Hal and I have spent these last two weeks in San Jose, Costa Rica. It’s been an intense time as we’ve helped facilitate the seminars that are a part of the Latin American Doctoral Program in Theology (PRODOLA).
The fellowship and camaraderie among our colleagues (both students and faculty) has become a highlight of these twice yearly experiences together. But another important aspect is the place of our encounters. This time it’s been Costa Rica, a small country bordered by two oceans—a place of beauty and tranquility.
Our time in San Jose just happened to coincide with national presidential elections. Having experienced this in Bolivia and, more recently, in the US, we were curious as to how this would be carried out in Costa Rica.
“Fascinating” seems like a weak word to describe the event. The week leading up to the actual day of voting (coinciding with our first week of intensive classes) bubbled over with colorful and noisy campaigning in the media and in the streets. Voting fell on the Sunday between our classes, and as we rode the bus to the Methodist Church were we worshipped that day, and later to the restaurant (chicharrón!), the bus driver had to skillfully weave in and out of the lines of cars in parade, all honking, party flags waving from the windows. We passed crowds gathered at all the public schools, where the actual voting took place. The whole atmosphere was one of fiesta—a huge public celebration!
(My Tico—ie., Costa Rican—friends tell me that about 70% of the population actually votes. That in itself is something worth celebrating.)
A certain detail out of the whole event caught my attention. One of the three presidential candidates ran with the political slogan of, “Vote por el menos malo,” referring to himself. A dynamic translation would be, “Vote for me, the lesser of three evils.” It became a joke among us, but our Tico companions seemed a bit embarrassed. Correcting governmental corruption was indeed an issue, but the cynicism of such a platform surprised me.
“El menos malo.” I guess there are situations where the way forward really seems to be the lesser of two evils. We don’t inhabit a perfect world, and circumstances of injustice, accident, illness or downright evil can force choices where either way we seem to lose.
Right now the Spirit is reminding me that God promises his children that, whatever situation we find ourselves in, God will work it out for the best, both for us and for the accomplishment of his missional purposes in the world (Ro. 8:28).
We don’t live by the rule of “el menos malo.”
Post script: “El menos malo” did not win. Costa Rica now has its first woman president, Laura Chinchilla.