Archive for May, 2006
I have received petitions from some Christian buddies over the past few days asking me to respond to Philip Ochieng's commentary as published in the Sunday Nation early this month.
The petition does recommend a number of drastic steps against both Ochieng and the media stable he works for (nothing terrorist – thank God many Christians allow for so much – but I know of only a few countries in the world where some of the suggested proposals would apply as Kenya is light years from a society that would accomodate them).
One of my correspondents said: "Jesse, I think Ochieng has gone overboard this time. Does he understand what he writes? A guy reads one or two critiques of Judaism and Christianity and believes he has seen the light. I believe his great mind has gone blank of ideas to write (sic). Advise him as a fellow scribe."
I told the guy: "Let's talk about this when you return from X (the country he is in at the moment). But be careful not to come when I'm watching a World Cup match…(because not even one Ochieng will draw me away from the telly at that time)."
In the said article, Ochieng does attempt to give what he believes would have been a divine response to the Njoki Bill on sexual offenses, but ends up making a series of what the petition before me characterizes as blasphemous and misinformed statements in the process.
I had not expected anything different from him on that – seeing as I do that he has been rather consistent in barbing at Christendom for as long as I have read him (which I do rather judiciously).
I have read the veteran journalist since I was a little boy desirous to join the Fourth Estate myself; his published works (including the gripping book I Accuse the Press) were a must-read for me in my days as a journalism student in and outside the country.
As Editor-in-Chief of my university newspaper, which also happened to be a client of the Nation Media Group's Imaging and Printing divisions in my student days, I sometimes found myself bumping into Ochieng; he came across as an exceptionally good conversationalist in the few times we talked.
My understanding is that he's a man who knows what he's about and while I disagree fundamentally with his views in the said piece – as indeed several of his other articles on Christ and Christianity – I'll let him sort it out with the Christian God, who is my God.
I know of some Western journalists and other secular friends who, in their previous quests to "demystify" the myths of Christ and Christianity, have themselves ended up becoming some of the faith's most ardent adherents and proponents.
There is something profound about God and eternity, – finding Him is finding oneself and as St. Augustine put it, our souls are restless till we find rest in Him.
There is a hunger for eternity within us which no one or anything can satisfy (Acts 17:16-34).
I'm under no illusions that Ochieng will immediately see the light and join me in singing "Halleluyah," but I rest easy whenever he opines on matters spiritual, knowing as I do that he knows that he knows what he should know 🙂 (thank God for President Kibaki).
So friends, let Ochieng keep writing.
There is a new episode on my podcast.
Help me spread the word.
By JOHN POWERS
I wrote him an e-mail to thank him; an e-mail rather than a comment at the blog because I tend to ramble rather terribly.
Mr. Masai wrote back and asked whether he could publish the e-mail, and kindly gave me the opportunity to make changes.
He also alerted me to his post "The death of Satan: How Kenyans have lost a sense of evil( and why they must get it b4 2007)" and subsequent discussions to provide a context as to why my e-mail was relevant at all.
I've decided to make changes to my e-mail in an attempt at greater clarity.
Mr. Masai attended school for a while in Pennsylvania and that's the state in the USA where I live, near Pittsburgh.
I'm fifty and in my formative teen years my family lived in the American South.
In the United States right now all three branches of the Federal Government are controlled by the Republican Party.
A great deal of the success of Republicans in attaining national office has been credited to the efforts of the religious right.
In opinion polls, President Bush's approval ratings are very low right now.
As we enter into elections in November of this year, where all members of the US House of Representatives and one-third of the of the members of the US Senate, along with many state and local officials, will stand, there is increased discussion of politics.
In political discussions, "Southern evangelical Christians" are often mentioned as a powerful voting block in favor of very right wing Republican politicians.
I should make it clear that my politics tend towards the left and that I'm a secular-humanist.
I still very much appreciate the well-reasoned and consistently compassionate writings of Mr. Masai.
I was very interested in this from that document:
13. FREEDOM AND PERSECUTION
It is the God-appointed duty of every government to secure conditions of peace, justice and liberty in which the Church may obey God, serve the Lord Jesus Christ, and preach the Gospel without interference.
We therefore pray for the leaders of nations and call upon them to guarantee the freedom of thought and conscience, and freedom to practise and propagate religion in accordance with the will of God and as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
While "Southern evangelical Christians" are often discussed in political conversations, lumping everyone together causes confusion.
I'm of the opinion that some right-wing Christians here are Christian Fascist.
That's an incendiary name-calling, but my intention isn't to drop a bomb, simply as briefly as possible to say where I'm from.
Clearly religious views are complicated and I'm hardly an expert.
However my thesis – lol opinion – is that lumping together the religious right in the USA as "Southern evangelical Christians" underplays a very important and quite fundamental value of evangelical Christianity in the USA which is summed up neatly by the Lausanne Covenant regarding the importance of guarantees of freedom of thought and conscience.
The value of freedom of thought and conscience has deep roots in American history.
There was a religious leader named Roger Williams.
What Williams called "Soul Liberty," which is roughly freedom of conscience, became a very important thread in American evangelical Christianity.
It's also a very important thread in American government and values, such that in 1941 when Franklin Roosevelt gave his "Four Freedoms" speech, there was very broad agreement.
Roosevelt spoke of four freedoms people everywhere ought to enjoy:
1. Freedom of speech and expression.
2. Freedom of every person to worship God in his own way.
3. Freedom from want – individual economic security.
4. Freedom from fear – world disaarmament to the point that wars of aggression are impossible.
Roosevelt isn't a popular figure with Republicans who now hold majorities in all branches of the Federal Government.
He certainly wasn't popular among Republicans when he served, but at the time politics and religion were not joined in the ways we find today.
Now Republicans are considered the party of conservative Christians and Republican politicians seek to make laws "because we are a Christian nation."
Many Christians, although hardly all, are politically conservative, however the rhetoric which Chris Hedges has in his article "The Christian Right and the Rise of American Fascism" often runs quite counter to the deeply held value of freedom of thought and conscience rooted firmly in American and American religious history.
Here is a quotation Hedges cites:
"Rushdooney's son in-law, Gary North, a popular writer and founder for the Institute for Christian Economics, laid out the aims of the Christian right.
'So let's be blunt about it: We must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools untill we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government.
Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the relious liberty of the enemies of God.'" (Christianity and Civilization, Spring, 1982).
As a Humanist, am frightened by those proclaiming a theodicy, a vindication of God's justice in the face of evil, as in Pope Urban II's call for the Crusades, "God wills it!"
Coercion in the defense of faith is precisely what Roger Williams and the great many evangelical Christians here in America opposed, not for secular reasons as I am wont, but rather religious reasons.
Mr. Masai's religious convictions are obviously strong.
He stands for something, that pits him against, say for example, some of what I stand for.
What is very good about the value of the freedom of thought and conscience is that religious people can stand together on important matters of politics and civic society in love and peace with people who don't share their religious faith.
Doing so doesn't diminish Mr. Masai's relationshop with Christ, nor curtail his ability to evangelize.
Religious tensions exist, but religious wars are not inevitable.
People of goodwill can agree on a value of freedom of thought and conscience.
It's a position championed by many evangelical Christians through history and something of great relevance today.
Why are most political, military, business and such other world leaders and governments busy working to get some national and global tasks done either shortly before, in or shortly after 2010?
What is afoot?
This is my new home, having just left my old one.
The new estate is still under construction and it might be a while before it looks any more decent.
A big thank you to the one blogger who has, over the past few days, helped me recover from the most terrible of hackings I have had since I began blogging in 2003 (at another site).
Thanks for your time, expertise and generosity; the good Lord bless you!
And for my dear hackers, thanks for constantly reminding me that I'm not all that free at all!
Not even in my own country!
The South African edition (running kitu 8:00pm Kenyan time) allowed the studio audience in Nairobi and Lagos good amount of time to say some things, though – as expected – the show was dominated by the South Africans.
I asked for a fair allocation of wealth and opportunities in the country; a well-structured political system unlike the existing corrupt ones that entrench old guards in power and ensure that youths remain “wingers” and also suggested that – with Nigeria on the West Coast and Kenya on the East Coast – an elaborate socio-economic agenda or blue-print be researched, initiated and proposed for adoption by the AU to advance the youth agenda.
When the programme went international at 9:05pm (Kenyan time), the time was limited but I got to ask the South Africans if they were prepared to relax immigration laws to allow for the movement of manpower, knowledge and goods.
Asked for my assesment of Kenyan-South African relations, I didn’t commit myself, – I said the countries have had their bad and good times, but went back to the youth issue and suggested that capable, educated and driven youths in both countries (but particularly South Africa) needed to now acquire economic and political power in their desire to exert a redeeming influence on their societies and its issues over and above the troubles they have had with the older generation.
The show was interesting….you can listen again by clicking on World Have Your Say: Live from Soweto (bottom right on the BBC website).
Poi’s goodbye and the continuing responses to her posts as well as Mental’s should, in a large way, remind us of the vexing moral and spiritual questions of our day.
Not knowing neither Mental nor Poi personally, my interpretation of the events has largely been on the basis of their posts and on that basis, I have formed some opinions of which those I have been in touch with regarding the same are already aware.
One such opinion that I have publicly expressed is that, in the words of Thomas Paine, “reputation is what men and women think about us; character is what God and the angels know about us.”
Equally important, human praise and acclaim in this life is often empty and fickle at its very best so that having an eternal perspective of this life and its issues is both liberating and helpfully comforting in a fallen and hurting world.
Someday, I believe, all known and unknown history on the Poi-Mental matter – as indeed every other issue in our lives – will definitely culminate before the throne of the Most High Living God.
I pray He keeps those among us who call upon His name in Himself till then.
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