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Conversations on Spirituality at a table at Bickles restaurant

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11.APR.08

Editor: Eating a tuna sandwich while having a totally engrossing discussion with three smart, creative and godly women I know will not solve the many ills that plague us as a nation. What it did was satisfy my twin hungers for stimulating human interaction and tasty food. However, the occasion also gave me insight into certain matters facing the Christian community.{{more}}

To be precise, it really is only one great big “matter”. You may or may not be surprised to learn the nature of this “matter”. I can tell you that it does not concern the increase in teenage pregnancies, the spread of HIV/AIDS and the increasing wave of discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS, nor the disturbing descent into lawlessness that we seem to be going headlong into as a people, nor violence against women and the young. It does not even concern the environment, decrease in church attendance or the apathetic response to the message of Christ’s love by those who most need to hear about that love. These are all worthy and valid pursuits and concerns of and for the church, but at this moment it is not the big “matter”.

This great big “matter’ concerns the belief held in quite a few corners that the church has become annoyingly silent. To be more specific, it is silent on the issues of national importance. Critically, the proponents of this attack (may be too strong a word, then again maybe it isn’t) are social commentators, media personnel, politicians and some church leaders. They have, however, not specifically identified the issues that need addressing, and to me, at least, have not answered the question of why should the church speak.

Let me try to answer the questions I mentioned above. As to what should the church speak out against, I believe the general consensus is, everything, everything of national importance. In respect of the second question, I would think that it is understood or hoped that the church is regarded as the bastion of moral objectivity, spiritual authority, clear-headedness, and unbiased thinking. To this list I would add courage, fearlessness in the light of possible reprisals and a significant, captive audience.

In defence of the church, I argue that the church has not lost its voice or its concern for the state of the nation. Thousands of voices whispering and shouting praises and prayers are not silent. Prayers made in deep anguish of the soul debunk the very notion of a silent church. Yes, I believe that the prayers of the church, for the church and the nation are its loudest, passionate and most effective method of speaking out. In the same breath, I urge the community of the faithful to be more urgent and frequently involved in prayer for the state of the nation. We must not lose sight of the enthroned God at whose intervention brings lasting, impacting and needed societal transformation.

However, I do agree that those who speak to God in whispers must also speak in courage and hope to men of and about God and from God. Yes, I agree that the body of the faithful should speak out and speak about.

Back to Bickles and those three smart women eating salads, soup and sandwiches. The issues discussed were by no means devoid of difficulties. But they needed discussion; they needed questioning, understanding and empathy. They needed a certain breath of subtlety. Most of all, the issues needed grace and clarity. I recount this incident to suggest a possible roadmap of involvement for the Christian community as it speaks out, on and about national concerns. Some may and can define this as a theology of involvement.

Christian leaders, let us start to create forums where we can talk about the matters that influence and affect us all as believers and citizens. Such a forum provides opportunities for consensus and insight. A platform like this encourages articulation amongst and by Christian leaders; it allows us to put our heads, minds and hands together to achieve viable, righteous solutions. It is my belief that such an opportunity allows solid, thought out actions to come forth.

I end here with a reiteration of my points. Let us pray with great urgency and let us be involved in dialogue. These are certainly small steps, but ones that lead us unto the journey of a thousand miles.

Kenyatta Lewis, President Association of Evangelical Churches.

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