Christianity


I watched another heart-wrenching documentary on the genocide in Darfur. Titled “On Our Watch”, it was featured on PBS Frontline. It’s unbelievable that this atrocity is still occurring in 2008 and the leaders of our world community cannot muster the “will” to impress upon Sudan that it must stop this genocide. The documentary touched on some of the reasons why there is such a failure to act… the most vital being oil. It’s paradoxical that there are those who believe that Iraq was invaded because of it’s oil fields, while Sudan is left to continue it’s policy of genocide because of it’s oil fields.

There is lots of blame to go around for this failure to act, from the U.N; the U.S. (which has taken a hardline and imposed strict economic sanctions on Sudan, but could obviously do more… see here); the European Community, The Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Iran, The African Union, The Arab League and China… to name just a few of the major players. Let’s not forget about the Afrosphere, which could do much more to advocate for the people of Darfur. If half as much energy, focus and commitment was utilized by bloggers of African descent to organize, petition and demand action to stop the genocide in Darfur, as was generated to support the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama, there would be more pressure on our leaders, both community and political, to address this issue. If we don’t show we care by taking action, they certainly won’t! For some of us, it will be a historic achievement to have a black face in the White House… while for others, it’s a historic achievement to survive the day without being raped, tortured or killed… and being able to have one meal for the day. Let me give a “dap and a big up!” to Yobachi over at BlackPerspectives.net, who has been constant in his commitment on keeping Darfur an issue in the Afrosphere.

Below are links to the PBS Frontline documentary and other informative sites on Darfur. There are also links on these sites giving you the opportunity to get involved in stopping the genocide.

  1. On Our Watch
  2. sudanreeves.org
  3. Eyes on Darfur
  4. Save Darfur
  5. Save Darfur: Partner Campaigns

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-14

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

 

 

What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

 

During my pilgrimage to West Africa in 1997, I visited a number of slave castles along the coast. There were 3 things which I found most troubling but were a constant in these castles. One was the smell in the cells were the slaves were kept. You could still smell the stench of despair after all these centuries. The second were the pits where rebellious and troublesome slaves were thrown in to starve to death. In some castles, the church or chapel was built right above these pits! The third and most disturbing was that in all these castles, the soldiers quarters were right above the women cells. There was usually a staircase leading down into the cell area where these white soldiers would descend to choose their Black female victims for the night. When I visited the slave castle in the region of Ghana where Jamaicans came from, a unrighteous rage welled up in me as I stood in the soldiers quarters and pondered if I had a female ancestor who’s mind, body and soul was violated in these quarters. This rage turned into an unfamiliar but deep sorrow as I considered that this would be one of many violations…. here in this castle, then on the ship as it crossed the middle passage and then on the plantation in Jamaica. I wept.

I dated a woman from Liberia. She was living there during the civil war, during the time before and after Charles Taylor was president. She related to me a couple of her experiences of being raped. The first time was at the start of the conflict. She was around 10 years old when one of the boy soldiers, from her village whom she had grown up with, raped her in front of her family…. in front of her father, mother, sisters and brothers. She remembers the scream of her father’s anguish as he was forced to watch at gunpoint the violation of his daughter. She also related a story of similar incident when another soldier, a grown man, had abducted her and taken her to his hut to rape her. The local commander at the time, had ordered that his men were not to rape the women. Someone told the commander that this soldier had abducted her and he came, released her before she was raped and killed this soldier in front of her. I sensed that there were other times that she was raped…. but she didn’t talk about them… and I didn’t ask. She did tell me of her sister who was abducted off the streets of Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. She was brought to a compound where Charles Taylor, who had an affinity for light-skinned women, would come and rape these women with his henchmen when he pleased. As she related these and other stories to me, that rage and deep sorrow which I had felt before, would come over me. At times when this woman whom I loved, trembled and cried as she slept, I could only imagine that she was reliving the violations of her mind, body and soul. I wept.    

Rape has constantly been used as a weapon to degrade and dehumanize Black women…. women of African descent. In a much broader sense, it is an attack…. a degradation and dehumanization against all of us…. and both White and Black men are guilty of these atrocities! I am not going to try to understand or psychoanalyze what would lead six white people (3 men and 3 women) to kidnap a 20 year-old Black woman…. rape, torture and force her to eat rat, dog and human feces for more than a week (The Case of Megan Williams). I cannot even fathom why four Black teenagers…. young men…. would rape, sodomize and then at gunpoint, force a Black woman to have sex with her son. They terrorized and then attempted to kill this woman and her son…. all the while recording the event on a cell phone camera (Dunbar Village Case).

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12 

It would be easy to dismiss these perpetrators by referring to them as “animals”, or as “inhuman”. But they aren’t animals…. they aren’t inhuman! First, I have never heard of any animal species treating one another in this way. Secondly, these are human beings who have consciously decided and took steps to treat another human being is this way. For them to so easily violate the mind, body and soul of these Black women….. is much more than a “sickness” that can be attributed to our society. It is spiritual wickedness. These atrocities are happening all over the world, right now, to our Black women…. to our mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, cousins, nieces and even grandmothers…. and it has to stop! As Black men, we should feel rage, deep sorrow, shame and weep that the mind, body and soul of the women of our community are being violated in these ways! We Black men, who are both the primary perpetrators and protectors of our community, have to take it upon ourselves to stop it and stop allowing it to happen!                           

So today, Thursday November 1st 2007, those within the Afrosphere are blogging for justice. We are blogging to protect Black women and their families from the horrors of rape. We are blogging to raise public awareness about the Megan Williams and Dunbar Village cases. We are making a call for action:

  1. Sign a petition in support of Megan Williams
  2. Donate to the Megan Williams Trust Fund
  3. March against hate and in support of Megan Williams in Charleston, West Virginia on November 3rd  
  4. Donate to the Dunbar Village Victim’s Assistance Fund 

To read other posts that blogged for justice on this topic, follow the link here.             

It’s thanksgiving here in Canada, which spurred me to reflect on some of the things I am thankful for. Here are 10 things I came up with:

  1. I thank God for His Son Jesus Christ and the sacrifice he made for me.

  2. I thank God for my life.

  3. I thank God for my wife.

  4. I thank God for my son.

  5. I thank God for my family.

  6. I thank God for all the people he has brought into my life…. the good, the bad and the indifferent. I have learnt from them all.

  7. I thank God for all that he has provided for me and my family materially and financially.

  8. I thank God for my health.

  9. I thank God that I live in Canada.

  10. I thank God that I don’t live in Iraq, Darfur, Afghanistan, Israel or The U.S.A.  

I am sorry to be late with my submission on this exciting topic for our second carnival, but I haven’t yet mastered how to best divvy up my time as a new father. I am always tired…. I sleep, I take care of baby, I go to work, I take care of baby, I sleep and the cycle starts again…. I have “a minute” to spare so here goes…..  

The work of Marimba Ani in  “Yurugu: An African-Centered Critique of European Cultural Thought and Behavior,” has a lot of truth in it (it is definitely a must read) and I agree with Lubangakene when he asserts that it “makes it clear that the intention and proselytizing usage of European religion was for control and conquest of other peoples. “ Some of his questions also “struck a cord” within me and sparked a thinking process as I contemplated my responses to them…. namely:

  1. How does our God-consciousness, filtered through an alien religion, shackle us?
  2. Can our spiritual/religious beliefs flower within such a context? Can those beliefs and practices empower us?
  3. Is the white man’s religion a positive or negative force, ultimately, in the lives of African peoples in the diaspora?
  4. Is it possible to adopt/adapt the religions and religious practices of an oppressor who has used religion throughout history to conquer the minds and bodies of his targets/victims – to positive affect?

Percolating within me was a rational, intellectual and measured response anchored by my religious beliefs and literary knowledge. I had quotations from the Bible and references from James H. Cone’s “A Black Theology of Liberation” as well as, “God’s Politics” by Rev. Jim Wallis, chosen and ready to assert that religion is about a personal relationship with God and whatever choices we make…. whether good, bad or indifferent, especially in His name, we will have to answer to someday. I was ready to debate that Christianity is not a eurocentric-based religion as such, but that version of it was forced upon us, people of African descent, and it was up to us to free ourselves from spiritual (as well as mental) slavery and find our God… the One who meets all our needs as a people. That is the physiological, emotional, psychological, financial, societal, environmental, intellectual, safety and spiritual needs which may be unique to us and our condition. I was all set to argue that paradoxically, all these needs are not ethnically nor culturally based, since they are important to everyone, regardless of colour of skin, nationality, gender, orientation, language, or even religious beliefs…. however the way and how God meets our needs are not necessarily the same. Depending on any one or combination of the above factors, He may meet our particular need(s) on an individual, community or yes…. even a cultural level. I was ready to boast of how multi-cultural and multi-racial the church I attend is and that as a Black man…. as a Black family,  it certainly meets my/our needs and that it reflected the best of what heaven on earth can be. Yes I was all primed to “shock and awe” with my blah, blah, blah….

Then I went to do my weekly volunteer commitment. I am involved with an inner-city mission that I found out about through my church. It is a Christian based facility that specializes in assisting the homeless and those with psychological challenges and substance abuse issues (and the combination of all for some). We simply provide information on where to access city services, feed the hungry, provide shelter for a time, listen to life stories, offer advice and when it’s appropriate, tell them about the love of Jesus. On Sunday afternoons we hold a inner-city service for those who don’t belong to a specific church or denomination, or profess to follow any particular religion. The mission caters to different types of people, from a variety of cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds, but we all have one thing in common: regardless of our circumstances or status…. we are all striving to make it through the day.

So as I was working, I looked around at the people I was serving and I thought that as a Christian, as a person who believes and wants to serve God in my own “little” way…. this is what really matters! Standing there it was clear that cultural and historical context didn’t matter. Eurocentric or Afrocentric symbolism didn’t matter. Religion and religious practices didn’t matter. What really matters and gives me hope is that today, there are people all over the world who are inspired by their own religious beliefs to serve others (the Buddhist monks in Myanmar come to mind). What truly mattered was the “smile” and “thank you” I got from connecting with another human being and hopefully making a positive impact on their life. Even it that just means giving them a sandwich and a coffee or listening to the same joke or story for the umpteenth time. Regardless of my all religious pontificating and intellectual discourses, the few hours I spend each week, serving each individual, meeting their individual need at that particular time, for the glory of God, is what my religion means to me.                                 

  

 

Religious discourse can be very controversial. Although I am open to share and listen to the religious beliefs of others (or lack thereof), I have never been interested in debating the issue. How can one debate the issue of faith? I find it pointless. I have nothing to prove nor do I want to convert someone to my way of thinking (or belief). However, I do want to comment on the endorsement this week by Pope Benedict XVI of the doctrinal document “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrines on the Church“. In a nutshell, this treatise asserts the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, while other churches, like the Orthodox church are “wounded”, and that Protestant churches are not “true” churches. It also claims that Catholicism provides the only true path to salvation.

In this age of inter-denominational and inter-faith dialogue, which is working to bring about a better understanding and respect for others of different beliefs, I find this assertion and endorsement by the Pope as troubling. As the arenas of government, politics, economics, culture, etc., struggles towards greater harmony and peace, it appears that the religious community and their leaders, regardless of their faith, are moving towards greater fundamentalist polarization of beliefs. We don’t need to look only to history to see the danger in this type of thinking. We need only to look at the Middle-East today, Iraq in particular, to see the outcome of such rhetoric. Although I am a Pentecostal Christian and have beliefs, which could be classified as “christian fundamentalist beliefs”, I do not believe that only Pentecostals are going to heaven, nor do I believe that other denominations are “wounded” or are not “true” churches. As a Christian, I do believe that it is only through Christ that someone can receive salvation, but I don’t condemn to “hell” someone from another religion or those who have no belief in religion at all. Judgment, as far as I am concerned, I will leave to God.

There are 3 points I would like to share in regards to this topic.

1. The church I attend, although fundamental, it is non-judgmental. The Pastor believes, preaches and is involved in inter-denominational and inter-faith dialogues. This is one of the reasons why I go to this church.   

2. As far as I know, there has been no bombings of Catholic or Protestant churches; no burnings of effigies of the Pope by Protestants; no return to the Inquisition; no killing of Priests, Nuns, Pastors or Reverends; no violent demonstrations or protests; no separation into neighbourhoods based on religious beliefs, due to this proclamation. I would pray that those of the Muslim “Ummah” will be influenced by this example.

3. There has been no difference in the dynamics of the relationship with my family, friends or acquaintances of different denominations (or faiths for that matter), since the Popes endorsement of this edict. It is all a non-issue for us. Regardless of religious beliefs or non-belief, we are all still “cool”. Love and respect prevails.            

     

 

John Smulo asked me to participate in this meme…. which I am more than happy to do:

  1. He sacrificed his life for me out of unconditional love, so that I could have a personal relationship with God;
  2. He revolutionized religious behaviour through the “Sermon on the Mount”;
  3. He “called” it as He “saw” it, regardless (and knowing) of the consequences;
  4. He challenged the rigidity, religiosity and hypocrisy of the religious leadership of his day;
  5. He accepts me as I am, while expects me to be the best I can be through Him.

I now tag anyone who is inspired to share in this topic. Please let me know if you do.

Asa. 

Do you see a difference? 

  

Do you see obedience and sacrifice….

 

Or do you see apprehension and danger?

WHY?

Over the past year, I have read three books concerning the meaning of life. Interestingly, (for me anyway), two took a more psychoanalytical approach in answering this question, while the third was Christian based. I will summarize what each determined was the answer to this timeless endeavor, in the order in which I read the books.

 

1. The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck: This theme of this book surprised me as I was under the impression (due to the title), that this was a religious based book. Although it had an underlying spiritual element, it took a psychoanalytical based approach and argued that the meaning of life could be understood by accepting these truths:

·        Life is difficult and contains a series of problems.

·        Discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solve these problems.

·        It is in the whole process of how we meet and solve these problems, that life has it’s meaning.

·        How we meet the challenges of dealing with these problems is the basis of how we grow mentally and spiritually.

·        The tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness.

·        The set of tools that is referred to as “discipline”, are “techniques of suffering”: which are the means by which we experience the pain of problems in such a way as to work them through and solve them successfully, learning and growing in the process.

·        There are four tools which make up the “techniques of suffering”: delaying gratification; acceptance of responsibility; dedication to truth; and balancing.

·        Psychoanalysis is essential in assisting someone in mastering one or more of these four tools.

 

2. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren: This book looked at the question from a Christian perspective. According to the author, we were all created by God for a purpose- His purpose…. and “it is only in God that we discover our origin, our identity, our meaning, our purpose, our significance, and our destiny.”  Consequently, there are five purposes to our life:

1.      To bring enjoyment to God.

2.      To be a part of the family of God.

3.      To be like Christ.

4.      To serve God.

5.      To serve others.

 

3. Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor Frankl: This book is based on the experiences of the author, a psychiatrist, who survived a number of Nazi death camps. Within this backdrop, he argues that how we choose to deal with experiences, especially  “unavoidable” atrocities and sufferings, is the determining factor of whether we will live (survive) or die. From his experiences during WWII, he concluded that those who had survived the concentration camps, had the will to live through those horrible times, were those who found a deeper, even a spiritual “meaning” to what they were going through. He went on to develop a psychoanalytical “meaning-centered” form of therapy called Logotherapy. According to logotherapy, we can discover the meaning of life in three different ways:

1.      By achievement or accomplishment.

2.      By experiencing something or encountering someone.

3.      By the attitude we take towards unavoidable suffering.

 

All three books were a good read and I recommend them all. Being a Christian, the second book had more of a lasting impression on me and my understanding of the meaning…. “purpose”…. of my life. However all three books gave me a deeper insight of how I live my life, the choices I make, the reasons I may make one choice rather than another, and more importantly, also an insight into what makes others “tick”.   

Following the news yesterday, I heard a story that President Bush had a meeting with the Pope in Rome and one of the topic of their discussions was the plight of Iraqi Christians. It was really the first time this issue captured my attention. The primary focus has been the civil conflict between the Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites, and there has been little to no media coverage, that I can remember, on what Iraqi Christians were experiencing. 

A little internet research provided me with some information that the situation for Iraqi Christians is not good in the least. They are victims of daily targeted attacks by Muslims in general and not just the militant Islamists. Some of this is because they are associated with the “Christian West”, who are seen as invaders and “crusaders” by the Muslim population of Iraq. Christians have been threatened, kidnapped, tortured and killed; churches have been vandalized and bombed; Christian women have been forced to wear the veil; priests murdered and nuns raped and killed. On Sunday June 3rd, a priest Father Ragheed and 3 of his deacons were executed after performing mass in Mosul, northern Iraq. The car in which they were driving was rigged with a bomb after they were murdered so that their bodies would remain in full view for a time, to send the message that Christianity was no longer being tolerated.

Here are a couple of sources of information:

http://www.aina.org/news/20070608105121.htm

http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&dos=108&size=A

Let’s keep them in our prayers, as well as all the innocent people of Iraq who are suffering due to this conflict.              

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