Pat Robertson – A Warning

Over the weekend Kenyans on Twitter went to town with their sarcastic prowess after a clip of Pat Robertson saying one can catch AIDS from towels in Kenya went viral. Mr Robertson was responding to a viewer’s question on last Thursday’s episode of The 700 Club. The anonymous viewer was worried about the Ebola epidemic and wanted to know if the trip would be taking an unnecessary risk.

pat

Photo credit: wpxi.com

Robertson’s response sounded reasonable enough except for a few generalizations and flippant statements. On Ebola, he said “not in Kenya” and every Kenya who was watching “amen”ed to that. Then he added that even though one should not worry about Ebola in Kenya, they should be wary of other diseases such as AIDS, Malaria and stomach bugs.

He advised against eating fresh vegetables and drinking un-sanitized water. Although the 84-year-old Christian conservative said all these things in generalities that may have exaggerated the sanitation situation in Kenya, the one statement that really rubbed Kenyans the wrong way was “… you might get AIDS, the people have AIDS in Kenya, you gotta be careful, I mean, the towels could have AIDS…”

And in their usual #SomeoneTell hash-tag activism, many Kenyans on Twitter had a field day giving Pat Robertson a piece of their mostly sarcastic mind.

I empathize with my countrymen. I really do. It hurts to have my country so grossly misrepresented by someone who has never even set foot on Kenyan soil (I think). It is only reasonable to be particularly sensitive about what Robertson said concerning Kenya.

But one thing that many seem to have missed is that Pat Robertson has been making such ridiculous statements on global TV for decades. We are only more aware of him now because he was talking about Kenya. I bet most Kenyans who probably regularly watch the 700 Club did not flinch when Pat said the following things:

  1. To a caller who said that he is often insulted by his wife, Robertson jokingly advised the man to move to a country such as Saudi Arabia, “where wife-beating is legal”.
  2. On feminism: “Feminism is a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”
  1. To the question of husbands who cheat on their wives, Robertson casually told a viewer that “males have a tendency to wander a little bit. What you want to do is make a home so wonderful that he doesn’t want to wander.”

Robertson has also, on several occasions, described abortion as a “lesbian conspiracy”. But the statement that got him the most heat was what he said in reaction to the 2010 Haitian earthquake:

 “Something happened a long time ago in Haiti… They were under the heel of the French… And they got together and swore a pact to the Devil. They said we will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French. True story. And so the Devil said, “OK, it’s a deal.” And they kicked the French out… ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other, desperately poor.”

In other words, Robertson believed the Haitians had it coming.

So it is now Kenya’s turn, and that’s why we are lining up to take our jab at Mr Robertson. Yet, in light of the man’s record and reputation for being flippant, bigoted and all other words that describe a serious lack of wisdom or discretion, should we really be wasting our breath and time reacting to his latest episode of verbal diarrhea?

Robertson’s age is confusing. At 84, one would naturally expect more mellow, nuanced and generally wise advise coming from the man who has been dishing it out for decades. But he only seems to be getting worse.

Robertson’s context is also more confusing. He is speaking as a Christian leader and his show The 700 Club targets a largely Christian audience (considering it is distributed by Christian Broadcasting Network, which was founded by Robertson). Many of us who lay claim to the same faith find ourselves in a precarious situation when it comes to this man. We are embarrassed by him, and we are naturally quick to disassociate from him.

I don’t intend to dwell much on this issue, but I felt I should point out one lesson that stood out with this incident: Pat Robertson is what happens when we rely on the wisdom of man rather than God. Robertson seemed to have weaved his way into the trust of millions of people who regularly watch his show. He gets thousands of letters seeking advise on various topics about the Christian life and ministry. But the one thing that stands out in more than 90 per cent of Robertson’s responses is that they are just that: Robertson’s responses.

He seems to be his own authority. His answers are based on his own judgment, experience and personal opinions. Very rarely does he quote the Bible or even attempt to wrestle with what God says about an issue over what Robertson thinks about it. It is simply assumed that he has earned the authority to give answers without even doing a little research on the issues involved. “I don’t know” is seldom an option. His conspiracy theories go without question.

So what do I think of Pat Robertson in light of all this? Well, the only word that comes to mind is “warning”. Yes, Pat Robertson should be a warning to all of us on the folly of relying on ourselves and our theories and philosophies instead of God’s Word.

Consider yourself warned.

“Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.” Proverbs 28:26

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” Proverbs 3:5-7

A Biblical Example of a “Healing Service”

Did you know there is a healing service in the Bible? Actually, it is a healing and deliverance service and it is even Pentecostal. You have probably read the passage dozens of times but have never thought about it as an example of a healing service.

Photo courtesy: rejoicenow.nl

Photo courtesy: rejoicenow.nl

The possibility that the first idea of a “healing” ministry or service you ever came across was something you saw on TV or in your neighborhood doesn’t help the matter. You probably know or attend a church that has regular “healing and deliverance” services. These are special services where people suffering from various “physical, social or psychological” ailments come to church and they are prayed over and get healed. It is a time when people struggling with various addictions and generational curses come to get deliverance and freedom.

But the biblical story of something close to this looks quite different. It begins with a man seated near a gate. The name of the gate is “Beautiful”, and the man is anything but. He is poor, dirty and lame. You can find the story in the third chapter of Acts. The gate leads to a temple, and the lame man is a beggar. Peter and John are going to the temple to pray when this lame beggar asks them for money.

As the story goes, the two men have no money, but they offer the beggar something else. That’s when Peter says these famous words: “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” The man jumps to his feet – healed – and follows Peter and John into the temple – praising God.

People who knew the man and knew that he was a cripple see what has just happened and they follow the trio into the temple. Of course the people are curious. Peter notices this and he turns towards them and says, “Who else wants to be healed like this man? Bring your lame and your sick people and I will show you what my God can do.” Okay, he didn’t say that. But what he said seems quite counter-intuitive and unexpected:

“Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.” [Acts 3:12-15]

Instead of inviting them for more miracles, Peter accuses the masses. Instead of inducting them for an hour of power, he indicts them for disregarding God’s power. He points out their sins and their role in the crucifixion of Jesus. Instead of capitalizing on the new-found clout, Peter begins to offend the people. Instead of sustaining the “supernatural atmosphere” he preaches the Gospel.

“By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.” [Acts 3:16]

Peter uses the miracle as an entry-point to a different message, a deeper message. He uses the miracle as a hook and bait into a greater message of healing and reconciliation.

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.” [Acts 3:19-20]

In other words, Peter turns this single spectacle of healing into a sermon on true healing – the redemption of souls separated from God by sin. The healing and deliverance that comes from turning away from our sin and believing on the salvation that comes through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peter is saying that what they just saw was a shadow, a glimpse, a picture of something more real and lasting.

Of course, there were people in the crowd who were physically sick and lame and suffering. There were people who wished and prayed that they, too, could get a portion of the healing that the crippled beggar had received. Some of these people might have turned away disappointed, because Peter had instead focused on the message of soul redemption instead of the magic of bodily healing.

I bet many people walked away disappointed that the “healing and deliverance service” they expected isn’t what they got. They walked away never realizing that it is better to be without an arm or a leg or an eye than to lose their souls because they never believed on the one who could save both the body and the soul.

How To Deal With Those Pesky Beggar Kids in Nairobi

“These street kids are everywhere these days, it is like an infestation.”

Those were the words that left my lips last Saturday at our weekly community group meeting. A few gasps followed the sentence, and then nervous laughter. Someone volunteered an explanation: “we have a doctor in the room, and the word ‘infestation’ carries a lot of weight in the medical world.”

Perhaps “infestation” was a strong word, especially since I was using it to describe human beings. I was talking about the surge of street kids in Nairobi and how they seem to have filled every nook and cranny of our city and the government is not doing much to control them. I was complaining about how most of these street families have been found to be nothing but con-artists feigning poverty to enrich themselves by manipulating the compassion and generosity of unsuspecting Kenyans. Honestly, I have grown to feel towards them the way I would feel towards pests and parasites, hence my choice of words above.

I was in the middle of explaining why I have become so cynical lately that I seldom pay any attention to any child who approaches me on the sidewalk and says Continue reading

When Being Honest and Sincere is a Bad Thing

“What matters is that you are sincere” sounds like good advise, and it is, as we shall see in a moment. But it can also be the worst advise to give anyone. God does, indeed, want us to be sincere about what we do. A common dictionary definition of sincere is “free from pretense or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings”. It is wrong to be pretentious and deceitful. We must always strive to be genuine, honest, in other words, sincere. Integrity.

Photo credit: genius.com

Photo credit: genius.com

But what if being true to who we are involves doing something that is hurtful and unkind and unloving? What if I genuinely don’t care about the homeless and the sick? Should I be sincere even then? Would it be pretentious to “do” caring things to such people because that is “the right thing to do”? Such questions lead us to something that often goes un-examined when we talk about “being sincere”: It matters what we are being sincere about. In other words, our personal feelings are not the ultimate standard of what is right or wrong. We are not automatically doing right just because we are doing what we feel like doing. There seems to be a standard of right or wrong, outside of our feelings.

Does this, then, mean that our feelings don’t matter? No. It only means that our feelings are Continue reading

What Is So Wrong With Positive Thinking?

Why do so many people (myself included) like to bash prosperity preachers? As a friend recently asked me after I posted a critique on a sermon by Creflo Dollar: “Cornell, what do you have against the man?” Before I respond to that question, three corrections:

  1. We (whoever we are) actually don’t “like” to bash prosperity preachers. (at least some of us don’t find any pleasure in it)
  2. We don’t bash prosperity “preachers”. (some of us prefer focusing on what the preachers “teach”, though many readers tend to be too emotive to distinguish between a teaching and a teacher)
  3. We actually like “prosperity” preaching. (what some of us are against is “false” prosperity preaching)

The reason I name some of these preachers is quite simple, really. It is the same reason we name people who said certain things in the newspaper. It is called attribution. If the President of Kenya said something profound (or profoundly wrong) in public, it is only reasonable that I post whatever was said along with the name of whoever said it. It is just good journalistic practice.

But somehow, when it comes to Christian preachers shouting words in public stadia, we are somehow only supposed to discuss what they said without naming them (or else send them private e-mails). I don’t think I am the only one seeing this inconsistency.

Photo courtesy: drugtesttraining.com.au

Photo courtesy: drugtesttraining.com.au

Now, I have said all that (above) in order to say this: I find it equally inconsistent to insist on applauding “positive thinking” without examining and questioning those positive thoughts. Most of the “false” prosperity teachings out there are usually forms of positive thinking. They are aimed at helping people feel better about themselves and their Christianity. There is nothing wrong with that. I am all for helping people feel better about themselves and their faith. It is the “how” of attaining this goal that I have qualms about.

This is my point: “Positive thinking” means nothing if you have the wrong standard for determining what is positive and what is negative.

For instance, if self-interest is the ultimate objective, it may be seen as positive to accumulate insane wealth without helping the poor. Do you find any problem with that?

Similarly, if social well-being is the objective, it may be seen as positive to do what helps the masses but deprives the individuals of their rights. Do you have a problem with this approach too? Why?

But if God and His glory is the standard, it is positive to do what glorifies Him, and in doing that, realizing that both the individual and the society will benefit.

Therefore, “positive thinking” means nothing without a proper context. What many of us try to emphasize when we critique false prosperity teachers teachings is how (the context in which) they deliver their message. For instance, a teacher may say that God wants to make you wealthy. That is correct. But then the teacher adds that “God wants to make you wealthy today” and we have a problem.

The problem is not that God CAN’T make you wealthy today. Of course He can. The problem is not even that God WILL NOT make you wealthy today. Who knows? Maybe He will. The problem is that God has not given us any reason in His word to be certainly sure that HE WILL MAKE YOU RICH TODAY OR TOMORROW OR IN THIS LIFE.

It is just not there. And it is false to add a false WHEN to a true CAN.

Another aspect of “positive preaching” that has arisen recently is how Victoria Osteen recently responded to “why we worship God”. By now you know what she said, so I don’t need to repeat it here (or you may Google it if you missed it). But I will only say this to that:

Make God your beginning and your end, and “the rest” will follow. But be careful not to do it SO THAT the rest will follow or BECAUSE you want the rest to follow, do it because you love God and want to do what pleases Him… whether or not “the rest” follows.

It is like loving your spouse, you don’t love them “for yourself”, in fact, if they knew you love them because of what you stand to gain, they will not see that as love. You love your spouse because you genuinely seek their joy whether or not you will be happy yourself. Of course, your own happiness MAY follow as a result, but that is not WHY you love them. You love them for them, even if they DON’T NEED your love.

So why give any less love to God? Why love God any differently?

~~~~

Cornell

 

Don’t Be An Upcoming Gospel Artiste

It happens all the time. You hear a given phrase over and over and you get used to it and you never notice anything odd or weird about it. And then one day it hits you. You may have even used the phrase in conversation, until this day when someone says it and you were a bit absent minded and then it really hits you. Suddenly it sounds so different. That’s what happened to me last evening.

I was attending SPA FEST, an annual dancing competition, to cheer a team called DICE. It is the team my friend Winnie (she has written a guest post here before) dances in. In one of the interludes, a guy came onto the stage to perform a rap song. I didn’t catch his name, and it was obvious not many people knew who he was. You could tell from the murmurs in the crowd as he climbed up onto the platform.

“I am an upcoming artiste,” he added after the name I didn’t catch.

That’s when it hit me. I have heard that phrase used hundreds of times and I bet I have even used it a couple of times when referring to people. But what does that phrase, “upcoming artiste” really mean?

L Jay Maasai was the new artiste of the year in the 2014 Groove Awards (Photo courtesy: tetemesha.com)

L Jay Maasai was the new artiste of the year in the 2014 Groove Awards (Photo courtesy: tetemesha.com)

The surface meaning seems obvious. An upcoming artiste is someone who has recently started singing or performing in public. An upcoming artiste often doesn’t have an album – yet – and he has recently started recording some songs – or not yet. An upcoming artiste is not famous. His name has not caught on and people still struggle to remember him whenever he comes onto the stage.

An upcoming artiste is not an established artiste. In other words, he is not that popular – yet. Most of them can barely move the crowd (although the guy I saw yesterday really worked us up). All that sounds obvious, until it hits you afresh like it did me last evening. Why the “up” in upcoming? In fact, why the “coming”? Does the phrase reveal a worldview that we often overlook, as Christians, but should actually be wary of?

I believe it does, in a way.

An “up-coming” artiste implies that the artiste is “rising” to a certain level and that he or she will one day “arrive”. This bothers me. Because whenever we say an artiste is “rising” whose ranking are we using? The truth is that we have bought into the vocabulary and therefore the worldview of the world. We are categorizing and ranking Christian artistes using worldly standards and we don’t even realize it.

In the world, it is the numbers that speak. In the world, we know an artiste has “arrived” by counting the number of songs and albums and sales he has made. In the world, we know an artiste has arrived by looking at how many followers he has on Twitter and the place he holds in the TV music show charts. In other words, in the world, the stats are counted, not weighed. 

Which leads to the inevitable question, whose standards are we living and “performing” by? The irony is that most of the “upcoming” artistes often begin with a message that is faithful and biblical in the early years of their musical “career”. But as they rise up the ranks and arrive, the message gets more shallow and their gospel becomes watered down and less explicit. By the time they are topping the charts, many are great performers with messages that can barely be distinguished from the other chart-topping “secular” artistes.

Just track the musical journey of many current “arrived” artistes. Check their stats and you will see the consistent rise. Now go back and check the content of their songs and you will see the consistent decline. It will make you wonder if what we need is up-coming artistes or “down-going” artistes.

I am not saying that this is the case with all artistes who gain popularity in their musical careers. There will always be the remnants and the faithful such as Eunice Njeri. The fine wines that only get better with age like Christina Shusho are worth their place in the charts. But these are exceptional because they are the exceptions. The rule is more worrying.

“[Christ] must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:30

For the fame of His name,

Cornell

Lyrical Review: Kanjii Mbugua’s Rauka [Album]

Does God have a favorite type of music? many people, especially older people, are convinced God is into hymns. Others argue that God loves rock music, but leans more towards soft rock, you know, the Casting Crowns type of music. God is definitely into Hillsong. Surely, He must love the Gospel RnBs. We know He can’t love Hip Hop because, you know, (whispering) the demonic roots and all. Or maybe He is into reggae music…But seriously, though, does God have a favorite type of music?

rauka

Photo courtesy: spinlet.com

I think He does, and I know which album would be on top favorites if I sneaked a peek into His iTunes: Kanjii Mbugua’s Rauka album. Why do I say this? Because Kanjii’s album was good enough to make it into the Bible. Don’t believe me? Just open the Psalms, chapter 151 to be exact. Although all the 14 songs are written in Swahili with a few English lines sprinkled in one or two songs, Rauka is a masterful work of lyricism. But then again, Kanjii is gifted that way.

But what strikes me most is not the chords but the lyrics. I am not a music expert, and that is why I have always reviewed the lyrics of a song and left the musical production and arrangement to the experts. This is the first album I am reviewing on Alien Citizens. I usually review individual songs. I am reviewing it as an album because I am compelled to do justice to such a great work of worshipful art. Rauka is like a 14-page devotional book. You’ve probably already realised your Bible doesn’t have Psalm 151. Well, not anymore, because here are the 14 verses *:

1. Rauka (Rise up)

Rauka (rise up) speaks to the hopeless among us. The ones who have been branded poor, without cure, the constant failures. The song calls you to remember that Jesus did not forget you when He saved you. You may have recently received a dismissal notice at work and auctioneers are scrambling for your property, But remember Jesus did not forget you. So rise up, forget the past, what you have been through. RIse up, it’s a new day. “We thank you Father, we lift You up, we praise You. We receive You, King of kings.”

2. Ako nami (He is with me)

The second song sets a trend that I found distinctive and commendable in the rest of the album, Kanjii moves from just talking “about” God to talking “to” and “with” God. He moves from mere analysis of God’s nature to the actual worship and adoration of that nature. Ako nami (He is with me) reflects on God’s eternal strength, glory, Lordship and kindness. 

“You’re the rock on which I stand. You’re the one that never changes. In your arms I am secure. You’re protecting me. In your power I am mighty. Against all weapons formed against me, I shall not fear, I shall not fear.”

3. Karibu (Welcome)

Karibu (welcome) speaks of proclaiming the praises and attributes of God throughout the world. “All day long, I will confess You are holy, You name be lifted high, from every corner of this country, may all praise go to you Father.” And then Rigga reinforces the message with his rapping prowess; “Welcome Father, there’s no one like You, We welcome You King, Lion… Your Highness, we will make your praises heard… How will they know the King has arrived?”

4. Mfalme Mkuu

The most popular song in the album mainly because of the video that was released with the album. Mfalme Mkuu speaks of how Jesus saved us in the midst of our despair. “I had lost hope in life, I was to perish, fall, I was to be lost, but Jesus saved me… I was drowning, troubles all around me, I was in captivity, defeated, overwhelmed, but Jesus saved me… I am astounded, amazed, surprised, Your goodness has no measure, Your strength has no measure.”

5. Ebenezer

“He has said He won’t leave me until we reach the shore, He has said He has a good plan, a plan to give me hope. You are Lord of my life, and your promises are true. I will trust You, your promises are eternal… Let them say what they say, you are my Ebenezer, You guide me in life, there is no one else like You.”

6. Wewe Tu (Only You)

This song speaks of whom we should run to in our times of trouble: to God and not man. “In my pain, I cry out to my Lord. He is with me, I will not be afraid. I’d rather run to You than to man, I remember your love. Your Word is my hope. Your mercies never cease.” Kidum’s unmistakable voice spices the second verse and reinforces the same Psalm 22-like message: “Enemies surround me, I have no escape, but in Your name Lord, I am a victor…” But for You Lord, I would have perished in darkness. But for You Lord. Only You.

7. Mwanzo na Mwisho (Beginning and the End)

So far my favorite song in the album, “I thought I would perish, troubles overwhelmed me, in my depression I cried out to the Lord. He is my fortress, my hope, my rock of salvation… I will lift Him up, I will praise Him, He is the Savior, Alpha and Omega… Your name is Jehova, Lord, I ascribe to you all authority forever.”

8. Nitangoja (I Will Wait)

“It wasn’t long ago, I was drowning in issues, I longed for peace. Then I saw Your face, the One I depend on, You are my resting place. Even in my perplexion, when enemies surround me, I remember You will never leave me… I stand before You, surely You’re my shield. You’re teaching me, you’re my refuge, I will stand on Your Word.”

9. Nakuhitaji (I Need You)

“I don’t need to look for someone to care for me, love me. I don’t need to look for someone to make me happy, to satisfy me. There are no others, my soul thirsts for You. You are mine and I long for You… You’re the true vine. You provide everything I need. You are mine, I long for You.”

10. Juu Yangu (Upon me)

“I am poor, I have nothing to call my own. Like the birds of the air, you care for me. I am sure You hold my hand. You draw me to Your shadow… I know His hand upon me, I know His hand upon me… The ones I thought were my friends forsook me. But Your presence, Father, was over me. When my body wasted away with disease, You are Jehova Rapha, You healed me.”

And of course, the transposed lines towards the end are nothing short of heavenly: “Ooh, he has risen. No matter what I am going through. He has risen.”

11. Mwamba (Rock)

A mildly reggae tune with the talented Rigga sprinkled all over it: “I have come from far, seen a lot. Who cares for me? (My rock). They betrayed me, they mocked me. Who is my friend? (My rock)… I am not afraid of the floods, the rains or the winds. My foundation is in You, my rock, my rock… I will follow your Word, it is You I will depend You, Hide me.”

12. Wewe unami (You are with me)

More of a refrain than the usual verses and chorus, Wewe Unami (You are with me) is an affirmation of God’s constant and refreshing presence. It speaks of the cross as the bridge to life. “He walks with me, He holds my hand, His shadow surrounds me.” Pure, gospel-centered, worship.

13. Wewe (You

I think this is the song with the most frequent and explicit reference to Wewe (You), a psalmic chorus that addresses God and sounds almost private for its personal references: “You are my pillar, You are my refuge. You, You. You are my strength, You are my hope. You You…. In a dry land where there is no water. You are my Good. I seek. I seek. My soul longs for you. I thirst for you, I wait for you.”

14. Still Moving

The last song of the album is also the only fast-paced, party-feel song. It speaks of moving on and hoping and trusting despite circumstances that say otherwise. It is a song about rejoicing in lack and weakness. A song about praising in apparent hopelessness and despair. 

——

There you have it, a brief (long) overview of the whole album **. When I think about it, I am not so sure why I fell in love with this album. I mean, I can’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe it’s the way the album is so explicit about God and His place in our lives. Maybe it’s the way every song stresses the weakness of man and the strength of God. Could it be the way each chord ties together the paradox of being happy in suffering, hopeful in bleakness, joyful in sadness? perhaps I love this album so much because it does not just remind me of my utter wretchedness and weakness, but it supplants this reality with God’s saving mercy and grace through Jesus Christ.

In other words, it is a Gospel album.

Written for the fame of His name.

~~~
Cornell

* The album is in Swahili so I have done my best to translate the lyrics.

** You can buy the album and pay via MPESA (and other online payment alternatives) through this link (just click on this sentence).