation of our society"). Many conservative Chileans would emphasize that women and men together, forming families, are the foundation, and they point to the way that religious organizations are promoting community improvement apart from governmental direction.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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