The Toughest Phrase for a Christian to Say

We Christians have a lot to say about everything although too often, our words turn out to say a lot about very little, burning the air about us with our speech (and vice versa). For all our holy verbosity, there is a phrase that rolls off our tongues with great difficulty, if at all. This phrase would end so many of those shallow arguments disguised as Bible studies before they’d even begun but enrich the real Bible studies. Alas, mouths that yell complex words such as sanctification and justification mixed with glorification can’t even breathe the simple line: I DON’T KNOW

Is our strong reluctance to admit that the borders of our knowledge are much closer than we dare to think a vestige of the church’s reaction to the Enlightenment’s accusation of Christianity being little more than a glorified “Pie-in-the-sky by and bye” scam? After the Enlightenment’s onslaught on religion, a number of churches frantically repackaged their creeds and beliefs to suit the world. Thus, faithfulness came to be measured by the ability to articulate abstract ideas that would be used to pigeonhole members. Words such as liberal and conservative were hurled as insults from believer to believer. 

Small wonder it is then folks measuring their spirituality by the length and breadth of their knowledge would find it very difficult to admit that there are limits to knowledge. Jesus, however, did not say that discipleship is proven by unlimited knowledge but by love for each other.

 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” (John 13:34&35 The Message)

Christianity lies not in what you know but in who you know: it is relational. Far from memorising abstract theological concepts, Christianity is about treating each other as valuable beings. It is the elder acknowledging the young ladies’ significance by listening to their stories. It’s the pastor hugging the weeping child who’s just grazed a knee on the pavement. It is two friends arguing over scripture with arms around each other. Perfect theological doctrine is indispensable but only so far as it leads to unity in relationship. Period. Theological differences will always be here but it’s the way we treat each other that matters most. So don’t be afraid to say those hard words…


The Only Resolution I’m Interested In

What is it about time that holds us so enthralled? Is it the fact that it is so hard to define or that we are so helpless in the face of its relentless march? Einstein’s Special Relativity notwithstanding, we mark time by the clock’s syncopated tick and tock but experience it in different ways: the ten seconds from the classroom to the principal’s office fly by so quickly yet the few minutes under her whistling cane drag on into eternity as if to let you download her wrath in full. Still we break down time into sizeable chunks and string them together again thus, seconds become minutes, minutes blend into hours and so forth till we come to years.

As I write this, 2017 has sprouted from the ashes of 2016 and as usual, the air is hot with resolutions and vice versa. Déjà vu, aptly describes this time as our ears and eyes are assailed by familiar lists of goals bearing close resemblance to similar assailants from January 2016. One peculiar aspect of a lot of these lists is that they are obsessed with achievements. They betray our inner fear, the fear of living an insignificant life. In an attempt to drown out the inner voice exultant in its whispers of what pathetic useless people we are, we strive to accumulate achievements or take the time to bore people with our statements of intention in case we should fail:

“Hey, I’m not pathetic and ineffectual! I know I haven’t achieved much but see, I’m trying!”

Before the overachievers of the world beat down my door in protest, I would like to say that there is nothing wrong with achievements but all the achievements in the world won’t drown out that voice. How many times have we seen the accomplished vanquished by feelings of inadequacy? How many wealthy homes have had their owners hanging from their rafters or lying in pools of their vomit? How many top students have felt so empty? If people at both extremes of achievement can be still be miserable, could it be that the sneering inner voice isn’t hushed by it?

We must look elsewhere for a gag good enough to silence it this year or next. Keep your lists, the only resolution I’m interested in is that of a DSLR camera. I’ve got to get me one of those. This year. I think I’ll write that down.

photo credit: pburka Oculus via photopin (license)

Lynched Children and Guffawing Adults

Why do we kill our children? In our incessant drive for perfection, we unwittingly lynch our progeny. 
I witnessed the lynching of a precocious innocent not too long ago. Chuckles filled the air when she looked at an electronic billboard and changed her verdict from “those are adverts” to “no, they’re not adverts”. What else could the adults sitting with her in the car do but chuckle at the blissful ignorance of childhood? It is for children to look at adverts and declare them not adverts but an adult cannot be expected to utter such nonsense. Flounder now, sweet child, for tomorrow we will not countenance fecundity of imagination daring to call a spade a spoon; tomorrow you’ll be an adult.

Why is imagination the preserve of children? When did adults decide to exclude imagination from reality? Somewhere along the line, we stop exploring possibilities and decide to fixate on single answers and stand at the door of adulthood, barring children from entering unless they strip themselves of all imagination. Life is full of hardship so we decided to find the answer to every question as if each problem has only one solution. The reason is simple: we are afraid of failure. There’s nothing wrong with fearing failure as long as we don’t equate mistakes and failure. Imagination or no imagination, we all make mistakes; failure is not learning from them.

As for, that sweet child who got lynched by the guffaws of adults too engrossed with perfection to learn, I asked what she thought the billboard’s flashing images were, and without hesitation, she declared them to be newspapers. The lynch mob continued laughing but I was stunned by the profundity of her conclusion. She was right! For some time I’d stared at electronic billboards and displays in my hometown (Bulawayo, Zimbabwe) and wondered why their ads were so bland and this girl had blurted out the simple reason. The advertisers hadn’t moved from the print media paradigm to digital and so their digital adverts where little more than newspaper ads forced onto PowerPoint slides.

Needless to say, unbridled imagination quickly becomes cowardly escapism or fanciful ineptitude, however, the lynching of children by asphyxiating their imagination is undoubtedly myopic. Imaginative people are often dismissed as unrealistic but is there anything as unrealistic as believing that following the beaten path will eliminate mistakes? Every well worn path was once a jungle cleared by painstaking trial and error so why are we so dead set against those who seek to beat new paths?

We all make mistakes so instead of dodging children’s footsteps in some vain hope of preventing mistakes, shouldn’t we help them bridle their imagination by teaching them to evaluate their ideas in addition to learning from other people’s mistakes? Curiosity and creativity coupled with courageous evaluation drives all progress. Guarding the door to “club adulthood” is vital but we ought to admit only those who’ve learned to differentiate between creativity and fantasy. I dare say that according to that criteria, some people need to be demoted from adulthood!

I long ago decided to stop treating children as idiots and I’ve found that as much as they have a lot to learn, they have even more to teach. Unspoiled by the fear of being wrong, their observations are honest albeit somewhat superficial. From my own observation of them, it’s clear that they greatly benefit from an adult has the patience to walk them through the evaluation of their ideas and perceptions by way of dynamic interaction. Of course, not everybody sees it this way and so the lynch mobs will continue guffawing around lighted pyres.

photo credit: Day 104/366 – Cola Wars via photopin (license)