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

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

What Does Sex Sell?

Sex sells. There is no doubt about that. Let a semi-nude (semi-naked?) woman pose next to a car and men will suddenly be interested. Ensure your TV show has some steamy scenes and a romantic (lusty) storyline or two involving the protagonist, and your audience will be hooked. Use a sexually tantalizing image to advertise an upcoming sermon on teen sexuality and the teenagers will show up in droves. Think HBO, MTV,Telemundo… you get the picture.

Sex sells. In a hypersexualized society, the easiest and fastest way to get people’s attention is to dress up your message (or at least wrap the package) in lingerie.

sauti sol

In a recent heated controversy over a poster used by Mavuno Church to attract teens to church, Pastor Muriithi Wanjau made a lot of sense while defending the move. Our teenagers live in a hypersexualized world. They see sex everywhere, they think about it most of the time, that is where they spend most of their time. And in order to get their attention, we have to go where they are. We have to reach out to them using images that make sense to them. Images that will hook and lure them in. And sex is one of the most powerful images.

A big part of the uproar that is now only a distant memory was that the church was succumbing to immoral means to achieving moral ends. The church was becoming like the world in order to win the world. The church was not only in the world, but it was rapidly becoming of the world. Defenders of the “blurred lines” approach were however equally strongly persuaded that this was not the case. The church was not actually promoting pornography or condoning illicit sex. On the contrary, those who did visit Mavuno church and listen to the advertised message confirmed that the church was still for moral uprightness, for chastity and for a sexuality guided and guarded by the Word of God.

The publicity was just that — publicity.

Both sides agreed to disagree. Continue reading

Lecrae Responds to His Critics… Again.

Lecrae Moore is the first rapper to win a Grammy for the Best Gospel Album of the Year, but not every Christian is celebrating. Perhaps the confusion in the audience at the Grammy Award ceremony as his win was announced was an allusion to a deeper tension among Christians at the time. Lecrae was outside the venue when his name was called out, and he therefore didn’t make it to give his acceptance speech. Not only did most people in the audience wonder who Lecrae is, but many never even got to find out!

church Clothes 2 Cover

Church Clothes 2

Anyway, the award was for the album “Gravity”, and that’s not even where the controversy is. I am talking about Church Clothes 1. The rapper got his fans and critics into a frenzy when he collaborated with a “secular” DJ Don Cannon. The predictable accusations of “compromising” his witness and playing to the “worldly” gallery gushed without restraint. The song “Church Clothes” was however the bane of Lecrae’s fans. In the song, Lecrae went hard against the rampant hypocrisy in the church. This is not news. But the problem is that Lecrae’s approach was so harsh, to the point of seeming as if he wasn’t part of the church he was bashing: Continue reading

Great Reads (19 Oct 13)

Hello fellow Aliens!

I decided to change the name “Blog Break” to “Great Reads” to ease understanding for first-time visitors. It’s not a major change, but it’s a helpful one, I think. The following are some of the great reads that I had to bookmark for re-reading, because they were worth it — at least to me.

  1. OUR DISORDERED DESIRE TO ENTER THE “INNER RING”. Art Lindsey: “One of the most memorable of C. S. Lewis’s essays is entitled “The Inner Ring.” It describes our common desire to be accepted within the “inner ring” of whatever group matters to us at the time… This desire to be on the inside of whatever group you aspire to join can affect your relationships at work, in the community, and in the church.”
  2. STOP QUOTING BIBLE VERSES AT ME. Emily Timbol: “What should be most important to us, is not having a handy verse ready to quote, but the character of Christ within us, shining through. We need to read and know the Bible, in order to honor and obey God. To share the gospel, we have to know the gospel.”
  3. WHAT YOUNG CHRISTIANS CAN LEARN FROM THE ELDERLY. Elizabeth Marten: “Young people, myself included, want to appear independent. We are good at convincing others (and ourselves) that we are making do on our own. But the truth is that we’re often lonely. In our efforts to remain independent, we have forgotten how to be dependent on a community.”
  4. 20 TIPS FOR PERSONAL DEVOTIONS IN THE DIGITAL AGE. David Murray: “… Take guilt to God… Don’t share your daily devotions in social media… Establish regular time and place… Journal… ” and more.
  5. WHY DO WE SAY “GOD TOLD ME”? Nancy Guthrie: “When someone begins a sentence with “God told me . . .” I have to admit a silent alarm goes off somewhere inside me—unless the phrase is followed by a verse of Scripture. I know that many see this as the way the Christian life is supposed to work—that if we are really in fellowship with God we will be able to sense him speaking to us through an inner voice. But I’m not so sure.”

Have a blessed reading time. 🙂

Blog Break (03 Sep 13)

Hello friends. I hope you’re having a great start of September. Here are some interesting reads that I thought will be worth your while. Enjoy:

1. THE MEDIATED LIFE IS NOT WORTH LIVING: “These days nearly everything we do is mediated by and filtered through technology–and this is not necessarily a good thing. Our social interactions are increasingly conducted and assisted via our phones, which all too often distract us from actual conversation and connection.”

2. IS JESUS ENOUGH FOR DRUG ADDICTS? A powerful call to community and deliberate discipleship. Mez: “Yes Jesus is enough. Yes, the gospel is the only power on this earth (or anywhere for that matter) capable of completely transforming any life, no matter how lowly. But addicts need a reason to get out of bed. They need a purpose. Very often they lack ambition. They lack dreams. They lack motivation. They lack sustained support and accountability. They lack true community.”

3. DELIBERATE MISUNDERSTANDING: “Speakers and writers have certain responsibilities: they should try to be clear, honest, efficient and sensitive to their audience. But listeners have a responsibility, too. To insist on implausible meanings is to pull a silly time-wasting trick: “Can I ask you a question?” “I don’t know, can you?””

4. WHY I CALLED OUT JOEL OSTEEN AND JOYCE MEYER. Rick Henderson: “Yesterday I did something that I have never done before in a sermon.  I publicly called out false teachers and named them by name.  I said,

If you listen to Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer, if you take what they teach seriously, it will not be good for you.  It will be detrimental to your long-term growth as a follower of Jesus.”

5. JOHN STOTT’S 8 KEYS. These eight keys to preaching with authority are applicable beyond the pulpit, to any other Bible teaching context. I hope you find them helpful: “His [Stott’s] suggestions are incredibly practical and perceptive – unfortunately, they’re sparsely practiced. So, here’s a friendly reminder: please, please, please take his advice.”

Have a blessed week

Cornell

God Looks at the Outward Appearance

beautyThe Word of God is alive. And one of the ways that this comes out clearly is in how new lessons are often caught from passages that you have read more than a dozen times and have never seen them before. I am tempted to think that this is also one of the evidences of the timelessness, and therefore the uniqueness, of the Word of God. I am not necessarily saying that we discover new truths from the traditional passage, but rather, we find old truths – truths clearly stated in other passages – being confirmed in this traditional passage.

The account of David’s anointing is one such passage. 1 Samuel 16:6-7

Samuel looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

This is a familiar passage. One that, I bet, you have quoted a dozen times. The passage is however often quoted in an attempt to downplay outward appearances, “looks” and other external marks of “perfection.” Sadly, the passage has been stretched to the extent of demonizing external appearances. In our attempts to preach the inclusion of the disabled and the disfigured in the society, we have used this passage to make it seem as if a wholesome body was inconsequential.

No wonder Plato’s body/spirit dichotomy became so popular in the first century Christianity. A popular group known as the “gnostics” perpetuated the teaching that the whole body was evil and only the spirit was good. This was actually “biblically” justified using verses such as Galatians 5:16-17

“Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.”

So, what is the danger in upholding this distorted view of God’s creation? We will end up demonizing what God approves; dismissing what God ordains as good, pleasing and praiseworthy. We end up having a low view of beauty, and as a result, a low view of God’s glory.  David tells us, in Psalm 19 that

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.

Speaking of David, the revelation that stood out as I read his anointing passage for the umpteenth time was this: God does not create an antithesis between the HEART and the OUTWARD appearance. The passage DOES NOT say “God does not look at the outward appearance, God looks at the heart.” What the passage actually says is “the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

The difference is in HOW we look, not in WHAT is seen. The antithesis is between what God looks at as the basis for His choice, and what men look at as the basis for their choices. God looks at the heart, man looks at the outward appearance.

The lesson here is clear (or, at least it ought to be): outward appearances, or “looks” are important to God. Looks matter. But they are differently important. They are secondary, but not irrelevant.

Looks point to something, they are not the REAL thing. The heavens DECLARE the glory of God; the heavens are not the glory of God. We don’t worship the heavens. The outward appearances are only indicators, pointers, pictures… not the definitive thing.

No wonder, a few verses later in the 1 Samuel account, David finally shows up and the Bible records this about him:

He was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” (1 Samuel 16:12)

If one was to read this verse without the earlier information in verse 7, we could easily assume that David was chosen on the basis of his looks. In fact, if verse 7 wasn’t there, I bet we would currently have two denominations divided over the interpretation of verse 12.

So, we cannot dismiss the fact that David was handsome. We cannot say that God does not look at the outward appearance. The only freedom we have, from reading this passage, is that God looks at the outward appearance differently. Not the way we do.

David was a handsome man. His beauty was not an irrelevant detail thrown into the passage. It pointed to a greater beauty. The beauty of his heart. And his heart’s beauty pointed to an even greater beauty; the beauty of the heart’s creator. God’s beauty.

Could such an attitude permeate our attitude towards Christian art?

Could we learn not to tolerate bad Christian art (read Christian music) “just because” the message is orthodox and biblical?

Yes, we are to aim for more than outward looks. But this is not a license to settle for bad looks.

For the fame of His name,

Cornell

Note: My reference to the disabled and the disfigured above should not be misconstrued as implying that a person’s heart is necessarily evil because of their outward appearance. I am well aware that these are the effects of the fall, and are in no way indicative of one’s standing before God. If anything, we are all Differently Disabled.