Did you know that the Kenyan constitution gives every child the right to a name?

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credit: nationalgeographic.com

The Bill of Rights in the Kenyan Constitution (Article 53) clearly outlines the rights of children, including the right of every child to free and compulsory basic education, the right to basic nutrition, and the right to shelter and health care.

But the first item in the list of almost a dozen rights is an odd one — every Kenyan child has a right to a name. Why does the right to a name have to be included in the Constitution? Whoever heard of a child without a name?

The first fundamental right of every Kenyan under general “rights and freedoms” is the right to life, but when it comes to children’s section, their first right is their claim to a name. Which leads to a more important question, what names do Kenyan parents give their children? And what do these names say about those children?

I am not so much here concerned about all the Kenyan children named after Barack Obama or the Air Force One. I am not even talking about the newborn who was branded “Donald Trump Otieno” months before the new US president was elected, or the boy whose birth certificate has read “The Beast” since 2015. My concern is with an entirely different list of children’s names.

I am talking about the names parents give their children as they grow up, the names that will never feature in the children’s birth certificates or school IDs. Yet, these names become the lens through which children see themselves. I am talking about names like “Good for Nothing”, or “Disappointment” or “The Clumsy One”. These are very popular children’s names with many parents.

In fact, such names are more powerful because, unlike birth names, children grow up believing that they have earned these names. They think they deserve them. The truth is that, when parents give their children cheap, hurtful names, those children will grow up to live cheap, hurtful lives.

It doesn’t help that these names tend to be very memorable. The names, or labels, stick to children. They follow follow them around. They define them. They become who they are. They are like the jestful “Kick Me” sticker that naughty kids put on the backs of their peers in school, only more destructive.

A recent report by Childline Kenya revealed some shocking numbers in terms of reported incidents of child abuse in Kenya. Over the last 10 years, more than 33,900 reports of child abuse were made through the helpline. Of these, 13,878 were reports of child neglect and abandonment, 7,832 reports of sexual abuse were made, followed by 7,317 report of physical abuse. Only 1,025 reports of emotional abuse were made.

However, do not be deceived by the dismal number of reported incidents of emotional abuse. Sadly, many people do not think emotional abuse is worth reporting. An even larger number of Kenyans would not recognise emotional abuse if they saw it. The numbers above tell a shocking story, but they also tell an incomplete story.

The numbers tell us nothing about all the destructive names that parents give their children and burden their lives with. The numbers don’t tell us how children tend to internalise the labels that parents and even peers project onto them. The numbers don’t reveal how children begin to become the label and make it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Names have a deep and lasting impact on how children feel about themselves. Names are the first labels for what children believe about themselves and the images they carry of themselves. The names we give our children become their ‘brand.’

The Constitution has given every Kenyan child the right to a name. However, it would appear that some children are better off without a name than with the names their parents burden them with.
In the unfortunate event you witness a child being abused, call the helpline 116 or WhatsApp Childline Kenya on +254799873107. You can also email 116@childlinekenya.co.ke (Twitter: @childlinekenya)

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Are you a Christian? How do you know? Are you sure? What criteria do you use to tell if someone is a Christian or not? What are the “essential doctrines” or “fundamentals” that one must agree with and believe to be considered a true convert? And one more thing: Does the devil possess any of these “Christian traits”?

I went through my Bible for some examples of the things that the devil believes and does. I wonder if these traits are enough to render him a Christian:

  1. Satan reads and has memorized his Bible. He drops verses like a pro when tempting Jesus.  (Matthew 4)
  2. Satan believes that there is one God. (James 2:19)
  3. Satan can perform signs and wonders (2 Thess 2:9)
  4. The demons (Satan’s minions) know and acknowledge that Jesus is the “Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24)
  5. The same demons also acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God. (Luke 4:41)
  6. It appears Satan has access to the presence of God and converses with God (Job 1:6)
  7. He knows that he can do nothing without God’s permission (Job 1:6-12)

Are these “facts” enough to render Satan a Christian? And if not, what are those things that would disqualifies him from being one?

My answer is that there is at least one thing that the devil neither seems to know, BELIEVE nor ACCEPT. There is also one thing that the devil never DOES, and the reason why he doesn’t DO the latter is because he doesn’t BELIEVE the former.

First, what the devil doesn’t BELIEVE:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]

Secondly, what the devil doesn’t DO:

“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” [1 John 3:14]

In other words;

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  [John 13:35]

The devil does not love God and he does not love his neighbor. His loveless actions are the evidence that he does not believe the Gospel. However, the devil does claim to love people and care for people and look out for the best interest of the people. The difference is that his love, care and concern is not expressed in ways that explicitly honor and give glory to God.

Now that we know a few things that set the devil (with all his knowledge, beliefs and works) apart from the true children of God, the more important question is this: What sets the devil apart from you? Do you believe the Gospel? And has this belief caused any change in your love for God and neighbor? Doe your love for others show others that you are acting out of gratitude for what God has does for you?

I implore you to examine your heart and prayerfully consider this.

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credit: telegraph.co.uk

We have all passed through that stage. We didn’t understand why our parents wouldn’t let us sleep over at a friend’s house, or why we had to brush our teeth, or eat our vegetables and make our beds. All our confused and pained “whys” were quickly silenced by mum’s firm “Because I said so”. Of course, now that we are older and we understand about neighborhood feuds, cavities, good diet and grooming, we can appreciate these formerly oppressive commands. Hindsight is always 20-20.

In retrospect, we can see that our parents had nothing but our good in mind. Even though we were too young to understand the “whys”, our parents were old enough, and that was enough for the time being. No, we did not enjoy the pain and darkness surrounding those commands. Deep down in our hearts, we were convinced that our parents were just plain mean, sometimes.

While a similar case can be made for why God gives us certain commands and instructions, the parallels do not always fit. Analogies are helpful, but analogies can only go so far. Even so, there is something to be said about some seemingly “pointless”, “oppressive” and “irrelevant” commands in the Bible.

OFFICIAL CAPACITY

I would like to zoom in on what I can only describe (for lack of a better description) as official commands in the Bible. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the adjective official as “of or relating to an office, position, or trust.” To say that someone is official is to say that he or she is to be recognized and treated in reference to the authority or office they claim to represent.

Whether that person has the intrinsic talents and abilities to carry out that official role is irrelevant to the fact that they already have that role. This is why Christians are commanded to submit to all earthly authorities (Romans 13), even those that are oppressive and definitely fail to qualify for that office. We are not commanded to submit only to good leaders or qualified leaders, only to people in leadership, their CVs and character notwithstanding.

At the risk of belabouring this point, consider two friends working in the same office. One friend is the supervisor or manager of the other. If one day the subordinate friend came to work late, the supervisor friend may have to deal with her in her “official capacity” and dish out the required discipline. This is fairly easy to understand in our various “official” interactions with friends and family in life. However, we are not so quick to recognize similar rules when it comes to the Bible and the different “Biblical offices.”

Consider this controversial passage:

“I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. [1 Tim 2:12-14]

THE PASTOR’S OFFICE

I say that this verse is controversial beforehand because it speaks to an issue that is quite divisive and hotly contested in the church today — the issue of women as pastors and elders in the church.

Some of the arguments raised against having women as pastors include the claim that Paul was speaking to a specific cultural problem and context, and that the command is not universally applicable to today’s society. This is probably right, but there are passages in other parts of the Bible that make it difficult to use this line of argument as the conclusive proof that the issue of women in church leadership was only a cultural one. Even so,

I will not be dealing with that argument today. What I am concerned about is a different line of thought. A line of thought that may actually render the whole “this was a cultural issue” debate irrelevant to the bigger picture. As already revealed in the beginning of this post, I am here dealing with the argument of “equal worth” and “equal capacity/giftedness” in men and women. This is what is commonly referred to as egalitarianism.

Basically, the argument states that “since women are equally capable and equally gifted to teach and lead, then there is no reason why they should not be pastors.” Here is my contention. Are women able to teach? Yes. Are women able to lead? Yes, of course! Are women, more often than not, better teachers than men? Definitely! Are women arguably more intuitive and better able to multitask than men? Yes. So, should they be pastors and teach the church congregation on an official capacity based on their abilities? No. Why? Because God says so, or as Paul says in 1 Corinthians, because the LAW says so:

“The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.” [1 Corinthians 14:34]

As a child, I was perfectly able to go over to my friend’s and spend the night. I was perfectly able to skip eating my veggies and brushing my teeth. But my parents knew better. They had reasons that my childish reasoning capacity could comprehend, let alone accept. So I obeyed them. Yet, this is also where my analogy fails.

As an adult, I am now able to perceive the direct evil consequences that could have resulted from disobeying my parents’ instructions. A visit to the dentist is one very effective way of driving home the message. However, it is still more difficult to think of any good reason why a woman being a pastor would lead negative consequences. This is probably because many of us are wired to be consequentialists: We only categorise some actions as bad when we can clearly see the negative consequences of doing them.

This is why the reasons Paul often gives for why women should not teach seem strange, offensive even, to many of us. However, if our understanding of sin and morality is guided by the Bible, then we should be able to acknowledge that sin is not bad primarily because it hurts people, sin is bad because it is against God’s order and commands. In other words, sin hurts people because it is bad (and even when we cannot see how it hurts people, it is still bad because God said so). This is why some actions like my parents not letting me sleep at a friend’s house on a school night is good, even though it hurts me at the time.

Pain is a poor determinant of right and wrong.

So, when Paul, in 1 Timothy, says a woman should not assume authority over a man because “Adam was formed first, then Eve“, we are tempted to find another special reason for this command. It just doesn’t sit well with us. It just doesn’t seem like a strong enough justification for forbidding women to lead a congregation since “we can see all of the benefits and none of the losses” if they did.

EGALITARIANISM AND THE TRINITY

In conclusion, let us briefly look at the offices that men are commanded to hold and how qualified they are to do it. Consider this verse:

“I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” [1 Corinthians 11:3]

Keeping in mind the case laid out above, is there anything in the man that makes him intrinsically more capable and more fit to be the head of the house or the head of the woman? No. Then why don’t we oppose this passage using the same argument of consequentialism? Perhaps this argument  sounds less offensive because it appeals to the headship of God over Christ, and the headship of Christ over man.

Please, do not misunderstand me. I have sat under many a female “pastor” and gained truths about God that many male pastors could probably not have taught me better. I have listened to many sermons by women “pastors” that were solid and biblical and I gleaned treasures worth an eternal spot in my heart. Many of these women pastors are good friends of mine. Women indeed do make excellent teachers.

Yet, consider this: Can Christ do what God (the Father) can do? Yes. Does Christ know what God knows? Yes. Does Christ have all the attributes that God, the Father, has? Yes. So, should Christ play the role or serve in the office of the Father? No. Why? Because God says so. Because God has ordered (arranged) and ordered (commanded) it so!

May we learn to rest in God’s sovereign wisdom, even when we don’t get it.

Controversy seems to follow Gloria Muliro wherever she turns, like an unshakable stalker.

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The latest has to do with her song, Follow You. The singer has been accused of stealing/plagiarizing/sampling (whichever term seems most appropriate), not only the words, but also the tune to the chorus/verse from Chris Tomlin’s song, I Will Follow You.

Now, people will throw out accusations all the time at celebrities. What matters is whether those accusations are true, reasonable, justifiable or simply unfounded. What makes Gloria Muliro’s case even more noteworthy is the fact that she responded, by denying all charges of stealing/sampling/plagiarizing the song [both consciously or sub-consciously].

She further added that the contentious lyrics were inspired by the Bible and any similarity with Chris Tomlin’s song is purely coincidental.

It is this denial that makes her case worth examining, especially if you’ve listened to the two songs. Here are the links to the two songs: Gloria Muliro and Chris Tomlin. Give them a listen before you proceed. The first 30 seconds should do it.

Now, a few details concerning the controversy:

FIRST, the words in the contentious verse in both songs are [almost] exactly the same. The only difference is that Chris Tomlin uses the word “when” instead of “where” in the second to last part of the verse [underlined]:

Muliro: “where you go I’ll go, where you stay I’ll stay, where you move I’ll move I’ll move, I will follow you”

Tomlin: “where you go I’ll go, where you stay I’ll stay, when you move I’ll move, I will follow you”

SECONDLY, Gloria Muliro was recently interviewed by Buzz concerning the controversial song. This was her explanation for the apparent similarity between the songs:

Buzz: Okay, make us understand why you are accused of stealing the song ‘Follow You’ by American singer Chris Tomlin word by word.

Muliro: Let me make it very clear. My music is inspired by the Bible. The words in ‘Follow Me’ are in the book of Ruth 1:16. Check and you will see. If today I preach the sermon from John 3:16, that will not prevent somebody else to preach the same verse in Russia. We are all guided and inspired by the same Bible.

THIRDLY, if you’ve listened to the choruses in both songs, the tune is more or less the same. But I will leave that one up for the reader’s/listener’s determination. It could be that all songs sound the same to me. I’m a lyrics guy, after all  🙂

Anyway, my focus in bringing this controversy to light is not to determine whether Gloria Muliro did sample Chris Tomlin’s song (though I feel like that’s exactly what I’m doing). My major concern is in the way she responded to the accusations, considering her claim to be a Christian, and therefore expected to live (or at least speak) according to certain standards.

In the excerpt above, she told Buzz that the words in the song are in Ruth 1:16. This could be true. Ruth 1:16 says, “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.” However, the verse does not have the “where you move, I’ll move” part. I could be splitting hairs here, but it seems Gloria Muliro’s song has more in common with Chris Tomlin’s song than with the Bible (her alleged sole inspiration).

I have tried to give her the benefit of doubt. I have even considered what a friend suggested on Facebook, that this could be a case of Cryptomnesia (This is when “a forgotten memory returns without it being recognised as such by the subject, who believes it is something new and original. It is a memory bias whereby a person may falsely recall generating a thought, an idea, a song, or a joke…” ) I was willing to grant that, but upon closer examination of the song, I realized that the similarities are too detailed to be merely incidental.

Some similarities in the internal message in both songs is striking. Yes, a person may sub-consciously sample a chorus and plagiarize a few lyrics, but is it possible for one to subconsciously translate those lyrics into Swahili? That seems a little bit hard to pull off.

In the first verse, Chris Tomlin says, “All your ways are good, All your ways are sure….” and in her first verse, Gloria Muliro says, “….Njia zako hakika (all your ways are good), Mambo yako sambamba (all your ways are sure)…” Maybe I am just cherry-picking lines to prove a point. So, let’s go all the way to the last verse and see what we can find there. In Chris Tomlin’s song, there are phrases such as, “…In you there’s joy, unending joy…” and in Gloria Muliro’s song, “…kuna upendo tele kwako (in you there’s unending joy), furaha kwako (in you there’s joy).” Is this still a coincidence inspired by the story of Ruth and Naomi? Maybe it is. Who knows? God works in mysterious ways.

But an even more important question is this, do you think those are sufficient reasons to make people think that Gloria stole/sampled Chris Tomlin’s song? I think they are. Gloria Muliro doesn’t seem to think so. When asked whether the accusations against her were unfounded, this was her disturbing response:

Buzz: So why would people think that you stole the song, in your opinion?

Muliro: People are just jealous of my success.

Dear Christian artistes, we are called to be above reproach. This does not necessarily mean that we will never fail or try to cover up our failures. It means that we should always be ready (and willing) to bring those failures to the cross. It doesn’t help anyone to keep holding onto our “righteousness” when it is clear before God and before men that there is reason and cause for repentance.

Christianity is not about never falling, it is about always rising up after the fall. Our faith is best displayed in our admission of our falleness (and in our proclamation of Christ’s sufficiency to forgive and raise us up again). No, the world will not be won by our outward cloaks of perfection and self-righteousness, it will be won by the display of our utter dependency, for therein lies the reality of the Gospel in our lives. We are all desperate beggars before God’s throne of grace.

It is my prayer that Gloria Muliro will come to the realization that Christian artistes are not saints misunderstood, but sinners forgiven.

Soli Deo Gloria

It is NOT true that women in Kenya and the world earn less than men for doing the same job.

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If you are in Kenya and want something to rant about online, our beloved matatus will never disappoint you. The industry is fresh fodder for daily frustration, both to those who use them and those who are privileged enough to drive themselves around.

Kenyan-Matatu-Conductors

The government seems to have given up on “enforcing” the various laws and regulations about loud music and overloading (on some routes). The mostly ceremonial Saccos are letting conductors have a field day with fare prices. What can the “ordinary” Kenyan do? Beyond lobbying the government and agencies to “do its job”, is there really much else we can do?

As a journalist, I wrote a fair share of stories about the woes of Kenyans on matatu-ridden streets and highways. A quick search on Google reveals that it is not for the lack of highlighting the plight of Kenyans who have to deal with matatus daily.

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This post is a work in progress, a pathetic attempt (if you insist) at encouraging us to “do something” about the menace. If you claim to be a responsible citizen, or even just a responsible human being, you would agree that throwing up your hands is not an option. The following are some of the ways I am going to “do something” about it:

1. Silence is not an option

I will speak up and out against loud music, Orbit (PK?) seating and arbitrary pricing. I expect to be mostly be ignored, insulted or even asked to take the next bus. But may it never be said that it was for my lack of voice.

2. Contact relevant authorities

I will pen that letter, type that email and make that call to NTSA, NEMA, Matatu Owners Association and whoever else is supposed to be an authority on these matters. I will air my grievances and call them to account. I do not trust the traffic police, so I don’t see myself having much use for them. However, when I am in a good mood, I might occasionally also ask the police to shape up.

3. Sacrifice convenience for justice

As far as it depends on me, I will wait for that matatu that observes the law, the one with turned down music and with the same number of passengers as the number of  seats. I will get up early, plan my daily schedule so that I won’t have to contribute to breaking the law out of “convenience”.

4. Look at the bigger picture

No one may notice me waiting for that rare quiet matatu. The conductors may never care nor feel any loss if I decide to step out rather than squeeze in. But this is not why I am choosing to be a better citizen. My goal is beyond changing the behavior of a single matatu conductor, bus driver or even Kenya’s transport industry. I am living for an entirely different Kingdom, a bigger and more lasting Kingdom than the nation of Kenya. Every step in the right direction is a step for rather than against that Kingdom.

My ultimate reward is not a comfortable ride or a shamed matatu conductor. I am not doing these things so that I can boast about the changes “I helped bring”. I don’t mind failing in the here and now. Ultimately, I am doing this for God’s kingdom, which includes this world, but is thankfully not limited to this world.

Would you care to join me? Come on board and let us go fight a losing battle; because the victory in the war (which is already guaranteed). You see, in God’s “economy”, what we need to tame a world that has gone rogue is to live lives that don’t follow suit. Do the little you know to do. Take the time to learn better and more effective ways to achieve the change you yearn for.

“Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” Ephesians 4:26

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

 

 

The Pokot culture is deeply rooted in pastoralism. Our attitude towards and perception of cattle can only be compared to that of the modern society towards gold or money. We believe,therefore, that all cattle in belong to us.

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A question that has probably lurked in the mind of anyone who has followed the unfolding story of bullying at Alliance High School is this: How could students who perform so well academically descend to such depths of brutality?
Senior counsel John Khaminwa (left) tries to calm a charged lawyer, Edwin Sifuna, after chaos erupted during the Law Society of Kenya's Annual General Meeting on March 21, 2015 at Hilton Hotel as the society's president Eric Mutua (far back) looks on . PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Senior counsel John Khaminwa (left) tries to calm a charged lawyer, Edwin Sifuna, after chaos erupted during Law SOciety of Kenya’s Annual General Meeting on March 21, 2015. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The name Alliance High School is synonymous with academic excellence in Kenyan secondary school education. It is the school that every hard-working Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) candidate dreams of attending.

Some of the most notable minds in Kenya’s public offices were honed in Alliance High School. From former Chief Justice Evan Gicheru, Senators Amos Wako and Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o, to veteran newspaper editor Philip Ochieng, just to name a few, the school boasts of being the anvil upon which great minds were shaped.

This is why the recent bullying incident came to many outsiders of the school as a great shock. But the incident is neither new nor isolated to those who attended the school. It should not be news. The famed “monolisation” has been a rite of passage in Kenyan secondary schools for decades — and Alliance High School was no exception. So why the gasps from those outside looking in?

The incident has made headlines for two main reasons. First, social media and easily accessible camera phones ensured that the public got a sneak preview into what goes on inside our high schools. I bet this was not even the first time someone has bled from a bullying experience. But it was the first time images of the same made it out of the school compound.

The second reason the story made headlines is because Alliance High School has the reputation of being the tower of academic excellence in Kenya. For some strange reason, we tend to associate academic brilliance with civility. It seems obvious enough. We consider ourselves better than the caveman because we are “more educated” and civilised. But is this true?

Brainiacs

If our members of parliament are anything to go by, we should be very doubtful of correlating academic achievement with civility. We have all seen the numerous episodes that have occasioned the favorite newspaper headline “Drama as MPs….” And if that example seems like an outlier, we all remember what happened at a Law Society of Kenya meeting when some members demanded a building project.

There is no scientific evidence to support the common assumption that education will inoculate human beings against their baser savage selves. Education may make us more sophisticated in how we express that violent side of us, but it in no way guarantees world peace.

The term brainiac, which was first used in the Superman comics as the name of a supremely intelligent alien character, is derived from a blend of brain and maniac. Even the most educated of us are not immune from brainiac tendencies. In fact, they may be the most savage since they are more able to justify their behaviour and reason or argue themselves out of any wrongdoing.

Bullies are us

But we should not be any more surprised that students students in Alliance High School are bullies any more than we should be surprised that some students in the same school have a flu. Bullying happens when young people direct their frustrations, hurt, anger and difficulties at home or in class to their peers.

Bullying happens when young people lack of attention from friends, parents or teachers. They will do it just to get a high, feel popular and be seen as ‘tough’ or ‘cool’ and in charge. Bullying happens when bad upbringing at home makes young people insensitive to other people’s feelings and emotions. They are happy to see their classmate depressed, sad and hurt.

The news about bullying in Alliance High School is a few decades too late. It should not be news. But the story of educated people behaving badly is as old as the age of humanity. It should not surprise us at all.

All you need to do is switch on your TV set at prime time and you will be discouraged about the state of our country, our poor beloved Kenya.

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Corruption is out of control. Impunity seems the order of the day as those in power evade justice over and over and over again. The opposition is merely the mirror image of the government as the “it’s our turn to eat” narrative drives political ambition. Negative tribalism is disguised in talk of “strongholds” and “negotiated democracy” while many Kenyans begin to wonder if their vote – and their voice – matters in this whole charade.

It is easy to get discouraged as a citizen of Kenya. In fact, given the events taking place, it is the most reasonable thing to do. It was easy to be patriotic during the days of terrorist attacks. Back then, the enemy was tangible and discernible, and foreign. Both the opposition and the government had a common enemy. But now, now everything is all muddled up. The enemy is amongst  us, and often within us, and this has messed up with our collective sense of nationality. We don’t know who to trust anymore.

Outrage Fatigue?

Doctors have been on strike for almost three months ago and few people even seem to know what the issue is, let alone how to resolve it. News barely makes sense anymore. One day you are siding with the doctors, the next day the spin doctors have changed your mind and you are now siding with the government. Wait, does it even make sense to take sides if we are all “one country”?

There is such a thing as compassion fatigue (outrage fatigue?) and many of us are at breaking point. We are being pushed to breaking (no-caring) point. We just want to retreat to our little corner and focus on our job, family and friends and let the rest of the nation take care of itself. Life is too short to care about everything and everyone. Let us all eat and drink and (hopefully) be merry, for tomorrow we die. There are people who “run” this country and they will do whatever they want. We have no “real” control over their decisions and actions, so why even bother?

This is where many of us are, and where many more are heading. We are folding into ourselves. Ranting on social media has lost its appeal. Hashtags never go far enough and tweets never go deep enough. We are not seeing results. Those in power seem to have all the cards. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

We Are Citizens, Not Merely Voters

I am a communication specialist, and I have previously worked as a journalist for four years. I have noticed that the efforts that make the biggest splash in the political scene are usually not very complex or calculated. Stories are perennially powerful, and often all it takes is a good story being picked up by the right person to make a difference.

This is what I mean; more often than not, it is not the statistics about a particular issue that move people to action, it is how you leverage these statistics to evoke emotions. This means that one story about a person’s rape ordeal could be more powerful than displaying staggering numbers of rape cases on a PowerPoint slide.

Just look at what happened in India. Rape is not a new plague in the country. It has been rampant there for decades. But it took a few stories showcasing the lives of those affected to start strong movements and cause radical changes in the law. In a previous post, I wrote about how there are more ways to be a responsible citizen than merely taking part in a vote. I focused largely on what we can do in our “circle of concern”. In this post, my focus is more “political”. My aim is to, hopefully, wake us up to the political options we have as citizen to contribute to positive change in your country.

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These may not make sense at first glance, and you may even doubt how effective they are. But sometimes you need to be part of something to see and appreciate its power. Having worked as a journalist, I had the advantage of seeing the areas where citizen participation made the biggest waves in government and society. More often than not, all it took was answering “yes” to the following questions.

Have you ever:

  • Signed a petition?
  • Contacted your MP, MCA or area representative?
  • Gone on a protest or demonstration?
  • Contacted a government department?
  • Spoken to an influential person about an issue you feel strongly about?
  • Raised an issue in an organisation you belong to?
  • Contacted radio, TV or newspaper?
  • Formed a group of like-minded people?

When we begin to see our role and scope of responsibility as much larger than the mere casting of a vote, then we will realize that we wield power to cause real political change in our society. Voter apathy happens when we limit the horizon of our political participation to casting  the vote once every five years. When we see our politics and our politicians through the lens of the ballot, we are only displaying our ignorance.

You have the power to do more. Join a political party. Join a political cause. Get out of the house. Talk to your neighbor. Unplug your earphones and engage that person sitting next to you in the bus (yes, I know it’s awkward and you are an introvert). Make use of that suggestion box. Send a letter to that politician. Write to the editor of that national newspaper (very few people actually do this, you’d be surprised). Get up, get out and tell your story.

The reason we get voter fatigue is because we have too narrow a view of ourselves. We are much more than voters in Kenya. We are citizens of Kenya.

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(c) tollywoodandhra.in

The ease with which one can access movies and music on the internet has made online piracy one of the hardest plagues for media owners and users to fight.

For many of us Kenyans, we have that “movie guy” who always hooks you up with the latest movies and episodes of your favorite shows (for just Sh50 per DVD!) You’ve probably never thought of this as piracy, especially since you are paying for the movie. But the reality is that these distributors illegally download the movies and shows and then write them onto DVDs for your entertainment.

Some of us are more internet savvy and we have installed torrent clients (e.g. bittorrent, utorrent) onto our computers and we download those pirated movies in the comfort of our homes. There are also numerous streaming services that give you access to thousands of movies and tv shows for free streaming (if you can get through the numerous pop-up ads).

The same goes for music. It is now possible to get a download of an American album within hours of its release without paying a dime for it. I admit that the jury is still out on some of the legal ramifications of downloading pirated copies of movies made in countries whose copyright laws don’t apply to us. In other words, Kenya is not part of the jurisdiction of many American copyright laws, which makes the issue of whether or not it is legal to download and watch pirated movies a tricky one.

But behind every law is a spirit an ethic, and a value system which the author of that law sought to satisfy. By making it illegal to download the film or show for free in the United States, the creator of that commodity intended that anyone anywhere who accesses it should pay for it (even if they can’t get prosecuted for breaking that code).

There is also the matter of artists who go broke and yet their music is making waves across the globe. However, this is not the post for that discussion. My aim here is more practical.

In the paragraphs that follow, I only seek to answer the question: “I feel it is wrong to download and watch pirated movies and TV shows, but it would be easier to avoid doing wrong if I had legal options for downloading and watching.” Here is my lame attempt at reducing the temptation and, hopefully, fighting piracy in Kenya.

HOW TO WATCH WESTERN MOVIES AND SERIES

The following are the only two service providers I know of that provide access to western movies and TV shows legally, but, of course, for a fee.

1. Netflix

The American online streaming service has been active in Kenya for slightly over a year. Kenyans can now access award-winning movies and TV shows like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, the entire Star Trek series, and hundreds others. For as low as USD7.99 every month, one can stream all these shows with a clean conscience. In November 2016, Netflix added the option to download movies and series episodes onto your phone or tablet for watching while offline. This is a great option for those who probably access affordable internet at the office and coffee shops and don’t have the same access at home. You can just download the episodes you want to watch then catch up on them at the comfort of your home.

  • PS: For new subscribers, Netflix allows you to access the full collection for free for the first 30 days.
  • PPS: My research also revealed that in Kenya, we only access about 400 of the more than 4000 shows available on Netflix. This also means that while Americans can access all the seasons of all the shows, Kenyans can only access some seasons and have top wait longer for the rest of the seasons. Copyright issues.

2. Showmax

This South African movie and series streaming service launched in Kenya just a few months after Netflix. While the collection is leaner than that offered by the American giant, sometimes Showmax gives Kenyans access to shows that are not locally available via Netflix. For instance, I found shows like Mad Men and Downton Abbey on Showmax and yet I could not access them on Netflix. So it may be good to subscribe to both services if you can afford it. Being an African product, Showmax also offers Nollywood films for Naija lovers. There is also a collection of some favorite Kenyan shows like Real House helps of Kawangware and the likes. For as low as Sh880 a month, you can access Showmax premium services, while Showmax Select is available for Sh330. Showmax also has a download option for mobile devices.

PS: For new subscribers, Showmax allows you to access the full collection for free for the first 14 days.

3. Amazon Prime Video

This service is barely two months old in Kenya and it promises to give Netflix quite a competition. It is currently available at the lowest subscription fee of USD2.99. But this will only be for the first six months, after which the subscription will return to USD5.99 (which is still a good bargain considering the collection that Amazon Prime Video has). Amazon Prime Video also has the advantage of exclusive content produced by Amazon and also features a lot of latest movies and series episodes, unlike Showmax.

PS: There is a seven-day free trial period for new subscribers, so you may give it a try

HOW TO LISTEN TO MUSIC

Currently, I know of only two music services that give you access to international music for free (with adverts in between songs) or for a monthly fee. These are Apple Music and Deezer (for android users). Of course some people can access music services such as Spotify, Google Music and Amazon Prime with a Virtual Private Network (VPN), but the issue of VPNs is another pandora’s box in the piracy discussion. For now, Deezer and Apple Music are the best options (for a monthly subscription fee of USD4.99)

HOW TO PAY FOR THE SERVICES

At the moment, the only payment options available for Netflix, Deezer and Apple Music are Visa card, Mastercard and Paypal. If you are too paranoid to use your Visa ATM online, you can obtain a Nakumatt Global Payment card and load money onto it via MPESA then use that to make the payments. That way, you can enjoy the movies and series without worrying about someone hacking into your bank account.

Showmax already anticipated this problem and now has an option for paying via MPESA Paybill. Just go to the Showmax page and they will take it from there.

I hope these options will be of great help in your efforts to fight online piracy.

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Fellow Kenyans, I know we are all rushing at the last minute to register to vote. Some of us have been too busy at work to find time to visit a registration station, and that’s understandable. Some of us have just not prioritised the process. That’s also understandable… sometimes. Kudos to those who have registered, those who have checked and double-checked their registration.

Kenya could use more people like you.

I know you believe that you are a model citizen and on that August morning you will queue for hours and proudly exercise your democratic right (duty?). Some of you are even planning to share your ink-stained fingers on Instagram and Facbook to confirm your participation. Good for you. But may I ask that you consider this truth for a moment? Your vote is not the solution.

You see, voting is the most visible part of the democratic process, but I am convinced that it is not the most important. Some of us treat voting as if it is the only responsibility the citizen has. We vote and have over the reins to the elctorate and then sit back and waiut for magic to happen. Allow me to burst your bubble. Voting is not THE solution.

However, voting is a solution. Voting counts, so please go out there and let your vote be counted. However, many of us act as if the right to vote is equivalent to democracy. Being a citizen in a democracy is much wider and involves much more than spending  a few hours every year to mark an X on a piece of paper and shoving it through a slit on a plastic vote.

I’m sorry to say this but, whoever you vote into power does not hold the silver bullet to all your country’s problems.

The reality is more complex. Real change is incremental, it takes time. Real change is communal, it takes all of us. Not just all of us registering to vote or showing up to vote, but all of us embodying that democracy every hour and every day of our residence in this nation. For democracy to work, all citizens must keep doing what we can in our circles of influence to be the change and advocate for change.

Where do you work? What do you care about? Are you an engineer? Then pay attention to the policies on construction and infrastructural development. Offer your expert opinions on those buildings that come crashing down on widowed mothers and their poor children. Resist that bribe and give up that questionable contract. Then go ahead and push your boss to push her bosses to push the policy makers.

Use your rare expertise and experience to highlight cases of bad policy and bad (or lack of) implementation in your circle of concern. The same applies to doctors and lawyers and journalists and social workers and musicians. Work for more than just a living. Work for a better work environment and a better economy.

Spend the four years between elections actually helping your politician’s manifesto come true, even when that politician abandons it. Your power is not restricted to the vote. Your power is only symbolised by the vote. But the real work happens as life happens. The real work happens in advocacy and water-dispenser conversations and boardroom meetings. Bad politics does not just thrive because of bad politicians, bad politics is watered and nurtured by a bad polity.

We all count for more than just being counted every five years. So get out ther and register to vote and then make the time to vote come August. And after that, go back home and be the change that you voted for. This is the only way we will get the Kenya we want.

What will you do when the politicians come knocking this Sunday?

Dear Pastor,

He will be visiting your church this Sunday, but he won’t be a stranger. You have seen him on television and read about him in the newspaper countless times. You have never met him, but you probably know him better than some of your congregation. He is your local political leader.

Perhaps he is the area member of parliament. Or maybe you are lucky enough to get a visit from the area senator or governor. The President? Whoever he is, Sunday service will be different today. Attendance will be in record numbers and your parking lot will host some of the most expensive vehicles to ever tread on that gravel.

There is going to be great pressure to modify your order of Sunday service because this politician is around. Perhaps the singing will be shorter, the sermon will be hurried. In the heat of the moment, it will make sense to include a slot in the service for the politician to greet and address the congregants.

It seems harmless enough. It is perfectly understandable to make an exception. Special circumstances sometimes call for special actions. But dear pastor, could I urge and remind you not to forget what the Bible says about some of those moments? The following considerations may help guide you.

1. Watch where the politicians sits

The Bible, that book that defines who you are and why your church exists in the first place, says something about where the rich and the influential members of society choose to sit in the congregation. I hope you will not forget to take the words of Jesus to Pharisees into account when that politician visits:

“Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”
LUKE 11:43‭-‬44 ESV

As far as Israel was concerned, the Pharisees were like a rough combination of the legislature and judiciary today. They are the ones who were supposed to understand, interpret and implement the laws set out by God. They even enacted some of the ways the laws of God applied to specific situations. Jesus noticed how self-important they were; how they carried themselves in the marketplace and the places of worship.

How will the politician visiting your church behave? Will they seat in the best seats? Are you, in fact, the one arranging for this? Why are you doing something that the Jesus you claim to be the Bride of clearly frowns upon? Or is it actually not about Jesus?

2. Watch how the politician will give

I am sure the highlight of Sunday service will most likely be the offering. Come on, with such record attendance, and with people overflowing that some are even standing outside the building just to catch a glimpse of their leader, the offering baskets will be bulging today. It is inevitable.

Buy I am not concerned about that. My concern is something else Jesus said about the same Pharisees that are the parallel to today’s politicians:

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
MATTHEW 6:2‭-‬4 ESV

Is this what the politicians visiting your church will do when it is time to give? Or maybe I am being too critical. The truth is these politicians are human, like you and I. They are also sinners. It would be unfair of me to expect them to stick to a higher biblical standard than other people. What if they want to announce their giving to your church? Who am I to judge?

But my concern is with you, dear pastor. You know better. Will you give these politicians a platform to do what Jesus clearly frowns upon? Will you change up your service to allow the politicians announce his donation for your upcoming church project? Will you give your your pulpit for the man or woman to say a word about what he has done for the community? Would you rather please man than God?

3. The sheep are watching the shepherd

In the end, this is more than just a matter of personal preference and opinion, dear pastor. You have a responsibility towards us, your sheep. And you will one day have to give an answer to God. As the Bible clearly puts it:

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
HEBREWS 13:17 ESV

Clearly, God wants us, the sheep, to obey you and submit to you. When you allow God’s word to be disregarded and God’s name to be blasphemed by endorsing some of these actions in the church, we find it difficult to obey God. It is hard for the sheep to take their creator seriously when the shepherd doesn’t seem to be doing it.

Dear pastor, please consider God this Sunday and the coming Sundays as you navigate the rising political temperatures in the country. The pressure to fear man rather than God will be high. Your reputation before the world will be at stake. Would you rather please men than God? I hope you will do the latter.

If you care about us, the followers of the Jesus you preach, you would consider these things. It will be difficult. Money is powerful, and the love of it can be tragic. You cannot resist public opinion on your own. I understand that, and for this reason, I will be praying for you.

I hope you do the right thing. I hope you will fear God enough to keep His commandments.

My Father

23/10/2016 — Leave a comment

Have you ever thought about the meaning of the word Father?

You’ve probably never needed to, because it seems so obvious… so self-evident. I used to think so too, until recently.

I was going through a “dark-night-of-the-soul” period where I found it difficult to pray. For some reason, it just stopped making sense speaking to a God that was invisible and immaterial. Whenever I closed my eye to pray, I was overwhelmed by the whole absurdity of the act. It just felt like talking into the air, into nothingness.

That’s when someone suggested a rather cliche solution: that I read the Bible and look at the way the people in there addressed God. Most specifically, how Jesus prayed and taught his disciples to address God.

Jesus called God His Father.

“Our father who is in heaven,” he taught us to pray. It sounded straightforward enough, except my main challenge was in conceptualizing God as a Father.

Many Christian counselors suggest that people who have difficulties thinking of God as a Father usually had a bad experience with their earthly fathers. They don’t know what is so good about having a father, and so they struggle to embrace a God who approaches them as one.

But the situation seemed different for me. This wasn’t about my earthly father. Growing up, my relationship with dad was more or less “normal.” My problem was a more philosophical one: How can I address God as “father” with a straight face when I know that God is Spirit and not human. Isn’t the word “Father” just an anthropomorphism of a being that is beyond our comprehension?

Well, I was in for a great (and pleasant) surprise.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word father as: “a male parent” or “a man who is thought of as being like a father.” Another alternative definition is: “one related to another in a way suggesting that of father to child.”

Beyond these surface definitions, Mr Charles and George Merriam and Mr Noah Webster don’t tell us much about what is actually involved in “being a father”, or what qualifies a man to be one.

Stay with me now. When you consider every aspect of what it means to be a father, you will quickly realize tat no single human being perfectly fits the description.

Does biology make one a father?

It is obvious that many who have contributed the Y chromosome to the existence of a child cannot quite be called the fathers of the child. This is especially if they have not contributed in any way to the raising of the child. These men fail to fit the “father” description because something, a relationship, is missing.

Does nurture make one a father?

In fact, there are many children being raised by men who are not related to them biologically, men who are married to their mothers, men that they call fathers. Even so, many who have been raised by men who were not their biological parents often say of these men, “he is like a father to me” as if he is not quite a father. Something is missing in the picture.

Does the law make one a father?

Or is it the law? Does legal adoption qualify one to be defined as a true father? And if so, why do we still feel the need to qualify the father title with an adjective such as “my adoptive father”. Somehow, we instinctively know that they are not quite the true definition of father.

Is it all three?

But even in the now increasingly rare case where one is raised up by the father who shares the same genes, these fathers still fall short. You may be biologically related to your father, he may be the one that raised you and his name may even be in your legal birth certificate, but he still falls short.

Earthly fathers don’t always love their children and when they do it is never a perfect love. Earthly fathers don’t always provide and when they do it may not be the best kind of provision. Even when they try their best, their humanity is a guarantee that they will never be the 100% father.

The fact that they are fallen human beings means that they will inevitably not measure up at being fathers.

The True Father

So who is the true father? Who fits the bill? Who meets all the criteria? Who is the one we can look at for any idea of what it means to be a perfect father? In other words, where do we get the idea that there is something like a 100 per cent father and yet no single human being has ever fit the mold? How do we know that the kind of fathers we have here on earth are less than ideal?

I found the answer when I went back to the Bible with my struggle. In the Words of scripture, I encountered a Father who fit the description, who met the criteria, and never disappointed. In the God of the Bible, I found not just the true definition of a perfect Father, I found the embodiment of that Father.

In my confusion, I thought it more realistic to address a human father than to address an invisible spiritual father. Yet the reality is that the human father was a false reality. No human being deserves to be called father. Not the man who contributed to your genes, and not even the man who raised you up. Only God fits the bill.

In fact, our earthly fathers are poor imitations of the true Father. Even the best of human fathers are mere glimpses of the perfection that is in our glorious heavenly Father. In other words, there is no truer and realer illustration of a human being talking to his father than that of a man praying to his God.

I am no longer struggling to pray. In fact, it is becoming more absurd to take my troubles to human beings instead of to God. I have learnt that prayer is the realest and truest form of communication I could ever take part in. Because in prayer, I am speaking to the only one who not only hears my words, but perfectly understands my words and perfectly responds to those words.

Through prayer, I can, for the first time in my life, talk to my real Father.

Sometimes I wonder if the Bible we have is less divine than it’s often hyped up to be.

Like many of you, I grew up on the Bible. My family wasn’t particularly religious, but we weren’t that irreligious either.

As far as I can tell, my dad never stepped into a church, yet it seems he read the Bible more often than my mum, who took us to church every Sunday. Apart from the little blue Gideon’s New Testament bibles we were given in school, I never read much Bible. My dad owned a copy of the New World Translation Bible (given to him by some Jehovah’s Witnesses who frequented our home and debated him).

Nevertheless, I grew up believing the Bible was the Word of God —  whatever that meant. For years, I always assumed we got the Bible the way Muslims got their Qur’an, that is, as a single book with 66 chapters. I would later learn that this wasn’t quite the case.

Apparently, the process that led to the Bible we have today was a very “human” process, and could only be described as “divine” if we chose to look at it providentially. Many who have argued for the canon usually say God “guided” the actions and decisions that led to the canonisation of our present Bible some 300 years after Jesus died.

The arguments sound convincing, but sometimes I would come across some work of literature that casts new doubts on my mind. Sometimes I am not even so sure about the inerrancy of our current Bible, not with the kind of history it has. Many scholars try to get around this difficulty by saying that the Bible is inerrant in “the original manuscripts” —  manuscripts that we no longer have.

Then there is the issue of what some books of the Bible say about the Word of God. For instance, 2 Timothy 3:16 is often quoted to support the claim that the entire Bible is the authoritative Word of God:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.

Seems clear enough, until you consider when this verse was written and what “scripture” it was referring to. At the time of Paul, scripture used to refer to the Torah (the first 5 books of the Old Testament) and perhaps the other writings of the prophets. So, was Paul talking about the 66-book Bible that would be compiled three centuries after his death when he wrote this verse?

Difficult questions, these ones. Or when Apostle John, in Revelation 22:19 tells us:

“If anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.”

Many preachers use this verse to speak against those who try to “edit” the Bible by either adding some books or removing others. But was John referring to the book of Revelation when he wrote these words or was he referring to the collection that will come to existence much later on —  our present Bible?

These are just a few of the many questions that sometimes make me wonder if we have not deluded ourselves concerning the “Word of God”. What I mean is, when we insist that scripture is the ultimate authority on God’s will and not our churches, preachers and religious traditions, what scriptures are we referring to?

Isn’t our current Bible compilation more or less a product of decisions made by certain preachers belonging to certain churches and following certain religious traditions some 1700 years ago?

I am sure I will come across some book that will convince me that the Bible we have right now is the real deal, without needing to add or remove or modify anything in it. But sometimes I am not so sure.

Now, this does not mean that I am doubting the existence of God, or the gospel, or the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Although I have learnt about these realities through the same Bible that I find shaky, my belief in them does not really depend on what constitutes the true “scriptures” and what doesn’t.

But I cannot help but wonder how many of us believe certain things about the Bible because of what the religious human authorities in our churches and inter-webs and denominational documents say about them. How many of us are suppressing our questions and doubts because we do not want to be sidelined as heretics?

And did you know that CS Lewis, that famous English apologist and “the patron saint of evangelicalism” had some quite unorthodox views about our current Bible? Many of us who love his writings do not like to consider this side of Lewis, but it is worth looking at. You can begin here.

Perhaps it is time we all paused and read our Bibles again, for the first time. Perhaps not. Some people may see these as just muses of someone who is on the way out of the church, on the way out of true faith and Christianity. Am I just flirting with the deceiver by voicing these questions? I don’t know. But God does.

May His will prevail. And I sure hope and pray that I am in it.

It started after the first recent major terror attack on Paris. The Charlie Hebdo attack.

My social media timelines were riddled with slogans and memes of “Je Suis Charlie”. The phrase was a hashtag, it was a slogan, it was a prayer.

“Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) quickly became a way to identify with the victims of the attack. It was a way of saying that those who died could have been any of us; the dead cartoonists could have been our fathers, our uncles, our brothers.

So I retweeted. I shared the memes and stared at the photos of friends and relatives mourning their dead and holding vigils. I even read some of the stories about the amazing lives of the now dead men.

I cared.

My heart was moved by the images and the stories. “Je suis Charlie” was more than a slogan. It was a rallying call against terrorism. It was a mark of human solidarity in the face of the worst of humanity.

But I cannot say the same for Haiti. 

I first learnt about the devastating hurricane by accident. A friend who was visiting the country when the hurricane struck shared the news in a Whatsapp group.

Later on I saw the news headlines on CNN and the New York Times. More than 800 dead. Tens of thousands of homes destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of people displaced.

These are big numbers. But for some reason, they are just that, numbers. They don’t evoke any deep sympathy or grief in me. I don’t feel the compulsion to retweet the headlines when they show up on my Twitter timeline.

Why is this? Am I a hypocrite? Does my callousness in the face of such tragedy reveal something base about my heart? Or is there more happening here?

I think I have a theory. Just one among many out there.

There’s more to this phenomenon, and it has very little to do with me or my morality, and a lot to do with how stories are told.

Joseph Stalin, the man whose regime was behind the death of some 43 million people, famously said:

“The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.”

Stalin was onto something that has intrigued psychologists for decades. It is the curious case of diminishing compassion as the number of victims increases. It is as if we experience a “compassion fatigue” when the numbers are overwhelming. You may find numerous studies on this on the web, so I will not be going into it here.

But something happens when you put a name and a face to tragedy. It narrows your focus and at the same time magnifies your compassion. The death of one hardworking father of a two year old girl seems bigger than the death of a hundred faceless men.

And this is what is happening with Haiti. We have the numbers but not the names. Furthermore, the fact that this is a natural disaster and not an act of terror dilutes the passions.

It is easy to rage and rant at the human face of a terrorist. But who is crazy enough to lift fist at the weather?

The only thing that’s closest to a human face in the wake of the Haiti tragedy is not even a face, but a name, Matthew.

Matthew is the name of the hurricane. Some 11 years ago, hurricane Katrina swept over North Eastern United States and devastated homes and lives. The story was a bit more prominent than the Haiti one, mainly because it brought to surface the racial and class wars in America. These are perennially emotional issues.

Even so, it was nothing close to the emotions sparked by the 9/11 terror attack. Which brings to mind another important aspect in the Haitian tragedy. Haiti is a voiceless nation on the theater of global conversations. Few people care what Haiti has to say about anything. The country is only good for photo ops as a charity case.

It is where celebrities and corporations refine their images by going there to “help the victims”. Haiti is every Public Relations strategist’s goldmine. It also makes for a great topic for social commentaries… like this post.

That is why the recent devastation by hurricane Matthew has evoked a now all too familiar protest on social media. You may have already come across posts of complaints about why Facebook has not allowed users to put on the Haitian flag on their profile pages.

Ironically, there are more people complaining about the fact that the Haiti disaster is not getting enough coverage than the people actually covering the disaster. Few media organisations have bothered to interview possible faces of the tragedy.

We are content with the numbers. We have become too familiar with the incident that we barely notice it. We cannot wait for the next big news so that we move on from Haiti.

We don’t really care.

And this is why I am not praying for Haiti. The disaster is not close enough or real enough or human enough to move me. If I say a prayer, it will largely be due to guilt. I will do it because I do not want to appear heartless, yet deep down I know that I simply don’t care.

Not as much as I should.

This is the world we live in. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. What is trending is not always what “should” trend. What captures our attention is not always what should occupy us. And that’s just how it is. What can you do about it? What will you do about it?

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.

He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself…

While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.

I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.

Adapted from a sermon by Dr James Allan Francis in “The Real Jesus and Other Sermons” © 1926

I thought I should share some of the quotes that stood out for me as I read John Musyimi and Mark Ambundo’s book. Find my review of the book here.

On the point or end-goal of a dating relationship:

“Christian dating does not always lead to marriage; however, it must only be pursued in the context of movement towards marriage.”

On why a man should be very clear about his intentions when considering dating a woman:

“[Jesus] is absolutely clear to his bride – the Church – about His love for her, His commitment to her and His plans for her future. The church is never in the dark on these matters.”

On how a wife is to “actively” submit to her husband in marriage:

“In marriage, the call to submission for the wife is not one of passive waiting around for the man to do everything; rather it is joyful and intelligent submission. She participates fully in all issues. Though the final decision rests with the husband, it is not without input from the wife.”

What is the fundamental thing to look for in a potential mate?

“Look for an individual who is growing in Christlikeness.”

On delaying sexual gratification until marriage:

“Refuse now to engage in what will later rob you the beautiful experience of marital intimacy with the love of your life. Wait, preserve, persevere.”

On pursuing intimacy with God as a way to deal with lustful and impure thoughts:

“[Pursuing intimacy with God] is the ultimate antidote to lust.”

On the need for accountability and pursuing our growth in the midst of Christian community (church):

“How can character be developed outside the feedback. Correction, rebuke and even confrontation best found within authentic Christian community? People in such a community are like rough pebbles flowing down a river, knocking against each other thus smoothing each other out as they go along.”

On the importance of focusing on our relationship with God more than our relationship with our mate:

“One’s ability to relate healthily is born out of a robust walk with God who consistently affirms and strengthens self-identity.”

On how Christ uses relationships to shape  us and grow us and refine us:

“[Christ] uses relationships to refine our character; calling us to speak the truth in love, admit our short-comings and learn from our past failures.”

And finally, to those of us who may be tempted to use “that’s just the way I am” as an excuse to be less loving in a relationship:

“We are not slaves to our personalities. Every Christian has an obligation to subject his or her personality under Christ because in Him we are new creations.”

 

I have been in a dating relationship for almost six months now, and Lord willing, I will be getting married some time later in the year. I thank God for my relationship, largely because I have experienced His grace, mercy and loving care in ways that I could not have imagined. Being in a relationship has taught me to die to myself, and that God placed me on this planet for so much more than my selfish pleasures.

FullSizeRender (1)So when I came across this book, Love Bila Regrets, I read it with mixed feelings. You see, I have made all the mistakes described in this book (that is, in my previous relationships). I have asked a girl out without thinking about marriage, I have shunned accountability in my dating relationships, I have dated an unbeliever, I have committed sexual sin… you name it. I’ve been through it all.

I am not proud of it. Every sin and mistake is highly regretted. I would not want to live through any of it, given another shot. Yet, for some strange reason, I look back at that past with gratitude, because God has used it to define and refine me into the image of His Son Jesus Christ.

Reading through the nine chapters of the book by John Musyimi and Mark Ambundo was like a stroll through my own dark past. Continue Reading…

The book of Esther is famous for being the only book of the Bible that does not mention God. Where is God in Esther? Is He just working “behind the scenes”, inferred and “providential”, rather than explicit? And is the God of Esther the God of the gospel that we believe in as Christians?

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I was reading the story again today, and I saw Queen Esther approaching the throne of King Ahasuerus without being summoned. The law of the land was clear about such an action: “…if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law — to be put to death…” (Esther 4:11).

This called to mind Exodus 33:20 where God tells Moses: “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

In fact, under the Old Testament law, only the selected High Priest could step into the inner court (the holy of holies) in the tabernacle (and later, temple). He would have a rope tied to his ankle because in the event that he had overlooked a cleansing ritual and stepped in while unclean, he would drop dead and had to be dragged out.

But then Jesus comes into the world, and He is our clean and perfect High Priest. He has never sinned and does not therefore need cleansing. He does not run the risk of dying when he steps into the inner court and looks at God’s face. He himself in John 1:8 says: “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”

Only Jesus can see God and live.

So what does this have to do with Esther and her God? The law of the land at the time had a caveat: “…if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law — to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live.” (Esther 4:11)

In other words, when you stepped into the king’s presence, the only reason you would continue breathing is if the king chose to be merciful to you. Otherwise, the only guarantee you had is that you were walking to your death. The throne of king Ahasuerus was a throne of wrath and death for those who approached it uninvited. So was the inner court of the God of the Jews.

Then in steps Jesus, one who has never sinned. This means that Jesus as our High Priest could walk into God’s presence with full confidence that He will live to talk about it! But it gets better! God says that if we believe in Jesus, and look to Him as our High priest, we move into Him and He moves into us. He lives and reigns in us and through us!

This means that we can boldly approach the throne of God because we have confidence that when God looks at us He sees His son. Instead of extending a condemning finger, He extends the golden scepter of grace. He lets us live.

But it gets even better! In the story of Esther, only those who entered the king’s court without being summoned deserved to die. But now, through Christ, God is actually summoning us! telling us to come! We know we can approach Him with confidence of life. And even when we doubt whether we have been called, we know we can still approach Him with confidence that Christ has paid the price of death for us.

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

(Hebrews 4:15-16)

For the fame of His name,

Cornell

My church got a new senior pastor last Sunday. Actually, he’s been around for quite a while (at least five years) as the Associate Pastor. But Ken Mbugua officially became the Senior Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church on October 18th, 2015.

His first message will remain etched in my mind for a long time. Not because he was particularly eloquent in his delivery (though he always is), but because I believe this is one of the few messages worth retaining in a heart that refers to itself as Christian.

The title of this inaugural sermon was “The Preeminence of Christ in the Local Church” and Pastor Ken spent the rest of the time fading into the background as he presented Christ as supreme to his flock.

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“I want us to grasp the one tune, the one foundation, the one focus and the one goal for which we exist and for which we will do all that we do: to worship Jesus in the local church,” he began as he crescendoed into the heights of what it means to be a church. Continue Reading…