Friday, May 27, 2016

I'm Sorry But Jesus Doesn't Make Anybody 'Whole'

A friend asked me to revisit this blog post.  I wrote it for my original 'Onesimus' blog, sometime before I converted to Orthodoxy between 2009 and 2011.  Since then I have gone through unimaginable relational suffering, and I have several friends who are enduring immense physical trauma as they walk through their own valley of the shadow of death. And my increasingly long experience of relating to Christians as they really are just makes me stop and wonder.  I've not seen, heard or experienced anything that would make me revise what I've written below.  So read it, and let me know if it corresponds to your experience, or not.

I like Paul Baloche’s music. Some of his tunes do a great job of distracting my mind from the pains and creaks of jogging. But one line in one of his songs has been bothering me for some time. It’s too bad, too, because I like the song, and even figured out how to play it on the piano. You Have Been So Good to Me’ has a wonderful, heartfelt sentiment of thanks. And musically, it works, at least for what it is supposed to be and do. The problem comes in the middle of the chorus where after we sing ‘You have been so good to me, You have been so good to me’, we then testify: ‘I came here broken You made me whole.’  

This idea that Christ has made us whole has a long history in popular Protestantism, particularly in popular Protestant hymnody. One of the biggest reasons has nothing to do with theology or biblical teaching, but rather with the convenience that ‘whole’ rhymes with ‘soul’. And so generations of Protestants have sung about our wounded souls having been made whole by Christ. 

Baloche continues this noble tradition. The problem is, it simply isn’t true.  Jesus has restored our relationship with the Holy Trinity, but he hasn’t made us whole, the rhetoric of popular Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism notwithstanding. Assuming and believing that rhetoric for decades, I personally longed to be made whole. I carried scars from my parents’ divorce, was sexually abused, have struggled in my most important relationships, been stricken with chronic depression, was unfairly forced from my last pastorate, and been overwhelmed by the scope and depth of my own character flaws. I know what it means to be in a world turned black and to cry out to God for help. I have cried out again and again for mercy, help, transformation, healing – to be made whole. I have asked, but the answer has been ‘No.’ I found the emphasis in Evangelical and Pentecostal Protestantism on being made whole increasingly disorienting in the past decade. The rhetoric I was believing, the rhetoric I was singing, the rhetoric I was preaching was not matching the reality I was experiencing and that I was seeing in others. It wasn’t just that I was not experiencing wholeness, nobody else I knew was experiencing wholeness as well. I continue to hear this rhetoric all around me, particularly from the popular preachers and authors. I do not think anybody is being malicious or is intentionally setting out to deceive. But the effect of this one little tiny misstatement is to set Christianity off in a ruinous direction that puts the emphasis on our experience and performance, the glorious and utterly false testimony that ‘Jesus made me whole’.

Our goal, as I understand the Christian life, is not the experience of wholeness. Instead, our goal is giving and receiving love in the midst of our brokenness and need.  I do not know of a single person who has been made whole. Even the TV and radio preachers that know how to wind their audiences up with wonderful sounding rhetoric of what the power of God can do, even these men and women fall sadly short on the wholeness scale in terms of relationships and character and even health. And if that wasn’t enough, the sad reality is that every single one of us, including me and you, will experience the ultimate breakdown and calamitous failure of our bodily systems which will result in our inevitable death. I’m sorry, there is no wholeness for us in this life. 

Instead, the Apostle Paul has a much more realistic take on what this life is all about in a paragraph from his second letter to the church in Corinth that gets almost no play in these sorts of discussions: 

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed we are perplexed, but not in despair persecuted, but not forsaken struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  (2 Corinthians 4:6-11)

Clearly the Christian life is about something other than attaining personal wholeness. Wholeness, of course, will be attained, but only in the New Jerusalem, after we have left these broken bodies and minds behind and been raised with Christ. Only there are we promised no more tears. Here, however, there are tears aplenty, if my past month or so is any measure. But what is being restored here and now is our capacity and most importantly our desire to love. Being born again isn’t just about being given a new status – that of ‘being saved’ or becoming a member of God’s family. Rather we are made alive and empowered to love – God intends all of our relationships to experience this transformation, starting with our relationship with the Holy Trinity, extending to our spouses and children and siblings and parents and neighbors and coworkers and (here’s the hard part) even our enemies. And church is the place where this is supposed to take place, it’s the laboratory where the new life is lived out. And ‘new life’, biblically speaking, is transformed relationships. The goal is not wholeness.  The goal is love in the midst of all the brokenness. The world does a very seductive job of mimicking what it thinks wholeness should look like. And we Christians are amongst the most gullible people in the world, based on our tendency uncritically to adopt the world’s measure of such things. But only Jesus can set a human heart free to love. Only Christians can demonstrate just what love can do. The world and the devil cannot create hearts that can love.

This is why, in my opinion, Baloche’s lyrics are not just wrong, they are dangerous. They get me to thinking that wholeness is possible in this life when it isn't. They set me looking for wholeness when the Lord is not offering wholeness. And in my assumption that this is what the Lord wants to do for me, I overlook what the Lord is actually all about. It's too bad, because I really like the song.

Or to paraphrase : 'It's all about ME, Jesus...'  If you are looking for
a good example of what's wrong with Western Christianity, it's all right here.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Slum Runner

Just a year ago my running routes took me through some amazingly beautiful scenery along the Blue Ridge near Crozet, VA.  The previous autumn I took my camera along on a sixteen mile run to document what I was otherwise taking for granted.  You can see those pictures here.

Today I find myself still running, but in very different circumstances.  Now I live in Kenya, in a part of Nairobi that has been described as a slum.  Lots of people live here, and in conditions that many in the West would find unthinkable and intolerable.

I go running three or four times a week.  On Saturdays I go with a priest friend of mine.  We go on a 10k loop, starting from the Orthodox seminary where I live, up Kabiria Road until we finally leave the crowds of people and the makeshift market stalls and the tin shanties and the mud (or dust) and sewerage and sheep and goats and jostling buses and matatus behind and run up a muddy (dusty) road through some land that's still green and cultivated.  Then we turn back through another community called Waithaka, winding along streets thronged with busy people and playing children and lined with tiny shops all selling much the same things.  We reach the main road that connects the town of Kikuyu with Kawangware and dodge the mud on one side and the traffic on the other until we reach Kawangware proper and fling ourselves into the midst of the bus/matatu/traffic scrum that behaves like blocked coronary arteries during a heart attack.  Assuming we survive, we turn with relief onto Kinyanjui Road which takes us through a less frenzied, more 'industrial' (at least it's plentiful in sludge and piles of garbage) part of our community until we turn back onto the beginning of Kabiria Road and back into the slum we call home.

Here are some pictures of what that run looked like his past Saturday.  It's rainy season.  So there's water and mud and muck everywhere.  I've supplemented my pictures with a handful of others of things I see on other runs I make.  I try not to think of beautiful Crozet, where I was running a year ago.

Leaving the seminary, a relatively quiet oasis, via our muddy track to Kabiria Road 

Dodging puddles and mud

Past the car and then left onto Kabiria Road.
Because of road construction there are no busses, matatus, cars and pickipickis on this road to
impress you with.  A rare blessing we took full advantage of.
When one leaves the main road...

Been there, done that.

Sadly, sights like this are not uncommon in Kawangware.

I run by a 'river' that looks something like this.

My running partner, Fr. Methodius.  We've left the slum behind us, with green
up and down hills ahead.

Now on the main road connecting Kikuyu and Kawangware.

Welcome to Kawangware. Not an optimal running space. But we manage.

Below are three gifs of us on the road.
Apologies for the choppiness.  I'm a novice at the technology.

Note:  I have to be careful where I take pictures, which is why I don't have many from the thronged parts of my route.  People who look like me who come around taking random pictures are sometimes not appreciated.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Great and Terrible Palm Sunday Confusion

A sermon preached this morning at Sts. Anargyroi Orthodox Cathedral in Nairobi.

It’s Palm Sunday, and everyone’s confused.  We celebrate Palm Sunday here the same way we celebrated it in my Presbyterian church when I was a child.  We sing special songs, especially the ones that remind us of the children singing ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’  We think about Jesus riding on a donkey to the gates of Jerusalem.  We think about the disciples putting their cloaks and tunics in the road for the donkey carrying Jesus to walk over.  And we think of people cutting down palm branches and waving them as Jesus passes by, just as we are going to do.  And somehow you and I have it in our heads that this is a good thing.  That somehow you and I are meant to celebrate Jesus coming into Jerusalem for what will be the last five days of his life.  Somehow we are meant to join in with the hosannas, with the cloaks and palm branches.

On Saturday, we celebrated Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  On Sunday he comes the couple of kilometers from Bethany over the Mount of Olives, across the Kedron Valley and towards the massive Roman gates of Jerusalem.  The dead man Lazarus is alive and walking around and talking to everyone who is crowding around to see him.  Nothing like this has ever happened.  And now Jesus is going to Jerusalem.  Why is He going?  What is He going to do?

The disciples have never understood Jesus.  They have seen his miracles, his healings, they have heard his preaching and his teaching.  But they’re still fighting over the money.  They’re still arguing over who’s first and best.  And if that wasn’t enough, they still think that Jesus is, after all is said and done, going to overthrow the Roman occupation and set up the kingdom of God right here and right now.  And they get to be the first in line when Jesus divides up the spoils!  When Jesus tells them to love their enemies, however, they don’t get it.  When Jesus tells them that the greatest among them must be the one who serves, they don’t get it.  When Jesus says not to be like the Gentiles who lord it over everyone else, they are pretty sure that they actually want to be like those Gentiles, they actually think that lording over everybody else is a pretty good idea.  So as Jesus rides the donkey into Jerusalem these disciples are pretty excited.  They’re thinking, ‘Finally, Jesus is doing what He’s needed to do all along.  Now we’ll see some real action.  Bring on that Kingdom, Lord!’  The disciples may be leading the cheers for Jesus as He draws near to the city, but they don’t know what they are talking about.  They are trying to make Jesus fit into their agenda.  They are so very confused.

The ordinary people that are thronging around Jesus, rushing to get a glimpse of Lazarus, wanting desperately to get a picture of a miracle, or even better, get a selfie with Jesus, they aren’t doing any better than the disciples.  They are drawn by the spectacle, they are drawn by the excitement; but really, they’re there because of what they think they are going to get.  They remember when Jesus fed the multitude with a few loaves and fish.  They all know someone who has been healed of this or that.  And they’re here now because they think Jesus is going to do something really big, and they want to be there when He does.  These people are all crowding around Jesus, they’re all following and watching and listening to Jesus.  But they don’t have a clue who Jesus really is or what Jesus really is all about.  A big crowd of people looks impressive enough.  But these people are trying to make Jesus fit into their agenda.  They are so very confused.

And the children are running around shouting ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’  They think Jesus is going to be king.  But Jesus is not riding in to Jerusalem to take up some earthly throne, to become some earthly SOMEBODY.  He’s coming to be rejected by His own people.  He’s coming to be handed over to the Gentiles.  He’s coming to be crucified as a criminal.  These children running around and shouting, they are so very confused.

And all those religious people, those Pharisees and Synagogue leaders and priests and Temple hierarchy, they are too busy making people be religious.  It’s about keeping rules, it’s about doing all those things they say God wants us to do.  But when Jesus shows up, they don’t know what to do with him.  He keeps putting people first.  He keeps reaching out to prostitutes and collaborators and tax collectors.  And he keeps focusing a laser on their hypocrisy.  He keeps saying things like You people are really good at shining and polishing who you are on the outside, but inside you are filth and decay.  Your words are sweet, but your heart is bitter and corrupt.  Jesus catches them out, and so many of them are really angry at Him.  They feel like they deserve more respect.  Sure there are miracles, sure He’s a good preacher, but He’s overturning our little game.  Jesus is fulfilling all the Scriptures they say they believe.  But they don’t want to change. So they close their eyes, they close their ears.  And as Jesus makes this entrance into Jerusalem, the very ones who should have recognized His coming, who should have understood and been the very first to repent, they refuse because Jesus won’t fit their agenda for him.  They are so very confused.

Some of us are like the disciples this morning.  We want Jesus to serve us.  We want to be the powerful ones here in this church, the ones in control, the ones that everyone else serves.  We are waving our palm branches like everyone else, but we have never understood that it’s our heart that Jesus wants to ride into and conquer.  We’re too busy trying to make Jesus fit our agenda, our plans, our purposes.  But we are just as confused as the disciples.

Some of us are the people crowding around.  We are here this morning not because we want to follow Jesus, not because we want to give our lives to Him and love Him and serve Him with everything we have.  We’re here because of what we think we can get, either from Jesus, or the priest, or other faithful.  But Jesus and church are not about what you and I can get.  It’s about knowing Jesus and loving Jesus and being transformed in how we live our lives by Jesus so that we become more and more like Jesus.  No wonder so many of us this morning are so confused.

And lastly, some of us are like the religious leaders that Jesus tried again and again to talk to.  We think that making a show of being religious is what it’s about.  We come to church on all the special days, we learn the right gestures, say the right things and think we are somehow being good Orthodox.  But Jesus doesn’t care about how many signs of the cross I make; He cares about what’s going on in my heart.  Jesus doesn’t care about how many prostrations I make; He cares about what I just said or thought about my neighbor.  He doesn’t care that you gave this much at a harambee or that much in the offering; He cares if you have surrendered everything you have and are over to Him and if you are using everything you have and are for His glory.  It’s not about religion; it’s about Jesus.  No wonder so many of us this morning are so confused.

Who are you this morning?  Are you like the disciples?  Are you like the ordinary people who gathered around?  Are you like the religious people.

Some of these same people who are so happy today, in just three days they will be conspiring to betray Jesus to His enemies.  Some of these same people, in just four days, will be abandoning Jesus to His fate, denying that they ever knew Him.  Some of these same people shouting praises today will be shouting ‘Crucify Him’ on Friday.  And many of the crowds that surround him today will disappear as soon as they see Jesus carrying His cross.  They are only here for what they can get, and the last thing they want is a cross.

As Jesus comes up to the gates of Jerusalem this Palm Sunday, the good news is this: He’s actually coming up to you.  He’s coming up to your heart.  He wants to come in. He wants to clean out what’s wrong.  He wants to heal what’s hurt.  He wants to mend what’s broken.  He wants to make alive what’s dead.  And He wants to fill you and change you and transform you with His love.  Will you open your heart to Him?  Or are you still confused?

Monday, April 11, 2016

Culture of Corruption

New speed cameras for the Kenya Police. Yay.

A month or so ago, on our way to Kisumu, we were flagged down by police on the side of the road.  They were actually stopping everybody, with a few exceptions.  Turned out, they were making a mass arrest of drivers.  The charge against us – speeding: going 130km in a 100km zone.  So we were hauled off to the collection of tin shacks that served as the local police compound.  Everyone was highly efficient (which struck me as being, um, unusual), as if they had done this many times before.  They claimed they had a speed gun and that it could all be documented.  They hauled my friend off in a truck full of other malefactors to the traffic court in Molo, 30kms away, leaving the rest of us to ponder what just happened.  At the court, a judge fined my friend 20,000Ksh ($200), a HUGE amount for any Kenyan on an ordinary salary.  We finally persuaded the officer in charge of the station to give me back my car so we could go rescue our friend.  We found Molo, then found the court, then found our friend, stopped for a late compensatory lunch  and then continued on our way, $200 poorer.

Had there been an actual traffic offense, had my friend been driving too fast or recklessly, then huzzahs for the police doing their job protecting the public and enforcing the law.  However, the factor that the police refused to take into consideration was that my car cannot go 130 kms an hour.  Not only that, during the entire trip we had not gone over 100 kms.  Moreover, at the spot of road where the alleged crime took place, the road was going up-hill and we were traveling in traffic.  130kms/hour?  Please.

I have since learned that, yes, the Kenya traffic police people have ‘radar guns’ and that it is widely known that they are rigged.  We, and a twenty other hapless and otherwise innocent travelers were caught up in a net of corruption thrown by the very people who are supposed to protect us from it.  And it was a conspiracy that involved not just the police, but the traffic court people 30 kms away.  And God only knows who else got a cut of the loot.

Welcome to life in Kenya.  Corruption touches everything.  I heard yesterday of a recent student body election that had to be nullified because one of the candidates for president had bought the election.  Even here at the university where I teach, I heard today of instances where students had forged cards that are produced by our finance office when students pay their bills so that they can take their exams.  I heard recently of a priest who, several years ago, took the money that the church had raised to build a proper building and, as they say here, ate it all.  Most of the parishioners have since left the church, knowing that nothing would be done to do justice in their case.  I would have gone, too, if events revealed my priest to be a thief.

I know of instances where lecturers at universities steadfastly refused to do anything about blatant plagiarism among their students because their own Masters and/or PhDs were blatantly plagiarized.

And then there’s politics.  The newspapers publish almost daily new accounts of government officials caught up in some new scandal or corrupt scheme.  There have been so many that it is impossible to keep up with them all.  And the sheer number of different stories gives the impression that to be a politician is to be corrupt.  One of the biggest jokes I've heard has to do with the parliament, whose members are among the world’s highest paid parliamentarians.  Their collective avarice is so transparent that it has become obvious that one runs for parliament in order to just soak the government (i.e., the Kenyan people) of as much money as they can possible grab without resorting to out and out armed robbery.  Their repeated attempts to force the government to pay them even more money have ceased to cause outrage because it is more or less accepted by the majority that it is 'their turn at the table'.  The only thing the people not in power can hope for is that the day will come when it will be OUR TURN at the table!

Even the president of Kenya, on a recent trip to Israel, told a gathering of Kenyans living there in a startling outbreak of honesty:

Kenyans are experts at stealing and hurling insults.  Moreover, our peopleare doing little to stop corruption in the government and the private sector.  God has given Kenyans a country that is 20 times better than the one we are in right now (Israel).  But there is crying, theft… we are experts at stealing, abusing each other, doing other evils and perpetuating tribalism. 

This, of course, is from the man who was indicted by The Hague War Crimes Tribunal on charges of Crimes against Humanity for his role in the spasm of ethnic violence that roiled Kenya after the 2007 elections.  His case was dropped after one by one the witnesses prepared to testify against him decided to recant their testimony.  The president’s supporters were delirious that ‘justice’ had been done.  But for whom?  Kenyatta’s Deputy President, William Ruto, similarly charged, also just had all charges dropped because witnesses changed their testimony and one was murdered in a case that remains unsolved.  The Deputy President has been making the rounds all over the country holding high-profile prayer rallies enlisting the almighty’s aid in his case.  And when the charges were dropped due to ‘lack of evidence’, his supporters were delirious because ‘justice’ was done.  But again, justice for whom?  As the leaders go… 

It’s getting to the point where I’m starting to question if the parts the mechanic is getting to repair my car are legitimate or if somebody is charging way more for inferior parts to make easy money.  Or if the packaging at the supermarket is what it says it is, or it if is a rip off, selling me something that has actually gone bad when its date says it is supposed to be good.  I already know that nothing sold on the streets or shops is as advertised – it’s all made in China.  These are, of course, small piddly things, hardly worth comparing with the immense amount of Kenyan Public funding that ends up in clandestine bank accounts or bankrolling an inordinate number of lifestyles of the rich and famous for a country like this.  I read that a recent audit revealed that only 1% of Kenya's National Budget was spent 'effectively and legally'.  I am not making any of this up.

Kenya is drowning in an ocean of corruption.  There is here an unseemly frenzy of people trying with maniacal energy to get as much money and advantage and power and influence as they possibly can and by whatever means enables them to do so.  In every case, the ends justify the means.  Or another way of putting it, the entire nation has descended into the yawning purgatory of ‘matatu values’.  Matatus are the ubiquitous vans in various states of disrepair that are responsible for transporting most of the nation’s people on a given day.  The drivers routinely pay bribes to the police who routinely pull matatus off the road in order to collect their money, which then allows the matatu drivers to flaunt whatever safety or traffic law might otherwise stop their dangerous driving in unsafe vehicles.  Matatu values are, simply put, if one can get away with it, then do it.  Somedays it seems the entire nation has taken this to heart.

The great majority of Kenyans follow this creed and live this way as if they will never be called to account.  Even Christians.  Of all kinds.  And with so many examples of people flaunting the rules (and the laws) and getting away with it and getting rich in the meantime, one can at least understand the temptation to join in the general stampede.

There was a beautiful, old, ginormous sycamore tree in our neighborhood.  Every autumn it put on the most glorious display of color.  Every summer it shaded the yard and the neighbors as well.  But a survey was done by the power line people, and it was determined that the tree had a significant amount of rot inside the trunk, and that it was in danger of coming down the next big windstorm.  So they came and cut down our beautiful tree.  And sure enough, when the tree came down, the amount of rot in the trunk was immense.  There was hardly anything holding it up.  Had it not been taken down, it would have fallen into our house, or our neighbor’s, or across the road.  Somebody could have gotten hurt.

Kenya is this tree.  At some point sooner rather than later, the wind is going to blow, and the tree is going to fall with a great crash.  The culture of corruption will have eaten the heart out of the country, and it will no longer be able to hold itself up.  And a lot of people are going to get hurt. I wish it were not so.  But this is what corruption does.  It causes one to eat one’s very soul.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Sex, Death, and Christianity in Kenya

I had the opportunity to speak last week at a high school assembly in a rough part of the slum of Kawangware.  It’s a Christian school, and a friend of mine is a teacher there. There were about 70 students from age 14 to 20 years old.  As I prepared for my talk, I struggled with how I, as an older white American missionary might possibly connect with this crowd of young, hip, Kenyan youth.  I decided to use the all-purpose attention-getter for audiences like this: I decided to talk about sex.  It worked.

I told the story of boy and girl in a high school in America.  He was 17 and played football and was the star of the team.  She was 15 and was one of the school beauties.  They fell in love and started a sexual relationship.  And in the course of things, she became pregnant.  This was, of course, traumatic for everyone involved.  Then I asked my Kenyan students, what happens here when a boy gets a girl pregnant?  And in unison, the entire audience said, ‘She gets an abortion.’  I was stunned.

I have since asked around and discovered that in most cases of sexually active young people in Kenya (and it seems like many if not most of them are active, or would be if they could), when (not if) pregnancy occurs, the boy puts great pressure on the girl to get an abortion.  And the girl’s mother often puts great pressure on her daughter to get an abortion.  And all her friends put great pressure on her to get an abortion.  So shameful is having a baby out of wedlock among Kenyan Christians (and even in traditional religion families) that it – an abortion – is considered to be a necessity.  In other words, it is considered better to kill the baby than to have a baby out of wedlock.

I heard another story today of a girl in a church in my neighborhood who went to the doctor complaining of stomach pains.  The pains were severe and they thought it might be appendicitis or poisoning.  But when the doctor looked at her, he exclaimed, ‘This girl is in labor!’  She had hidden her pregnancy for 8 months, and now the baby was coming.  But nobody knew.  They quickly found the mother and informed her that her daughter was delivering a baby at the hospital.  The mother rushed to the hospital and began beating her daughter and screaming at her in a rage.  It took three people, including their pastor to pull her off.

Another friend of mine, a local Presbyterian pastor, told me about his sister who became pregnant out of wedlock and immediately came under pressure to abort the baby.  Her mother insisted that she abort the baby.  She went to her brother the pastor and begged him to let her borrow the money she needed to get an abortion.  My friend told his sister, ‘I can’t give you money to do such a thing.  I beg you, carry this baby to term.  This is a real person.  God will make this baby a blessing to many people.  But not if you end this baby’s life.’  His sister listened to him, but it was hard.  Most of the family put intense pressure on her to end the pregnancy.  But she brought her baby to term.  Six years later, little Njeri is the joy of her family.  And she is really smart.  After testing, she is ranked #1 in her class. Her mother is so glad she resisted the pressure to abort her pregnancy, because Njeri has become such a blessing to her and to everyone who knows this little girl.

Another student was born out of wedlock in a rural part of western Kenya.  The parents were shamed and told this baby is a bad omen for the rest of your life.  You must get rid of it.  The mother’s parents said that they needed to kill the baby.  The traditional way of getting rid of problem babies like this was to leave them in the maize store overnight.  This would result in the baby’s death.  So that’s what they did.  They locked up the baby in the maize store and left him there overnight.  Early the next morning, the father’s sister crept up to the maize store and discovered the newborn was still alive.  So she rescued him and brought him to her mother.  And her mother was afraid, she didn’t know if she could undertake such a responsibility.  But she chose to help this infant.  And the baby survived and grew strong and healthy.  When he was 17, he was finally told that that other woman was his mother, and that that other man was his father.  And he was told that both his parents and his grandparents on his mother’s side had tried to kill him.  Imagine the issues.  He told me today that he has benefited from counseling and has taken steps to forgive his mother and father and grandparents and other members of his birth family.  And today this baby boy that was exposed and left to die by his parents and grandparents, he is now a Christian pastor and working on his Masters degree at my university.

I was told by another student of the profound stigma attached to adopting babies.  It turns out that when a couple adopts a child, they are announcing to the rest of the world that they cannot have children.  And barrenness in this culture is a huge cause of shame in the eyes of the rest of the community.  So nobody wants to adopt babies.  And so Kenyan orphanages are full to overflowing.  A friend who already has a child with his wife and he is struggling with the whole abortion issue.  He wants to adopt a baby to help provide a home for a baby whose mother chose to spare him/her.  But his wife doesn’t want to, because the cultural taboo is so strong.  And this is a Christian family.

When I explained to my high school audience last week that unless a boy was willing to take responsibility for his actions and to support and marry the girl he gets pregnant, that he is not mature enough to have sex, I was laughed at.  Boys, especially, view sex as their right.  Girls want to be loved and accepted.  Sex is the easiest avenue to that end.  Pregnancy gets in the way of what both boys and girls are looking for.  Abortion makes that problem disappear.

Contemporary Kenyan Christian culture is mostly untouched by Christian morality about sex (among many other issues).  Contemporary Kenyan Christian culture is an accessory to the wider culture of sex and death.  And this seems ok to just about everyone.  Nobody seems to know how to talk to young people; or if we knew how to talk to them, we don’t seem to know what to say when it comes to relationships, sex and the consequences thereof.  There is a lot of noise raised all over this country by Christian celebrity pastors boasting about God’s blessing.  People think that a ‘successful’ church is one full of thousands of people cheering and dancing and shouting ‘Amen!’ to everything the MAN OF GOD in the pulpit is saying.  But truth be told, there is not very much to this ‘Christianity’.  Participation in this Christianity seems mostly to provide people with religious cover to do what they want to do.  In the meantime, ‘Christian’ teenagers are very busy having sex.  The hospitals, clinics and illegal abortion mills are busy busy busy providing ‘birth control’.  And thousands upon thousands of Kenyan babies are murdered to accommodate personal selfishness and cultural values by people who claim to be Christians.

At the very least, Christianity as a viable way of life is under severe threat in this country.  Christian profession essentially makes no difference in how one actually lives one’s life.  Christianity is adopted for utilitarian reasons, not theological or relational reasons.  And as this reality continues to inform our churches, Christianity as a religion will be (is being) hollowed out, becoming less and less relevant.  And people who adopt a religion for utilitarian reasons will drop that religion if a better way to get what one wants presents itself.  The essential self-referential perspective of most Christians here means that Christian morality can be laid aside if another option is perceived to be better for me, for my advancement, for my betterment, for my advantage.  This is why ‘Christians’ are involved in the ubiquitous and gross corruption at every level in this society.  This is why ‘Christians’ are involved in the ethnic prejudice and violence that plague the nation.  This is why ‘Christians’ here are engaged in what earlier generations called ‘promiscuity’ without even the twinge of conscience.  This is why the broken bodies and lives of unborn infants are tossed aside as if they mean nothing.  This is why I’m engaged in theological education.  Talk about an uphill fight.