Sunday, October 28, 2007

Soweto Gospel Choir

I went to watch the Soweto Gospel Choir at the Esplanade on Friday. As their soaring, sonorous voices filled the hall - without any instrumental accompaniment - I was moved to tears. They sang songs of praise to the Lord in a language that I did not understand, but the joy that they exuded as they sang and clapped and danced... I think a had a little taste of heaven that night and it was absolutely amazing. "These are the gospel songs that we sing in our churches, songs of praise that echo our thanks to the Lord who means a lot in our lives," said one of the choir members by way of introduction. And sing they did.

Some say the zeal of the early European missionaries in Asia and Africa was just another form of cultural imperialism. In response to this, Tim Keller quotes Lamin Sanneh (an African theologian currently teaching at Yale) in his sermon on Culture. In his book "Whose Religion is Christianity: The Gospel Beyond the West", Sanneh points out that every culture has a baseline narrative. The apostle Paul, when he talked about the cultures of his day, said that the Jews wanted power and the Greeks wanted wisdom. Every culture has a theme. Sanneh says that African culture understands that the world is filled with spiritual forces, and especially a lot of dark spiritual forces. Africans were looking for a way to address that.

They looked at their tribal religions and found that even though they believed in those spiritual forces, they had no answer for how to overcome them. And they looked at the modern secularism that was coming and they realised that modern secularism laughed at their Africaness because it said, "Oh no, you can't believe in miracles. You can't believe in demons." (That, is cultural totalitarianism.) Then they looked at Christianity, and Sanneh says, "Christianity answered the great cultural challenge of our hearts. People sensed in their hearts, that Jesus did not mock their respect for the sacred, and Christianity did not mock their clamour for an invincible saviour, and so they beat their sacred drums for Him until the stars skipped and danced in the skies. And after they danced, the stars were not little anymore. Christianity helped Africans to become renewed Africans, not remade Europeans."

Africans have made Christianity entirely their own. They praise the Lord in their own tongue, with their own songs, with their own dances, as only they can.

But even though we sing praises in different languages, we praise the same God. And even though we come from different countries and different cultures, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. When He said all the nations, He meant it.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Congratulations for a newly minted driver

Upon hearing that I had finally passed my driving test, my sister grinned broadly and said to me, "Congratulations! Now we have another menace on the road!"

Evidently prayers for the safety of all pedestrians and fellow motorists who are going to cross my path are very much in order.