Apart from Jesus, the people in the Bible are no more our examples than the people outside the Bible. A person is not more worthy of being emulated simply because they had the “privilege” of being a character in Scripture.
God has surrounded us with relatives, friends and neighbours far more worthy of emulating than most Biblical characters could ever be. So look around, pay more attention to your fellow church members, not just as peers but also as inspirations.
Driving into the city is such a hassle for me — Nairobi city, that is. And I am not even talking about the traffic. My main reason for literally steering clear of Nairobi is parking. First it is virtually impossible to get a parking spot near whichever building you are visiting. But my greatest headache is with the entire parking culture.
In a perfect world, I would drive into the city knowing I have to part with Sh300 to the County government as parking fee. That’s okay. We should be ready to pay for parking when we venture out into the city, or leave your car at home if you think the figure is too high. But this is not an ideal world, and Sh300 is the least of your concerns.
First, even after paying for the parking through official channels, you still have to deal with the self-designated parking attendants lurking around street-side parking areas. For the unsuspecting motorist, you will easily fall for their charm as they direct you to an open spot. Some will even move a car so that you can park. How kind of them.
However, the unspoken agreement is that this is not a free service and you will eventually pay for it, sometimes dearly, despite never asking for it and never being given the choice to opt out. It is a strange form of imposed courtesy, which is not really a courtesy but an elaborate scam.
Yes, I strongly believe they are scams. Some will argue that some of these “parking boys” are lifesavers. This is especially when you are only in town for a few minutes or hours and you don’t see the need to pay the entire daily fee.
For just Sh50 (or Sh100 if you’re feeling particularly generous), these “boys” will take care of you car until you come back. They will also deal with any government parking attendants that may show up attempting to clamp your car. The other added advantage of employing the services of these boys is that your car will be safe (from them).
Sometimes the parking boys and the government parking officer are one and the same person. For a subsidized fee of Sh100, you can park your car without paying for parking through normal channels and the officer will pocket the money.
Death by parking
Anyway, in order to avoid all these hassles and mind-games, many Nairobians opt to either park their vehicles in enclosed parking yards or somewhere on the outskirts of the city. These may include hotels, residential blocks with extra parking, some office buildings, malls, and increasingly lately, hospitals.
Yes, hospitals. Why do you think the Aga Khan, MP Shah and now Nairobi Hospital started charging parking fees? Because parking is a lucrative money mint, although they will tell you that they charge in order to curb illegal parking — that is, people who leave their cars at the parking lot but have no business in the hospital.
Why these places have not attempted solutions like parking validation to deal with this menace beats me. Making genuine patients have to deal with parking issues flies in the face of whatever mission statement any hospital brandishes in its signage. You see, when you charge parking at the hospital, you are saying that it is now okay for outsiders to park there as long as they pay for it.
The fact is, money is seldom a deterrent for those who park outside the city. Other factors such as convenience, saving the fuel spent in traffic, security of vehicle, also come into play. Parting with a few hundred shillings for parking is not going to stop them, because the alternative is to go into town and pay more money with slightly more headache.
I think hospitals should be ashamed of turning their parking spaces into a cash cows at the expense of patient comfort and convenience, and sometimes even life!
Speaking of hospitals, I hate going to those places, for reasons other than the parking situation. I am one of those people who has to be dragged to the hospital or get there unconscious on a stretcher. Like many men I know, I would rather sleep it off or wait it out.
That’s why it was sort of a big deal when I drove myself to the hospital the other day. Good thing this is one of those rare hospitals that should be commended for their parking situation. Not only do they not charge parking fees, but they also have valet services if you need to rush into the building or if the parking lot is full when you get there.
I went to the hospital because I had this pain in my left leg; a rhythmic throbbing pain and nagging stiffness running from the hip down the thighbone. It wasn’t a muscle pain. I could flex my thigh muscles without any trouble as long as the leg was resting on something. The pain was in the bone.
I was worried because I could not trace its origin to any accident or incident. It wasn’t a result of pulling something or sleeping in an awkward position. It just showed up out of nowhere. I’m 31, for goodness’ sake, these strange joint pains shouldn’t be happening to me.
Anyway, being the “man” that I am, I decided to wait it out. But it wasn’t easing up. In fact, it was only getting worse. After a day of trying to ignore it, I started sweating profusely in bed at night; for two nights straight; something that I assumed was related to my body trying to deal with the pain.
I tried over-the-counter painkillers but these could only do so much. I gave in and took that weary trip to the hospital.
I was in and out of the doctor’s room in less than 2 minutes. I was barely into the second sentence of describing my “pain” and the doctor had already jotted down a prescription and dismissed me. I left the room feeling dissatisfied.
Have you ever felt like that when you visited the doctor? Here you are all ready to describe your harrowing experience only for the doctor to shut you down with a dismissive wave.
“I’ve been having this pain in my hip bone, it’s not muscle pain, I think it’s inside, in the bone,” I began my account.
“How long ago did this start?”
“Last Friday… I have also been sweati…”
“How old are you? 30? You’re a young man, this shouldn’t bring you to the hospital,” said the doctor as he finished writing the prescription.
“You see, that’s just the the thing, doc. I hate hospitals. I would never com…”
“Here, take this to the pharmacy. And why are there so many people today? Is it because of Christmas? I haven’t even had lunch,” he said as he rose up and started walking around his desk towards the door, my cue for me to leave.
I walked out of the room feeling both dispirited and disrespected. What if I actually have something serious? Shouldn’t I get an x-ray? Did he get that this pain was in the bone and not your usual muscle pain? What about the night sweats? Isn’t that weird?
Don’t you just hate it when that happens? I came to this private hospital and paid that hefty consultation fee because I knew I will be given the attention I deserved. The least I could get was a fair hearing, right?
Makes me wonder about all those cases of misdiagnosis that we hear in the news. There is this report by the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board that has recorded over 880 cases of doctors who misdiagnosed their patients illnesses in the past 20 years.
That’s a huge number, and these are just the cases that have been reported to the board. What if I end up in this statistic? I have heard of people whose lives were turned upside down after being misdiagnosed with HIV, or the many people who have died due to a wrong diagnosis followed by wrong medication which was discovered too late.
That doctor should have at least heard me out, if only to calm my own anxieties — or am I supposed to see a different doctor for that? Is that why physicians don’t bother with clear communication between them and their patients, because that is the work of a psychologist?
Medicine is not an exact science, and it is worrying how much of the diagnostic process depends on the patient’s ability to interpret and articulate what they are feeling to the doctor. There is definitely something to be said about hearing the patient out. I was’t willing to let this one go without a fight.
I walked out of the hospital with my sachet of assorted drugs and locked eyes with the valet who had my car key. As I drove out, I started thinking back at what just transpired. First, the waiting room was crowded, which was unusual for this hospital. One of the attendants at the insurance desk had even mentioned that the surge was unusual. The place is “normally not this crowded”, she said.
Perhaps I am just overreacting. Perhaps the doctor knew exactly what he was doing and the moment I said the first sentence, he knew what was wrong. Perhaps this was just a case of my lack of medical expertise clashing with the doctor’s expertise and experience. I should just relax and trust the doctor knows what he is doing.
Meanwhile, the medicine he prescribed seems to be working. Maybe I should just focus on changing the things that I can change and let other professionals do their thing.
Yet I can’t help but notice that it is professionals who make the decision to set up paid parking in hospitals. It is professionals who go to work drunk or hungry or without enough sleep. All of the problems in every professions can usually be traced back to, you got that right, professionals.
In other words, professionals are people too, and people make mistakes. People get distracted, they get tired and they also get corrupt and greedy. Because of this reality, making this world and its systems work the way they ought will take all of us. Be it the parking situation in the CBD or the visit to the doctor for that strange pain in my leg.
Have you noticed that there seem to be more people outraged by the lack of outrage over the bombing in Somalia, than there are people outraged by the bombing itself? Why is that?
More than 300 people were killed and roughly the same number of people injured when two truck bombs went off in the middle of a busy Mogadishu street last Saturday, but it seems we could not care less.
No, let me check that, I will speak for myself; it seems I could not care less. I have been thinking about this, about why the tragedy in Somalia doesn’t seem to move me as much as similar and less tragic events in other places. Following are a few thoughts.
What happens in Mogadishu
“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” how many times have you heard that mantra? Used it yourself? You don’t have to be an American, or even to have gone to the US to know exactly what that phrase means. We hear it in movies all the time.
Remember the movie The Hangover? What about the Oceans’s Trilogy (Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen) in the early to mid 2000s? Such films have brought the US culture and cultural conversations right into our living rooms. Now, whether the films present an accurate picture of the real US is neither hear nor there. The point is, when I hear about a shooting in Vegas, I have an instant subconscious reaction to the news.
Images of Casinos and lights and fancy hotels mixed with movie scenes and characters flash in my mind. Same goes for France. The first image on my mind at the mention of Paris is the Eiffel Tower — even though I have never been to France.
And in the remote chance that I have not watched any of these movies or never heard about Las Vegas (or San Bernardino), international US-based news channels like the CNN will make sure I know all about it. I can’t help but notice, and care. I’m afraid the same cannot be said about the relationship between TV media and Somalia.
My westernized brain
Death and tragedy and terrorism are not words I associate with many of these “Western” places. The West, as is often marketed to me in my living room, is full of fun places; places I want to scape to and holiday in; not places I want to flee or avoid.
This is why I will care deeply if something even remotely tragic happened in such places, not necessarily because I personally know anyone there, but because I know so much about the place and the people there that I “feel” like I am one of them. It is always in my face.
This is why I care more about an attack in London than an attack in Mogadishu. What do I even know about Mogadishu except for the fact that this is where the Al-Shabaab come from? Okay, this is also where those Somali refugees in Dadaab and the immigrants in Eastleigh come from, but none of these details make Mogadishu any more appealing to me.
I seldom think about visiting Mogadishu except probably on a humanitarian trip or as a war-time journalist. Nothing good can come out of Mogadishu, and what happens in Mogadishu better stay in Mogadishu. Should I blame my negative perception of Somalia on the media? Well, blame is a strong word, I will instead opt for the word “attribute”.
When we say we care about human life and are saddened by the loss of human life, we are usually not referring to the abstraction that is the Homo Sapiens species. To care about human life means to care about my mum and my wife and my best friend. To care about human life means to care about my next door neighbor who is an unemployed single mother of three, because I once had a conversation with her and learnt about her circumstances.
No one cares about anyone without first knowing and appreciating and empathizing with their story. We are storied beings and we cease to exist the moment our stories are censored or go untold. The stories we have access to and pay attention to will ultimately determine which people we care about and strongly react to any tragedy that befalls them. It has little to do with an abstract rule about caring for “humanity.”
This is why the death of a faceless Frenchman thousands of kilometers away is more tragic than the death of a dozen villagers in a mudslide just a few kilometers from my house. My life has been shaped by numerous white faces on the TV screen teaching me about love and money and sex and relationships. My goals have been inspired by the American dream scripted, cast and directed by middle aged haggard bearded pot bellied white men in Hollywood.
This, sadly, is why I care about the death of Michael Jackson than the death of my high school friend. Why, I know more about Michael Jackson’s life than I knew about my friend’s. My emotions have been hijacked and shaped by the Hollywood narrative of privileging the Western culture, Western stories, Western values and Western people as the “normal” or “default” face of humanity.
Human means to political ends
What does all this have to do with the tragedy in Somalia? If it is not yet clear, I will get more explicit shortly. You see, once in a while, I will care about the death of a political protester in my own country; but that will mostly be because I want to make and score a few political points in my own criticism of police brutality. It will seldom be because I cared much that the dead protestor was a father or a son or even a human being. His humanity will largely be a means to an end.
Remember the infant killed by police in Kisumu in the wake of the August 8 Election? Do you know what happened to her family, or even whether they got justice? Me neither. Baby Pendo’s death, as far as I and many were concerned, mostly served as an emotional anecdote in the political rhetoric at the time, then we moved on swiftly.
These and many other realities are the reasons why I find it difficult to be mad or sad that so many people in Mogadishu are dead from the handiwork of terrorist agents. I don’t know any of the names of the dead Somalis.
I can’t picture their faces without an image of a terrorist (sometimes in those very faces) intruding into the frame. I don’t know how to care about a Somali tragedy because I don’t have Somali friends or know any Somali stories and the few Somali people I know seldom speak to me about where they come from.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a normal person in Somalia. Do Somalis have schools? What kind of schools? Do they have professions and career paths apart from the life of a dessert wanderer? Are there Somali professors in Somalia? What about Somali journalists and doctors and lawyers and engineers?
You see, every time I hear about professionals in Somalia, it is always in the context of diplomats and expats living and working there. Even in the wake of Saturday bombings, the only doctors and other professionals that were mentioned as victims were the foreigners. The West was desperately trying to remain relevant at the center of a foreign tragedy.
The fact of the matter is that I don’t have insider knowledge of the Somali experience. There are no cultural artifacts shoved in my face every minute to condition me to see Somalis as real people with real families and dreams and goals and relationships and, yes, tragedies.
Je suis Somalia? I am sorry I don’t even know what that means. Does this make me less human? Heartless? A hypocrite? Maybe and maybe not.
May The Lord comfort the families of all those who lost their loved ones in Somalia, even as the rest of us who don’t call the victims “our loved ones” process what is happening in our own twisted ways.
Chimamanda is yet to disappoint me — not that I am looking out for her to disappoint. So far, she is the best female African writer I have ever read.
Yet even as I type that last sentence, I can’t help but feel Ifemelu looking at me and shaking her head disapprovingly. Did I have to put those qualifiers, “African”, “female”? Couldn’t I just say Chimamanda is a good writer, period?
Ifemelu, the main character, is a Nigerian girl who flies to the US immediately after her undergrad. It is in America that she realizes she is black, and that to be black in America means to be concerned about race – whether you’re a racist or not. She copes with life in America in different ways.
You will have to read the book to see how far she was willing to go because of financial desperation.
Being a person who cannot keep her opinions to herself, Ifemelu copes with life in America by venting on her blog – a race blog. The posts are quite insightful. She learns a lot about people and race and in the process, learns things about herself that she didn’t even know existed.
Then there’s Obinze, the love of Ifemelu’s life. Their relationship is what keeps the reader hooked to the book. One keeps turning the page to see if this will be another “happily ever after” tale of love or not.
There’s so much to say about the book.
But what stood out most was the author’s depth of insight. Chimamanda has an uncanny ability to see into people’s personalities and draw profound life lessons. Her characters are deep, not consciously deep, but they are deep subjects of analysis.
I love the way Chimamanda doesn’t fear the complexity of human beings. She faces it head on and presents it as it is in the book.
The author doesn’t present simplistic people, she makes characters complex and confused and double-minded and all sorts of unpredictable. In other words, her characters are human.
This is a great story, one that I will definitely re-read in the future. Grab a copy when you can, it will be worth your while.
Christianity is often criticized for putting faith and “allegiance to God” above reason. Our arguments are dismissed for being circular, and we are ridiculed for refusing to consider the possibility that we could be wrong about the existence of God.
I think many of these criticisms are valid, and more Christians should be willing to admit when we have been less than reasonable.
But more on this later.
Many professing Christians simply don’t like to examine whether or not their faith is reasonable. Many of us are simply neither ready nor willing to “give a reason for the hope that we have”. Some of us feel it is not necessary, or it is too much work, or it is giving the devil too much rope.
Some are simply afraid of what they will find on the other side of this logical exercise, so they are not in a hurry to find out.
Richard Dawkins, a British evolutionary biologist and outspoken atheist, once said in his popular book The God Delusion: “A child is not a Christian child, not a Muslim child, but a child of Christian parents or a child of Muslim parents.”
Part of Dawkins’ point is that we are products of environmental conditioning and there is therefore no supernatural explanation for why some people choose to be Christians while others don’t. Every child is technically born an atheist and only later compelled to follow the religion of their parent.
Dawkins makes a valid point. Our environment plays a significant role in shaping our life choices. Even one of my favorite 20th century Christian apologists, Cornelius van Til, agrees with Dawkins to some extent. In an essay on why he believes in God, Van Til indulges an atheist friend who tells him that the only reason he believes in God is because everything in his past set him up for that inevitable choice: Born to believing parents, educated at a Christian school and confronted every day with Christian ethics.
Given these circumstances, it would seem Van Til had no choice but to become a Christian! In response, Van Til tells the friend, rather sarcastically:
How different your early schooling was! You went to a “neutral” school. As your parents had done at home, so your teachers now did at school. They taught you to be “open-minded.” God was not brought into connection with your study of nature or history. You were trained without bias all along the line.
Van Til does not deny that a large part of the reason he embraces the Christian worldview is because it is second nature to him. He admits that everything in his past “conspired” to lead him to choose God. But is that all there is to it?
The environment alone?
We can rightly say that many professing Christians today are not Muslims for the same reasons. They didn’t have a choice. However, while Van Til acknowledges the role the environment played in his becoming a Christian, he goes on to argue that this is not the only reason people end up believing in God.
If it was, the friend, raised by similar parents and attending similar schools, would have also been a Christian. Yet he is not. In other words, even though Dawkins logic may explain many religious people in the world, the problem with the logic is that it is not comprehensive. Dawkins restricts and limits the reasons why people choose a religion to environment and effectively closes the door for any other explanations. This is neither fair nor very scientific.
He would have been more reasonable if he said “the only reason I know of” rather than “the only reason there is”. He is putting too much confidence upon how much he, a mere human being, knows about all the reasons that may exist in the world.
Consider this implication: If the environment were all it took, then we would have no atheists walking among us. Everyone would be religious and following some god or another by virtue of being raised in a religious society. Dawkins would be a phony. But the fact that atheists exist points to something more than the simplistic “product of your surroundings” explanation for belief.
Of course, Richard Dawkins and his kith will quickly rush to evolutionary explanations for why some people don’t believe. They believe that those who do not believe are the anomalies, the mutants, the “fit” ones in this battle for survival and the ones to take humanity to the next stage of existence — a world without religion, if you ask Dawkins.
Dawkins’ general hypothesis for why people opt for religion is that “human beings have acquired religious beliefs because there is a selective advantage to child brains that possess the rule of thumb to believe, without question, whatever familiar adults tell them. Dawkins speculates that this cognitive disposition, which tends to help inexperienced children to avoid harm, also tends to make them susceptible to acquiring their elders’ irrational and harmful religious beliefs.”
This explanation not only presupposes that evolution is true, but that evolution is the only explanation for all human phenomena. In other words, evolution is the supreme law or philosophy of the living universe and no other explanations exist for any behaviors on earth. This is quite a leap.
If I am not mistaken, I would say that, even if evolution as espoused by Darwin is actually true, the claim that it is the only explanation for belief in God is itself a giant leap of faith. In fact, the shift from seeing evolution as a description to seeing evolution as an explanation is a leap of faith.
Will the real believers please stand up?
I would argue that the environment, while a big factor in leading people to belief (or to claims of belief), is not the decisive factor when it comes to determining whether one’s belief in God is true. There is still the little matter of whether a faith claim is genuine or not, a question that can actually not be answered by science but is confined to the realm of theology.
There are many people walking this earth today, claiming to believe in God and are even ready to give their life for this belief. Yet, they have never seriously interrogated this belief. They are simply, to use Dawkin’s word, delusional.
These are the people Jesus alluded to when he said:
Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:22-23)
It turns out that the argument that some people are only Christians because they grew up in a “Christian” environment is actually a case for why some people are fake Christians. It has little to do with why anyone is a true believer. To this extent, then, bringing up evolution and environmental factors in debates about the reasonability of faith is largely an exercise at missing the point.
A reasonable faith
However, if the opponents insist on this line of argument, I would say that the environment criticism does in fact contribute to the reasonability of such a belief. It is actually reasonable for people who have been brought up surrounded by the Christian worldview to end up professing Christianity. It would be unreasonable to choose otherwise.
But just because something sounds and looks reasonable doesn’t make it true. There are still questions to be answered concerning the existence of God and the evidence for that supposed existence.
I do hope, though, that it is increasingly becoming clear that we don’t always need irrevocable proof to make reasonable claims and choices. Reason is a servant to whatever evidence is available and our ability to weigh that evidence. You are only as reasonable as your intellectual ability allows you to be. This is why it is reasonable for a child to cry when hungry (because he or she cannot speak) and unreasonable for an adult to do the same in a house with a stocked kitchen.
I don’t believe there’s an unprecedented surge in FAKE NEWS in Kenya. Or at least the rise is not as big as it has been made out to be.
I think what is happening is the same thing that happened with the apparent rise of police killings of unarmed black men in the US over the past decade.
With the police shootings, it turned out that they were only getting more filmed, so we were seeing them more on social media and TV. But the rate of new incidents was not necessarily on the rise.
In the same way, the rise in Fake News is only humanity coming to terms with the fact that balance and objectivity are a myth when telling stories. Human beings are wired to promote the stories (and facts) that confirm our biases and dismiss those that don’t. “Whose truth is it?” and “Whose team are you on?” matters more than “What is the truth?”
US President Donald Trump did not redefine Fake News when he started dismissing CNN and New York Times for reporting stories that seemed disloyal to him. He, in fact, defined Fake News as we are seeing it today. Fake News is news that I don’t agree with. Fake news is news that doesn’t support my cause. Those who shout “Fake News” are more often than not making a statement about relationship rather than a statement about reality.
George Orwell once defined journalism as “printing what someone else does not want printed.” He might as well have been talking about Fake News.
Kenya’s 2017 General Election has revealed demons that have long captured our souls, and unless we deal with them, it doesn’t matter who becomes the president of Kenya.
In my short stint as a reporter for the Daily Nation, I experienced many challenges. But that’s not news, being a journalist in Kenya is almost synonymous to facing challenges. Long hours, tight deadlines, elusive and uncooperative sources, covering traumatic events, working on public holidays… these are just a few of the shared struggles that come with the trade.
However, one of thing that caught me by surprise is when a few readers criticized a story I had written a few years back. This shouldn’t have been surprising, but I guess I was too naive not to see it coming. I had written a story that criticized opposition leader Raila Odinga. I don’t even remember what the story was about, I was merely quoting a press conference I had attended.
What’s in a name?
Soon after the story was published, my inbox was flooded with emails denouncing my story because “I was the wrong person to write about Raila Odinga”. The problem? My name. NGARE KARIUKI is not a name you want to see by-lining a story that even faintly criticizes Mr Odinga. My motives were questioned. My name was all the evidence needed to determine my motives.
This incident is etched in my memory because I had been so naive prior to writing that story. It never once occurred to me that I belonged to the “wrong tribe” when I went for the press conference. Ever since, I have carried the burden of my name with heightened vigilance.
I have learnt that it doesn’t matter that I grew up in Eldoret in a neighborhood surrounded by Luos, Luhyas, Kisiis, Somalis and Kalenjins. It doesn’t matter that my biggest worry during the post-2007-election violence was the fact that I could not speak Kikuyu and may have be mistaken for a non-Kikuyu when machete wielding Kibaki-supporters came calling.
All that mattered then was the fact that my name is Ngare Kariuki. That, it seems, is still what matters now. In the wake of the 2017 general election, the tribal tensions around the country are palpable. Whether consciously or not, it is almost inevitable that the people you will see defending Mr Odinga online are Luos, Kambas or Luhyas. On the other hand, those celebrating the Jubilee win will often be descendants of the slopes of mount Kenya.
Born this way
This brings to mind an important point that my friend Huston Malande raised recently in a thread on Twitter. He wrote:
“Politics is like football. People don’t choose their first team after performing a logical analysis of all available options. Even though I don’t watch football anymore, my first team was Manchester United. Why? Because my dad was a Man U fan.
And because I loved my dad, if Man U lost, the sadness I saw on his face made me sad too. One of my happiest moments with my dad was when Brazil won the world cup in 2002. We literally danced around the house!
This kind of deep emotional response and attachment is exactly what happened after the announcement last night, and it’s scary. Unlike professional football which is mostly detached entertainment, politics is very real and very close to home.
I live in Kikuyu … the whole place erupted as people took to the streets to celebrate, complete with Vuvuzelas and Akorino drums. D’you think the kids had any clue? Absolutely not! And yet, they’ll never ever forget how good it felt to join their parents in celebrating.”
You can follow this link for the rest of the thread. I have quoted the excerpt above because it hit close to home for myself and, I assume, many reading this. If we were brutally honest with ourselves, w support the candidates that we support because we were brought up by parents that supported their camp and became politically aware in a community where this political camp was normalised.
We know the camp we support “from the inside”, and we know about the other side from outside. We have no idea what it feels like to support the other side. We hold everything from the other side with lots of skepticism and great suspicion. In fact, we’d get a headache if we attempted to think of anything that the other side does right. We are simply not wired to embrace anything from the other side, no matter how reasonable or sensible it sounds.
Can anything good come out of Nazareth? John 1:46
A saint misunderstood
This is the challenge before many of us. In fact, for many of us, even if we were actually convinced of the problems in our political camp, we would excuse, downplay or explain them away, and in the event we accepted the problems, we would be quick to forgive and encourage reformation. There are no sinners in our camp, only misunderstood saints. Anything to propagate our camp.
This is why it seems almost irrelevant (and irreverent?) to point out that I actually voted for Raila Odinga in the just concluded election. You must understand that this is not even something that I can discuss with my own mother, because all through last week, she concluded every phone call with “tano tena!” So, I kept my divergent views to myself and only shared them with my wife and a few close friends who I deemed more “level-headed.”
But if I was pro-Raila, how come I am still reluctant to criticize him in public in the wake of the results? You already know the answer. My name betrays me. I already belong to the privileged camp, even if only by association rather than by conviction. I am like a white man in the US supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. My privilege renders my support inconsequential. I am a bastard in this other camp. I am here to be seen and not heard, especially if my intention is to criticize the gods of our camp.
A time to mourn…
Which brings me to one final observation. With all the heightened emotions and tension in the country, especially on social media, a narrative that has fast risen to prominence is that of “letting the losers mourn in peace.” This is a noble and gracious call. It is never good to gloat over wins. Even winners in soccer matches do greet and sometimes embrace the losing team.
There is something to be said about our human need to “rub it in” when it comes to victories. Yet, this posture is never attractive. If your candidate won, I implore you to be considerate about the feelings of those who lost. But what if you are a Luo, you voted for Raila and you are not as deeply affected by the loss? I would encourage you to be gracious still. It is possible to be on the losing team without needing to tell our more affectionate teammates to “get over it.”
… and reflect
As for me, I am still trying to navigate my precarious position. I am not so deeply affected by Raila’s loss, largely because I don’t put my hope in human leaders. I am of the disposition that even at our most calculated choices on this earth, we are all just playing dice on the future. Only God is worthy of our hope and trust for the future of this country. Even the best human leaders are human at best. They are prone to wander from the goal. That is why I am not so crushed when my team loses.
But if you are more affected than I am, perhaps this is a good chance to re-evaluate your emotional priorities. Yes, our emotions are also within our control. The only difference is that we cannot control our emotions after the triggers are set off, the trick to controlling our emotions is to determine long before what we will allow to be our triggers and what we won’t.
Don’t get me wrong. Now is not the time to control the emotions that have been triggered by the recent events, it is already too late for that. The best we can do now is bandage those wounds and nurse them. But now is the time to re-evaluate what you value, where you put your hope, what keeps you up at night, and what you are willing to lose your cool over.
Sadly, I have seen many friends who claim to be Christians but have never even batted an eyelid when someone criticized God or blasphemed His name to their face. Yet, these same friends “lost it” when there was even a hint of criticism against their political leaders. Even when the criticism was coming from someone “from their own camp”, it didn’t make much difference.
This shouldn’t be.
It reveals that our problem is bigger than the outcome of an election, or who the next president is. It reveals that our problem is an idol problem. Our hearts have been captured by an idol that is willing to wreck everything we hold dear, friendships, family ties and even our jobs, for the sake of one utterly flawed human being.
“An idolatrous attachment can lead you to break any promise, rationalize any indiscretion, or betray any other allegiance, in order to hold on to it. It may drive you to violate all good and proper boundaries. To practice idolatry is to be a slave.” ― Timothy J. Keller, Counterfeit Gods