A Night Of Miracles In Cancun

Derek Mexico 21 Comments


I’m not a religious person. At all.

In fact, even though I was raised Jewish, the closest I ever came to regular religious practice was shortly after my eleventh birthday when I decided to become Amish.

My parents had just taken my sister and I on a vacation to Pennsylvania and after spending three days in Amish country, I thought I had discovered my calling. About an hour after we returned home to Boston, I gathered the family together in the living room and declared my intention to wear suspenders, refrain from using the telephone and to one day obtain my own horse and carriage.

Of course, several hours later, when my father asked if I wanted to go out for ice cream, I decided that perhaps being Amish wasn’t exactly the path I was looking for.

My only other experiment with a religious life occurred the following year when, after two long days of careful consideration, I declared my intention to live a strictly kosher lifestyle. This one lasted for no more than twenty minutes, right until my mother explained that I would not be able to mix dairy and meat and therefore would have to forgo eating cheeseburgers for the rest of my life, which at the time sounded devastating.

These days I’ve now stopped declaring random religious intentions, but I haven’t stopped being curious about religion in general and its role in the world. There is no aspect of any religion that I would not be wholeheartedly interested in experiencing and this curiosity has led me to Sufi festivals in Lahore, Buddhist celebrations in the Himalayas, multiple tours of the Vatican as well as ceremonies of the B’hai faith, Hinduism, Cao Daism, Judaism, Sikhism and Scientology.

And at times I’ve found myself fascinated, intrigued and impressed by what I’ve seen and participated in and other times I’ve been disturbed, shocked and confused. But no matter what, I’ve appreciated every religious experience and found myself to have gained a greater understanding of a people, culture or country as a result.

AN UNFORGETTABLE SHOW

This past Saturday night I went to Cancun, one of the wildest party cities on the planet, and I joined the throngs of people piling into the 15,000 seat soccer stadium. Everyone was rushing for the entrance hoping to find perfect seats, and by the time I made it inside, all that was left were a few seats on the topmost row, high above the field and quite far away from the stage. However, thanks to an impressive setup of spot lights and two massive television screens flanking either side of the stage, my seats didn’t seem too bad in the end.

As showtime approached, the crowd around me began applauding and cheering loudly and every few seconds someone would let out a deafening whoop of anticipation. Then, without warning, every single light in the stadium instantly shut off, prompting the audience to scream even louder and jump up and down until I could feel the stadium trembling beneath my feet.

Boom! The lights suddenly flashed back on – purples, whites, yellows, blues and reds lighting up the night time sky with the intensity of an atomic explosion. Music blasted out from the speakers scattered around the bleachers, putting the crowd into an uncontrollable frenzy.

The well-dressed MC slowly approached the microphone in the middle of the stage, tapping it a few times before yelling out: “Bienvenidos Cancun!! Bienvenidos Mexico!” over and over again.

And then, from behind the curtains, entered the star of the show…Mr…actually, Pastor…Cash Luna.

Yes, that’s right, Pastor Cash Luna.

And there I stood, surrounded by 15,000 bouncing, roaring people, all with arms raised high into the heavens, streams of tears falling from their eyes and strange tongues pouring out from their mouths.

Welcome to Noches de Gloria (Nights of Glory), my introduction to evangelicalism.

OBSERVATIONS FROM THE BACK ROW

As I stood in the back row looking down over the entire scene in front of me, listening to the modern religious rock songs, sermons, prayers and endless talk about miracles, my eyes remained wide open as I tried to soak it all in. I am certain that I could sit here now and write a few thousand words analyzing what I saw last night, but I’ve decided that I’m not going to write too much at all. I think I need more time to fully piece together what I witnessed among this crowd of intense believers and their savior Cash Luna.

What I will say is this:

Did I find it odd that the longest and most passionate sermon of the night dealt with the virtue of giving donations to Pastor Cash Luna’s organization? Of course.

Was it strange that after Pastor Cash asked anyone who had experienced a recent miracle to approach the stage, only a handful of people climbed out of the stands but a long procession of 300 people suddenly appeared from behind a hidden wall? Yes, it was.

Do I think Pastor Cash Luna could have chosen a less suspicious name? Definitely.

But again, I’m going to withhold from forming any opinions as I will admit that I still don’t fully understand what evangelicalism is all about. I do know that the combination of eerily trippy music, the loud wailing and convulsing of the crowd and the tears on the face of the Pastor himself, made me feel somewhat uncomfortable. Truthfully, and unlike many of the other religious ceremonies or celebrations I’ve taken part in around the world, I simply didn’t feel any connection with the message or vibe surrounding this event.

But clearly I was in the minority as I was absolutely the only one of the 15,000 attendees without my arms raised and without a tear in my eye. The family of six standing next to me spent the entire three and a half hours screaming in such terrifying tongues, sobbing so uncontrollably and shaking so violently that the volunteer staff in our section had to repeatedly check to make sure they didn’t require medical attention.

Did I experience the same power that this family undeniably felt? No. I actually felt confused and a bit freaked out by the fact that so many people believed giving money to a man of god who called himself Cash, was going to guarantee their entrance into heaven.

I’m not in any way trying to make fun of my experience last night. These are simply my initial thoughts after observing and trying to make sense out of something that had previously been completely unfamiliar to me.

Am I glad that I attended this event? Absolutely.

However, next Saturday, I think I’ll go to a night club in Cancun instead, where there’s a better chance that a man named Cash Luna will be the DJ, not someone asking me for money.


Have you ever been to a evangelical event? Was there something truly incredible taking place among the crowds that I simply missed?

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Comments 21

  1. Jeff

    Fascinating. I agree with many of the points above. Blind faith is dangerous since it can lead to very negative outcomes, such as bigotry, intolerance, and even cults (although I suppose the definition of “cult” is a fine line for some). Regardless, what fascinates me most about this blog is the neurological aspect of it. These folks, in their trans-like state, are likely activating and reinforcing parts of their brain that help make connections and strengthen neurons that are responsible for happiness and a sense of peace… almost like what we’re doing when we meditate, except a slightly different part of the brain. I think as we become more educated, we’ll quickly discover that there are things we can do to rid ourselves of anxiety, stress, and unhappiness and increase our overall sense of peace, love, and compassion. Oddly enough, I believe “faith” and a sense of letting go to God can also activate and reinforce those parts of the brain. Being educated might actually help you achieve enlightenment responsibly, while, like in the example given with Cash Luna, a sense of peace and love probably comes from misinformation and perhaps even manipulation. Although, if the neurological effects are the same, it’s probably no wonder you have a bunch of uneducated folks “finding God”, since it creates a greater feeling of love than they can get elsewhere.
    Jeff

  2. terri

    Hey Earl-
    Not sure where in the world you are now, but I’m a missionary in Guatemala. Been here 22 years. I was looking up stuff on Cash Luna and came across your article. Thanks for your deep, helpful insights. I can tell you went into the experience without a chip on your shoulder–that you’re an honest seeker of truth, so I greatly appreciated you interpretation of the night. I’m trying to figure out what I think of him. I definitely don’t approved of anything more than a 2 minute explanation on why a person needs funding. I don’t throw out the whole baby with the bathwater, with him, though, although I’d throw out a good many things. I think a person can have had a supernatural experience that connects him more to God in a life changing way(such as Cash Luna), but trying to force that to reproduce in others in a non-legit way is discouraging and in the end doesn’t make a difference. Like you said, I’d be interested in knowing if the people that gave that night experienced any break-thru’s and if any of the people who didn’t come from around back of the platform (who said they’d experienced a miracle) still had that miracle the next day.
    I have had legitimate supernatural experiences happen to me that vastly improved my life, but that has been the exception in my 46 years, not the rule.
    Good to talk to you!
    Terri

  3. Shauna

    Hi–just found your story here—very interesting. I don’t know much about Cash Luna but I did read that he has had that name since he was a child. He was unable to say his given name and Cash is what it ended up as–and since it didn’t mean anything in Spanish it wouldn’t have been a big deal. Funny how everyone is always disturbed when people give money.
    I just moved to Cancun (Canadian) and happened to google Cancun miracles and your was the first story. Think I will keep looking to see what God is doing around here.
    If you ever have any questions about God stuff would be happy to chat.
    Enjoy your journey,
    Shauna

    1. Earl

      Hey Shauna – Thanks for the comment! And I’m only disturbed when that money that is given away makes one person wealthy and gives false hope to those who are now even poorer than they were before. Something about that equation seems a little off to me…

  4. Priyank

    Hi Earl,
    I always joked that after university I wanted to open up a institute that would train you in becoming miracle men. I predicted that I’d make lot of money in this business.

    The thing that upsets me is to see how vulnerable and susceptible people are. Once you stop taking control of your lives, people like this have it easy.

    1. Earl

      Hey Priyank – I agree that the most disturbing part was seeing so many people unable to think for themselves and so quick to believe the words of another. I wish I could speak to some of those in attendance today and ask them how their ‘donations’ turned out and if they gained what they had hoped from such blind belief. Although, I’m quite sure I know the answer already.

  5. Brian Wadman

    I have to agree there is some truth to the idea of returning back to your roots and following the core of the religion. Last week I found myself back in a Catholic church remembering someone who had recently past. There is comfort in being in a familiar environment, and certainly a need to have these rituals to help celebrate and honor life.

    Of course, you know my fascination with Herman Hesse, and the mystical Buddhist way has it’s attraction to me. Anything not conducive to peace and making people more communal I am not a fan of! 17 Months till we return!

    1. Earl

      Thanks John, I appreciate that. One thing I’ve definitely learned over the years is that it’s virtually impossible for me to fully understand anything, especially after attending one three and a half hour event. As travelers, we might get glimpses, and sometimes deep glimpses, of a wonderful variety of experiences, but at the end of the day we can only relate these experiences and not claim to have suddenly become an expert!

  6. Simon

    Sounds a little scary!

    It’s interesting to me that the apostle Paul talked about working night and day so he wouldn’t be a burden on those he was visiting and preaching to as he moved around. It’s possible he held a rally in a stadium and collected donations I guess, but I must have missed that part 🙂

    1. Earl

      Hey Si – I would have been perfectly fine with Cash Luna asking for donations in a more subtle manner, but when he spoke about it for 30 minutes straight, especially considering that he was talking to the poorer segment of Mexican society, I just found it to be a little suspicious. Here were people crying their hearts out because of their difficult situation in life and then they’re asked to give as much money as they can, making them even worse off. Cash Luna is no apostle Paul apparently!

  7. Brian Wadman

    Haha – HIlarious! Cash Luna – great storytelling, I thought you were going to a big soccer game. Evangelicism is a scary thing -so many people duped by this individual. Which religion do you find most appealing at this point in your life?

    1. Earl

      I always refer to what the Dalai Lama said when someone asked him how they could go about converting to Tibetan Buddhism. He told her, “Just go back to the core of your own religion and we’ll meet along the same path.” And I’ve found that the core of almost every religion, if followed, would result in a kinder, more tolerant and peaceful world but that the core is often hidden away these days.

      With that said, my life has benefited greatly from reading about, studying and spending time among Tibetan Buddhists and I really feel that they offer lessons that the entire world could benefit from if they would only listen. And what I find most fascinating is that the teachings of Buddhism are less concerned with making a person an official follower, instead simply focusing on improving the lives of as many people as possible. Even spending a few days in a Tibetan Buddhist community will have a life-changing, positive effect on most people.

      And how about you?

  8. Nate

    I agree with the above. Blind faith isn’t bad as long as you have faith in yourself. Having blind faith in others is just outright dangerous. The truth is within us. All we need to do is look within ourselves to find the answers.

    This article does kind of point out the power a select few (in this case one person) can have over a mass of people. Very interesting…and a little scary!
    .-= Nate´s last blog ..Overcoming Our Attachment To Thoughts =-.

    1. Earl

      You said it perfectly Nate. I think its fascinating how people are so willing to put their faith in others but are too afraid to put faith in themselves. Even just a little bit of that energy and belief directed inward can help us accomplish great things in life instead of depending on outside forces to improve our situation.

  9. Liz

    I think it is very interesting how people follow others without analyzing what is really going on… my grandmother (very catholic woman) once said: “you must not analyze, you must have blind faith”, I didn’t argue with her as I respect her, but I am sorry, analyzing is on my nature =)

    1. Earl

      Hey Liz – I also agree that blind faith can be somewhat dangerous and that we should spend some time analyzing before simply taking people at their word. We need to discover for ourselves what we believe to be right and wrong, beneficial or harmful instead of believing that someone else has all of the answers for our lives.

    1. Earl

      Hey Moon – I will admit that there were times when I just wanted to leave but I kept wondering ‘what could possibly happen next’ and that kept me there. And I agree that taking advantage of people in the name of religion is as low as it gets, I just wish I had a better understanding of what the audience members were experiencing as they entered their deep, inexplicable trance-like states. How was the Pastor helping them? That’s the question that confuses me.

      1. Moon Hussain

        I’d hate to pass judgement, but I used to live overseas in a third world country, where unfortunately, people as a whole were not educated and religion takes precedence.

        You don’t question the word of religion, esp. in Islam (parents raised me as such). Fortunately, people are becoming more educated and questioning things.

        I shouldn’t judge, but seems these people probably hold on to “blind faith” as Liz has mentioned below.
        .-= Moon Hussain´s last blog ..The “Secrets” To Landing Guest Posts =-.

        1. Earl

          Hey Moon – That is sort of the feeling I got as well. Without education, one’s opportunities may not be so plentiful and as a result, the general difficulty of life makes blind faith an easy choice…anything that provides even a small amount of hope seems worthy enough to follow when compared to the alternatives. Education certainly does provide not only a new perspective on life, but a new set of possibilities that allow a person to put more faith in themselves, therefore reducing the need for blind faith.

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