I was shocked, confused, bewildered
As I entered Heaven’s door,
Not by the beauty of it all,
Nor the lights or its decor.
But it was the folks in Heaven
Who made me sputter and gasp–
The thieves, the liars, the sinners,
The alcoholics and the trash.
There stood the kid from seventh grade
Who swiped my lunch money twice.
Next to him was my old neighbor
Who never said anything nice.
Bob, who I always thought
Was rotting away in hell,
Was sitting pretty on cloud nine,
Looking incredibly well.
I nudged Jesus, ‘What’s the deal?
I would love to hear Your take.
How’d all these sinners get up here?
God must’ve made a mistake.
‘And why is everyone so quiet,
So somber – give me a clue.’
‘Hush, child,’ He said,
‘they’re all in shock.
No one thought they’d see you
Traditionally, the Christmas season brings out the best in people… or it’s supposed to at least. This is the one time of year that differences should be put aside, between individuals and within families, between and within communities… regardless of religious and political beliefs, despite one’s social standing. Whether you are a Christian or not, whether you have any religious beliefs or not, the hope of “peace on earth and good will towards all men, women and children”, if not something you care about during the year, it should at least be at the forefront of our minds (if not hearts) this time of year.
However, today we live in a society where being callous, cold-hearted, judgemental, mean-spirited and self-righteous is celebrated and revered… AND nowhere are these attitudes celebrated and revered more than among those who claim to be politically “conservative” and profess themselves to be “christian”.
The comments of Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson in the January GQ magazine about homosexuals (here) is one case in point. He and his supporters claim that his comments are based on biblical principles. I’m a Christian, but Robertson’s Christianity isn’t my Christianity. The Jesus I worship and who is the example of how I should treat others is shown in the biblical story of the woman accused of adultery and brought before Jesus by the religious leaders of his day. By the law of Moses, which was the religious law of the day, her punishment was to be stoned to death. Jesus who knew the law, didn’t dispute what her punishment should be. He simply told the religious leaders that whichever of them where “without sin among you”, they should cast the first stone. After they had departed and He was left alone with the woman, Jesus… who was without sin… stated to her: “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more”. (here)
Phil Robertson and those professed christians who think like him, are much like those religious leaders in that story. What they have failed to comprehend, due to their self-righteous arrogance, is that the Law or Word of God is not to be used to condemn or judge others, but to be used as a blueprint for our lives to be a testimony of the compassion and love of God.
Canada isn’t immune to these callous, mean-spirited “conservative christian” types either. Recently federal Conservative minister James Moore was asked what the government planned to do about the high rate of child poverty in his home province of British Columbia. He answered: “Well, obviously nobody wants kids to go to school hungry. Certainly we want to make sure that kids go to school full bellied, but is that always the government’s job to be there to serve people their breakfast? Empowering families with more power and resources so that they can feed their own children is, I think, a good thing. Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so.” (emphasis mine)
Canadian conservatives are proud to profess their unapologetic and unashamed Christian beliefs. Moore obviously missed this message of Jesus when He was asked by the religious leaders what was the most important commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” (here) Would Moore allow his own child to go hungry? I would say, “not!” Then why does he feel no obligation, as a government leader, or as a Christian, or even just as a human being, to ensure that his neighbor’s child doesn’t go hungry!?
I believe if Jesus was around today, he would be demonized and accused by so-called “conservatives” of being a liberal, progressive, socialist radical. If todays so-called “christians” like Robertson and Moore were around in Jesus’ day, they would be among the religious leaders leading the people in their chants for Pontius Pilate to “Crucify Him!” Jesus constantly referred to the religious leaders, not the sinners, as hypocrites, vipers and the children of the Satan. This was due to their callousness, mean-spiritedness and judgemental attitudes towards those they considered “sinners”, which included the poor and the sick. Jesus stated clearly that His ministry was not for those who considered themselves religious, nor was it to judge or condemn sinners: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (here).
In the GQ article Robertson paraphrases 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, in which he lists those who will not inherit the kingdom of heaven: “the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers…” More importantly, both Robertson and Moore… and other professed christians of their ilk… should study in their Bible Matthew 25:31-46, where Jesus himself identified those who will inherit the kingdom of heaven… the compassionate: those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, give shelter to the stranger, cloth the naked, care for the sick and visit those in prison. Hopefully during their bible study, they will also be enlightened that Jesus doesn’t mention any rewards for those who condemn homosexuals or are so callous that they feel no responsibility to feed a hungry child.
During this season, we hear those who profess to be Christians say this phrase: “Remember the reason for the season”. I always wonder what this truly means to them. Speaking for myself, the purpose of the birth of Jesus was to bring all people into a relationship with a compassionate, loving and merciful God. We Christians are suppose to be an example, a “light to the world”, of this compassion, love and mercy. Robertson would be more an example of this light, if his biblical beliefs led him to spend his time and money supporting a hospice for people suffering from AIDS, instead of making disgusting comments condemning homosexuals.
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Mahatma Ghandi.
Op-ed submission by Project 21
This is the time of year when belligerent atheists corral fellow “freethinkers” together in an attempt to legally disrupt displays of the Nativity. Wherever these innocent and usually welcomed Christian religious displays are found, there’s often a bitter atheist complaining to local authorities and the media because public display of the baby Jesus in a manger offends their irreligious sensibilities.
And the atheist hand appears to be gaining strength as the “war on Christmas” seems to escalate each year.
But this is the only time of year when angry atheists are apparently willing to present themselves in large numbers. I’ve seen a few atheists plead their empty cases during the Easter season, but it’s Christmastime when they are most aggressive. Why? After all, if atheism had inherent worth, the atheists would engage the wider culture all the time instead of attempting to offend and insult the devout by putting their collective finger in the eye of believers just once a year. Atheists must want to make those revering the religious aspect of Christmas as miserable as they seem to be.
It’s also interesting that it’s only the God worshipped by Christians with whom radical atheists really take issue. They don’t seem to have the same fervor for challenging Ramadan, Passover or Diwali. Is it easier to bully those who believe in “turn(ing) the other cheek” than those more forceful in defending their beliefs? I think there’s more to it. Atheists feel threatened because they have nothing to offer. Religion, any religion, does.
Remember a year ago, when 26 children and school employees were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut? Real feelings presented themselves during this tragedy. People in the media, social networks and across America sent prayers to Newtown, to the victims, their families and residents in general. On Facebook and Twitter, people posted Bible verses in sincere and sympathetic efforts to provide comfort and understanding to those affected by the horror of what had occurred. Articles were written about how clergy scrapped prepared sermons to discuss how suffering and evil can be overcome.
Likewise, after that unspeakable tragedy, religious leaders were interviewed by the media about the nature of God, suffering, evil and justice and how people can make sense of it all. Among the clergy were several Catholic priests, rabbis and the pastor of New Hope Community Church in Newtown. Local residents, in shock and struggling to understand what happened, gathered for a prayer vigil at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church. It was one of many local vigils.
Yet, of all the vigils, there seemed to be no mention of any freethinkers or skeptics invited to soothe the shocked masses. No vigils appeared to be totally devoid of religious or spiritual accoutrements. There’s a good reason.
Atheism is an empty belief system that doesn’t offer followers comfort, hope or emotional solace when the world goes bad. Atheism doesn’t provide a notion of divine justice, reward and punishment or heaven and hell for acts of goodness or overwhelming evil. Christianity does. Atheism simply… is.
This isn’t to say there aren’t individual atheists who sympathized and had empathy for the city of Newtown, the victims of Hurricane Sandy and western wildfires or for those stricken by profound illness or accidents. Similarly, there are those who don’t believe in God who still identify with those who celebrate Christmas. I know some of them and we get along fine.
But, as a belief system represented by those whose motivation appears to offend, organized atheism to me is bankrupt. I find it wanting. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Indeed, He is.
God bless the Christmas season, and may He continue to bless those in need of His compassion, wisdom and solace.
Derryck Green, a member of the national advisory council of the Project 21 black leadership network, received a M.A. in Theological Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary and is currently pursuing his doctorate in ministry at Azusa Pacific University.
During his address to The East African Legislation Assembly (EALA) in Kigali, Rwanda on 24th April 2004, Uganda’s long time President Yoweri Museveni said, “Why Africans forget easily… it is really amazing”. Museveni asked EALA Members of Parliament if they remember Mau Mau. As it seems, they did not respond the way Museveni wanted. So he pointlessly attacked all Africans based on the reaction of a few MPs, saying that they forget easily. Is Museveni a white man he likes to beg and blame? Did Museveni utter this out of irresponsibility, arrogance or mere ignorance and forgetfulness?
Today’s piece will pick a bone with Museveni who seems to say much without thinking. Are there any Africans who forget easily like Museveni and Robert Mugabe? I am trying to imagine. If such rubbishes would have been uttered by a white person what’d have been our reaction? I’m wondering. The media didn’t pick this abuse to show how racists sometimes some of our people can be.
Museveni isn’t alone in this racist race. Who’s forgotten how South Africa’s President, Jacob Zuma, recently showed disrespect and racist remarks about Africans as if he weren’t an African? He said, “We can’t think like Africans in Africa generally. We are in Johannesburg. It’s not some national road in Malawi.” For Zuma, J’burg that’s built by white racists is a big deal. J’burg for Zuma is a symbol of pride that one can pointlessly use to discriminate other Africans. Has he forgotten how J’burg’s built? Is Zuma among the Africans Museveni says forget easily because of the powers they abuse and misuse? None withstanding, Zuma’s forgotten that he’s not one of those whose policies of robbing the public and build his home village, built J’burg. In other words, Zuma’s trying to take credit where he didn’t perform. This is theft by legal definition.
As for Museveni, it is sad for the guy who’s been in power forcefully for decades to say such degrading words. Try to imagine. If such words were uttered by UK Prime Minister or the President of France, what’d have been the response from our Think Tanks and media, even the likes of Museveni? Has he forgotten that he’s an African like Zuma? Does Museveni remember some of his vows, some of which is the one of not overstaying in power? Again, for over two decade now, Museveni’s nary remembered that he’s overstayed in power!
Swahili sage that Museveni likes to mix with English has it, “Nyani haoni kundule namely the monkey does not see its back.” Interestingly, it is the same Museveni who seems to forget easily and think that all African do the same. For instance, Museveni took a dig on others for calling United Nations into their affairs which he called the vote of no confidence from the people. Obviously he’s referring to the DRC after it called UN to flush M23 away. He forgot that DRC was weakened by his invasion and his clandestine support to M23. Again, when the same Museveni tried to catch and kill Joseph Kony failed, he went himself to the same UN. Indirectly, his target was Kenya that took her case before the International Criminal Court (ICC). To Museveni this is failure.
Museveni went on showing how he easily forgets. He said, “China and Japan were backward technologically at that very time. This is not true. Historically, China was ahead of other countries in the world save that the king abolished his ambitious programs of building bigger ships that Europe had ever seen. The Europeans tried to colonise them but failed.” Even when Brits arrived in China for the first time they were baffled with the level of development and technological advancement China enjoyed. History shows and proves that China and Japan were vanquished and colonized. Museveni mentioned Opium war. To prove how he forgets easily he said that the British were defeated. Really? After the Battle of Plassey in 1757, if my memory serves me rightly, Britain won after its troops and those of France under General Sir James Hope Grant and Lieutenant General Cousin-Montauban defeated China three years thereafter. Again, whose fault’s this? Is it Museveni’s or his speech writers? Again, for the person who’s well educated and sane, you don’t pick up the speech and read it as it is. You do your own research in order to corroborate the facts and issues instead of regurgitating just like Museveni did to end up abusing all Africans and telling lies.
Again, Museveni’s naked abuses that Africans forget easily should be taken seriously. And he’d be told to his face that generalization’s the refuge for uneducated and lazy people. Academically, nothing’s sacrilegious to commit like generalizing everything without any gist of research. Mao Tse-tung used to say, “No investigation, no right to speak.” Africans don’t forget easily. If they do, they do so like any other human beings. So too, China didn’t defeat Britain in two Opium Wars.
When faced with reality of America being hated by many people under George W. Bush, Michael Moore, in his book “Stupid White Men”, wrote, “Friends, when are we going to stop kidding ourselves?” The same token fits Museveni and Zuma. Guys, when are you going to stop lying to us yourselves included? Again, Arabic proverb has it that arrogance diminishes wisdom.
Thought-provoking discussions! Click on image and article below:
I read this and found it quite profound:
I heard someone say today there were Five Mandibas just like there were three Malcolms. For the latter, Malcolm Little, Malcolm X and El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. For the former, Mandiba before Robben Island, Mandiba on Robben Island, Mandiba… after release from Robben Island, Mandiba as President and Mandiba as Former President.
What I’ve seen over the past few days, is an emphasis by the N.E.W.S. on the “Lion in Winter” or Mandiba primarily as kindly, forgiving, dancing, old and compliant. I’ve also seen those who focus on Mandiba after his release from Robben Island refer to him as the “sell-out” Mandiba. Still others prefer the First Mandiba who gave orders to bomb and kill white South Afrikaners in the struggle against Apartheid—Mandiba the Revolutionary.
Mandiba was ALL of these and not one of them. Anyone who lives to be 95 changes ideology, perspectives and politics. W.E.B. Du Bois once referred to Marcus Garvey as a “a little, fat, black man, ugly…with a big head.”, but praised him in later life as a great Pan Afrikanist. Mandiba himself, said he was not a perfect man, none of Us are, and in describing himself as imperfect, he has done what many of Us are unwilling to do—engage in healthy self-critique rather than persist in exaggerated notions of who We are.
At this time I choose to embrace all Five of the Mandibas, revolutionary, imprisoned, released, President and the Lion in Winter. He was all of these and I hope Our view of him is comprehensive rather than picking one of them and thus creating a narrow view of the total person.
Just my $.02…