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11.17.2010

Joyfully subversive - African edition


Subversion is my Charism.

My two previous trips to Central Africa gave me some real good indicators of what African paradigms needed subversion.

I believe that God has hidden God’s self in every culture and people. But where God goes, evil follows. Evil is actually better at following God than we are. And evil has sticky roots. So every culture must be compared to Gospel Culture, Gospel Order as Friends name it, and some parts are to be treasured and some parts eradicated. Mind you, I am not unaware of how badly my own culture needs this. And I speak to that as well, but my call is more apostolic than that. I care about the bigger picture. I care about how all the pieces fit together. When God shows me a piece that needs fitting I work on it.

Burundian culture is much closer to the Biblical culture of Jesus’ day than is our own. They really know from sheeps and goats, for instance. One of the cultural beliefs that they share with that place and day is the notion that if anything is going bad in your life, the first thing to consider is how badly God is mad at you. Natural disasters are God’s wrath, what else?

My young students in Buja had great science knowledge for their age in some categories. Chemistry for instance. Earth science not so much. That is why I built environmentalism into our curriculum, to buck up their Earth science. But my underlying agenda was their Theology. They, like many of us, are not accustomed to finding theology under the microscope. Silly us.
 
When we got to greenhouse gasses my students could give me the chemical notation for Methane. When I asked them what caused Earthquakes, the answer was God. This is a problem because they live on the Great Rift - and one third of my class wanted to be architects or contractors. They knew the name of the Rift, of course, just not the implications of that rift. The bottom of that rift was a few dozen kilometers from us at the bottom of Lake Tanganyika. There has been a good-sized quake in Bukavu, DRC, 100 klicks north in the last decade but none in Buja in these kids’ short life spans. When I posited, as a near certainty, the occurrence of a quake in Buja in their lifetimes, most of them shook their heads, some laughed. A couple, including Dani, looked concerned as I have a bit of a rep as a prophet in those parts. I made it clear.

“I do not have this from God, I have this from Science.”

“It cannot happen here” one said.

“Why?”

“Burundians pray too much - we worship so beautifully.”

“Do not the Congolese in Bukavu pray?”

“The Congolese are wicked - this is well known - they rape their own women in Bukavu. God is angry.”

“Ah, good, then there is no rape in Burundi. That is good.”

It got very quiet.

They had heard the story of Hurricane Katrina, of course, and the God's wrath explanation of it. I told them more of the story. How every little church in the ninth ward was destroyed and how the wicked French Quarter stood high and dry. How the black people died and the white people escaped. “Racism!” they cried. “What? You do not think God was mad at the little churches and their black worshippers?” I told them that the rich escaped and the poor did not. “Kama Kawaide.”(things are as they always have been) “So God is not mad at the poor?”

And I took them to the Gospel of John, where they ask Jesus who sinned, the blind man or his parents. And Jesus says “It’s not like that.” And I asked them what the Sermon on the Mount had to say about the contractors in Buja who mix too much sand in their concrete to save money. When the rains come these buildings melt, what will happen to them in an Earthquake?

Will that be God or man?

Comments:
Having Grown up in Burundi in the 50s and 60s, it was great to hear your dialog with the students. it was all very familiar. Thanks for sharing. The spirit part of the world seems much closer to the surface there then here in the USA. Not sure how to say that.
 
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