Thursday, December 31, 2015

Last post for 2015

To my blog audience, I apologize for the lack of entries in 2015 and for the famine of entries that will be coming for 2016. The year 2015 has turned out to be a challenging year for me. As such, I look forward to just reflecting personally and less publicly about faith and the meaning of life in 2016. Further, considering that I now have dual identities as a student and employee, blogging becomes more challenging both in terms of time as well as in terms of institutional constraints to what I can and cannot blog about. In this time of silence, I will reflect on the way going forward in sharing and processing my spiritual thoughts, values, beliefs and faith. God bless you all and have a prosperous 2016. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

The revelation of my purpose

Let me disclose that I planned in my heart to quit blogging altogether as I feel that the world is such a place that blogging one's views is highly likely to affect one's economic survival. Yet, a prophet told me in the summer that God wants me to be courageous and I am not to be cowardly. He cited unto me the scripture from Revelation 21:7-8

7"He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.8"But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
Since summer, I have been looking for a confirmation of that word, as I have felt that God can not violate his own legal precedent that a word is not established until confirmed by two witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15). As such, I took it not likely when the Adventist Church began studying the book of Jeremiah, the unwilling prophet. The gist of the lesson is that the people and rulers of Israel were so bent and hardened in their ways of wrongdoing that God told Jeremiah that he would harden him to deal with the people and that even though they would persecute him that God would be with him. In summary, Jeremiah 1:17-19 says:

17 “Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. 18 Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. 19 They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 1:17-19)
Another part of the lesson that actually affected me was this text in Jeremiah 20:9:
But if I say, "I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.
In the above text, even though Jeremiah felt disturbed by the reaction of the people to him and his proclamation of God's word, there were times that he could not keep silent. God's message to him was such that he felt he would burst if he contained it. In my case, this is exactly how I feel when I see injustice.

The following text in Jeremiah 1:5 has also hit me like a brick:
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."
The above text reminds me that all human beings, from before their birth or neonate state and even before conception, have been carefully thought out by God and given something to contribute to the nations. Before we came into being, God designed us to do something on the earth.

These scriptures are an important pretext to what I will now disclose.

Query and Response

On November 14, 2015, I reflected in my journal:
The basic question of who am I and what is my purpose returns to haunt me. What did God design e to do and be? How is he using events and experiences to shape me for such purposes or mission?
You will then appreciate my surprise when on the morning of November 16, 2015, approximately 3 AM I had this dream where I stood before a male and female gifted at reading marks on human beings to tell them what the marks foretell of their design and purpose. The persons examined a mark on my forehead and indicated that "You are designed with Moses-like qualities. You are designed to see problems and be moved to address them." The pair also indicated that I am designed to be a just ruler and better designed to rule with equity than most persons.

While I have been kind of afraid of my dream, in that I usually see people who read marks on human beings as being palm-reading sorcerers, the fact that the dream came after I wrote in my journal settles to me that the word is from the Lord. It also explains why I am always examining events, laws and actions in the world for fairness and justice.

Another confirmation as well as is the fact that it is God who gives dreams. Job 33:14-15 says:

14 For God does speak—now one way, now another
    though no one perceives it.
15 In a dream, in a vision of the night,
    when deep sleep falls on people
    as they slumber in their beds,

In addition, God speaks in his word of putting marks or seals on people's foreheads (Ezekiel 9:4). Consequently, I perceive that this dream signifies something important for me to consider. While I am not in the legal field to be a judge, I do have a special role as a spokesperson to highlight problems and issues of equity, justice, and fairness. I, therefore, rest my case.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Lessons as a Returning Resident to Jamaica

I had the eye-opening experience of returning to Jamaica as a returning resident after four years as an immigrant. After studying my PhD in Canada, my family and I acquired a lot of stuff, many of which we parted with, but others we sought to take back with us.

Our return to Jamaica our homeland was greeted by a money-grabbing system. Instead of the government granting us concessions to come back and help build the country with our acquired experience and knowledge, they made it clear through their institutionalized extortion practices that they do not really want us back. We had to pay for our two Canadian born children to get the right to Jamaican citizenship. Next, we had to pay a huge amount of money to the Jamaican Government to collect our used personal items and stuff (clothing) and a few toiletries and other personal care products, books, documents and stationery that we took back with us. Not to mention the one bed we bought and the other bed that a Canadian church brother gave us a mattress for.

This experience caused my firstborn to reflect and deliver a powerful insight into the injustice of our government custom taxation system. As my wise firstborn put it, paying custom and duties on stuff you return to your own country with is like: the government taking your stuff away from you and “selling them back to you. It isn't fair."


My firstborn is right. The injustice also includes double taxation. While paying for stuff in Canada, I already paid taxes, and any further customs and duties to bring them back with me amounts to paying taxes twice for the right to own or use stuff.

Worse, the system is set up for the ignorant to err and end up paying the dues. You are blamed for not doing your research and not checking the Website. The fault is on you to educate yourself. No brochure is given to persons leaving the island through the airport. 

I am so glad that the God that I serve does not operate like that, but permits us the freedom to use the stuff he created according to our own pleasure, while making us know his standards and expectations. He also institutes a system that if we err, he can erase our errors and remove the blame from being on us for our faults and errors. With Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement nigh, through this experience, I get to recognize how better God's systems are than extortionist national governments.

Mark you, my government is not entirely to be blamed. After all, it follows the extortionist and oppressive principles of the International Monetary Finance (distortion intended) system that lends money to national governments to make them indebted while advocating neo-liberal principles that do more harm than good.

It is the oppression by unjust governance and systems that enables one to appreciate the Kingdom of God. Governments and systems that want you to err and do not care if you err, in order to exact a penalty from you. Governments and systems that want you to pay for the right to use stuff that they did not create. Government and systems that want you to pay for human rights like the rights to live in a territory or call a geographic location home. Governments and systems that rent you stuff that they do not create themselves.


My advice to any Jamaican going overseas for a period of time is to document what you are taking with you out of the island and show/declare it to Jamaican Customs at the airport before you go. Finally, my advice to you all is to realize that the economic and political systems (the kingdoms) of this world will be supplanted by the kingdom that the prophet Daniel saw in his vision. Until then, apply for your citizenship in that kingdom before God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit stop issuing visas for it.


See below some relevant questions and answers that I copied from the Jamaica Customs Website:


Why am I charged duty on used clothing which my relatives send from abroad?


A)
All items of clothing are dutiable, whether they are new or used. The duty charged is calculated on the total of the cost, insurance and freight (CIF) value for the items.

Rating:Rating Star Views: 12725 Date Added: 2009-02-12 11:20:08
Category: Duties , General 

Is it customary to charge duty on my personal items e.g. cameras and cellular phones, which I take with me on my trips abroad?


A)
Customs can charge duty on these items if they exceed your duty free allowance, and there is no proof that these items were in your possession on your outbound journey. One way of providing this proof is by declaring these items to Customs Duty office at the airport proir to departure of your flight.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Usury economy and how capitalism has corrupted Christian churches

video

Here is another video post. In this one, I share from the Bible how the banking and financial industry practices a moral evil and how Christian churches participate in this morally evil economic system. See below for the scriptures that I indirectly or directly reference. A bit controversial, but I merely ask the questions. Just following in the steps of my mentor, Jesus, who asked difficult questions about the status quo.

Old Testament Scriptures against usury
 
(All references are from the New King James Bible)
25 " If you lend money to any of My people who are poor among you, you shall not be like a moneylender to him; you shall not charge him interest.
26 "If you ever take your neighbor's garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down.
27 "For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What will he sleep in? And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious. (Exodus 22:25-27)
----------------
35 ' If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you.
36 'Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you.
37 'You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit. (Leviticus 25:35-37)
---------------
19 " You shall not charge interest to your brother -- interest on money or food or anything that is lent out at interest.
20 "To a foreigner you may charge interest, but to your brother you shall not charge interest, that the LORD your God may bless you in all to which you set your hand in the land which you are entering to possess. (Deuteronomy 23:19,20)
--------------
10 "I also, with my brethren and my servants, am lending them money and grain. Please, let us stop this usury!
11 "Restore now to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their olive groves, and their houses, also a hundredth of the money and the grain, the new wine and the oil, that you have charged them." (Nehemiah 5:10,11)
-------------
He who does not put out his money at usury, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved. (Psalm 15:5)

Selected teachings of Jesus about lending and giving

New International Version
And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5: 40 -42)


If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you. (Luke 6: 29 -31)


Marcus Garvey and the need for sharing good ideas without limits to race or ethnicity

video

In this post, I do something new. I invite the world into my basement as I share some thoughts on  Marcus Garvey and my philosophy of the need to share the ideas and inspiration with the entire human race. I share my view that God gives us ideas and inspiration to share for the benefit of the entire human race and not to be restricted to particular race or groups of people.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The dilemma of privilege, justice and equality

Step into a parallel universe, where a group that was once a minority is steadily gaining privilege and advancing in status. A group that was once formally and official persecuted by the state, thrown to lions for the blood-thirsty entertainment of mobs, ridiculed and blamed for disasters afflicting the city. This minority group, in the Roman Empire, now find their fate being turned around when an emperor and head of state puts an end to their troubles and officially endorse the minority with protected and privilege status in the empire. This emperor now provides the minority with tax exemption status, access to high-ranking political offices, ownership of tax-exempt property and training and educational programs. All of a sudden, everyone wants to be a Christian.

Over time this majority becomes an oppressive majority policing people's thought, censoring their speech and restricting their liberties. They demonize their opponents as heretics and try to make them look ignorant and irrational, and use their privileged status to impoverish others.

Step back into modern society and western civilization, and I get the gut feeling that history is on the verge of repetition. Let us hope I am wrong!

Yet today, I am observing that in an attempt to right the historical social injustices against women, sexual minorities, Blacks and Muslims, each group has been awarded privileges. For me (and I am sure that even my pessimistic forerunner,  Karl Marx would agree), I see new ruling classes emerging as winners in societal conflicts. Even if I am in one such group (disclosure: I am visibly "black"), I fear the repetition of history. My knowledge of history and even the Hebrew Scriptures reminds me that there has never been a just egalitarian society. Attempts at establishing equality in the past has inevitably excluded some and privileged others. Western civilization in particular has historically privileged groups based on race, gender, ethnicity and religion.

So my question to the West today is how are we going to prevent inequality in the allocation of resources in our attempt to recompense previous minorities for the social injustices that they have suffered at the hands of the state and society? My eyes then shift to Israel, a state that was [re]created to right the wrongs of Europe's injustices against Jews. Today, Europe and the world seem to be remorseful as they consider the viewpoints of the Palestinians. Equality and justice are tricky things to put into practice and definitely more complex than we tend to believe.

Monday, June 15, 2015

My meditation on Deuteronomy 4:10

My scripture for meditation in this post is taken from Deuteronomy 4:10:
Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, when he said to me, "Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children." (NIV)
Today I parse four thoughts from this verse for reflection.

  1. Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God - This reflects commitment and consecration. Have I stood before LORD to be committed to what he has in store for me? Have you stood before the LORD to make a commitment to what he wants to do in your life?
  2. Assemble the people before me - I know in the text that God was addressing Moses. But what if God wants all of us to be a type of Moses. What if God wants us to gather other people before him? Is it not the gospel commission for us to go to others and prepare them for the Lord's second coming (Matthew 28:19-20)? Are we not compared to being labourers that go into the fields to collect God's harvest (1 Corinthians 3:9)?
  3. to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land- is it not the whole duty and purpose of man to listen to God and revere him? (Cross reference with Ecclesiastes 12:13).
  4. may teach...their children - God wants us to pass on what we have learned to our children. Our second duty to God is not just to gather our peers and adults to him to hear his words, but to pass on the worship and reverence for God and his words to our children. It is not just important to be a witness at work but it is also important that we must be a witness at home. It is as much our duty to spend time with our children and teach them God's words and what we learn from God as it to attend church or do the other religious deeds and charitable acts. A failure to pass on and transmit what we learn about God to our children is just as bad as failing to do other charitable deeds.
 For me, the above represent what the life of spirituality is all about: 1) making a commitment to God, 2) seeking others to also make that commitment, 3) learning from God and 4) making sure that we teach the children points 1-3 as well.

Do have a blessed day!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A prophetic dream about marijuana cultivation?

On Barack Obama's visit to Jamaica, at a youth leadership event the President of the United States was asked about US policy regarding the decriminalization and legalization of ganja ("US president fields Rasta's question", 2015). Long before this event, I had an unusual dream that I only mentioned to my spouse at the time. However, I feel the time has come to make the dream known, especially since there is zeitgeist in support of the decriminalization and legalization of ganja in Jamaica.

In my dream, I boarded a truck in downtown Kingston, headed to the hills for market provision. Soon the truck arrived in the hill country of rural Jamaica, where ganja was being cultivated alongside necessary herbs and spices needed for culinary preparations. Yet, in the dream, it came to my consciousness that more ganja was being cultivated than food items as farmers felt that it was more profitable to grow marijuana than food crops. As such, food was scarce and ganja was abundant.

Reference

"US president fields Rasta’s question on legalising marijuana" (2015, Apr. 10) Malay Mail Online retrieved from http://www.themalaymailonline.com/world/article/us-president-fields-rastas-question-on-legalising-marijuana

Saturday, April 4, 2015

My thoughts on the origin of religion

One of the greatest blessings of pursuing my Ph D. is how it has increased an understanding of my religious faith. My experience of studying folklore and narratology has significantly impacted my understanding of the Judeo-Christian faith. On this occasion, I want to blog about how my Ph D. experience has impacted on my faith and has provided me with a deeper understanding of the origin of religion.

For those who are unfamiliar with my journey, I began my studies pursuing independent readings into folklore. Later I changed direction a bit and pursued studies in narratology, storytelling, and later narrative analysis. [1] It is these related areas of knowledge that has furnished me with a deeper understanding of how religions like Judaism and Christianity originate.

According to secular theories, religion originates due to people's fear and a need for security in an insecure world (Robinson, 2014). Others talk about natural selection favouring human beings with a God gene to help to create a more social cohesive group or society (Wade, 2009). However, my studies in folklore and narratology have helped me see a new perspective (outside of faith-based theories) for how religions like Christianity and Judaism originate.

Let us begin by using the concept of a "meta-narrative" as a metaphor for religion. According to Aryes (2008), a meta-narrative is a narrative about narratives or a narrative above narratives. Narrative itself is often seen as being based on real or lived experiences. Labov (1972) defined narrative as the recapitulation of experience. Benjamin (1984), on the other hand, states that the storyteller produces stories from the raw material of experience. Religion, like narrative, is born from real characters and experiences, which are structured into a coherent telling for transmission to others. After all, religious narratives are but meta-narratives, bringing together many characters, experiences and real events, into a coherent unified structure that interprets and provides some sense-making across various fragmented (or smaller) narratives.

You find this in the Passover narrative of the birth of Jewish identity and cultural independence. It begins with characters (Pharaoh and Moses) and key events (such as how the Jews escaped Egypt and established a home in Canaan). You also find this in Christianity with the character of Jesus, who inspires a band of followers to establish a new group (and religious) identity. Religion, unlike some mythologies, are based on real geographic settings and are either based on or inspired by real characters and events. These are not fables devised by wild imaginations, but originate from real characters that have real experiences in real places and who share these experiences in the form of narratives with others.

Over time, others may add to the narrative or take away from the narrative. This is especially the situation with oral narratives. However, writing narratives cause them to become more fixed, albeit dis-placing contextual information about the narrative. With oral narratives, the storyteller can give facial expressions and other gestures to help communicate how the narrative should be understood or the intended meaning of his or her words. In addition, the storyteller's audience can ask for clarification and the storyteller can point out locations and show where the actual narrative or event unfolded (especially if the storyteller is in the geographic area of the narrative). The written narrative actually decontextualizes the narrative and removes it from a set location and a particular storyteller in order to make it more transportable over distance and time.

Hence, once we understand these ideas, we can see how religious narratives are not fictional creation or construction of imaginary characters or events. Rather, religion is more mixed-fiction (if not non-fiction), drawing on the real as well as using the imagination  and sense-making faculties to produce a coherent and unified meta-narrative to structure the experiences of several characters and events over time. Hence, understanding religion is not just about looking for a gene or examining the function of religion in societies. It is more than that. It is about understanding narrative knowledge, storytelling and narrative practices. I find that this is hard for a secular society that depends on science and logic driven by quantitative data and methods for producing knowledge, while at the same time devaluing the personal experience and narrative-based knowing.



Notes:

[1] - I see folklore studies as a broader field of study that includes the study of oral lore and narratives that are told by ordinary folk.



References:

Aryes, L. (2008). Meta-narrative. In L. M. Given (Ed.), The Sage Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods (pp. 508–509). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. doi:10.4135/9781412963909

Benjamin, W. (1969). Illuminations, ed. and with an Introduction by Hannah Arendt. Trans. by Harry Zohn. New York: Schocken Books.
Labov, W. (1972). Language in the inner city: Studies in the Black English vernacular. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania.

Robinson, B. A. (2014). Some theories on the origins of religion. Religious Tolerance.org: Ontario consultants on religious tolerance. Retrieved from http://www.religioustolerance.org/rel_theory1.htm

Wade, N. (2009, Nov. 14). The evolution of the God gene. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/15/weekinreview/12wade.html?_r=0

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Bible-based classification system for human knowledge


Introduction

As an avid library user and a trained librarian, I am a BIG fan of Dewey and his Decimal Classification System. From boyhood, I learned to master this numerical way of finding stuff around the library. Numbers are definitely a great way to organize the universe of information. However, on reading The Library at Night, I came across Manguel (2006) in discussing library classification. Manguel (2006) states that on "[e]ntering a library, I am always struck by the way in which a certain vision of the world is imposed upon the reader through its categories and its order" (p. 47). Indeed, Manguel (2006) points out that classification systems reflect how human beings conceptualize the universe. As such, after reflecting on this, I have come up with a faith-based or creation based system for classifying human knowledge.


The classification system


000 - God and time (theology, mathematics, branches of physics that deal with time)
100 - The heavens (Astronomy, Astrology?, Weather and climate sciences, meteorology, Space)
200 - Earth and Oceans (Earth sciences including geology, oceanography) (+ Chemistry, minerals)
300 - Animals and plants (Ecology, Biology and Life sciences)
400 - Humanity - The social sciences (studies of humanity including psychology, government and politics, society and economics, education, religion, and law)
500 - Humanity's representation 1 - (information science, information studies, libraries, media studies, communication studies)
600 - Humanity representation 2 - Languages and Literature
700 - Humanity's occupations - The arts and technology
800 - History and genealogy

The logic behind the system

000
This classification system or scheme is a way of organizing all that mankind knows and all branches of human knowledge according to a Biblical worldview.  It begins with the knowledge of God as the head of the classification system. According to Proverbs 1:7, the fear of God is the beginning of knowledge. Hence all knowledge but begin with the knowledge of the Creator.

The inclusion of time and mathematics with God follows the idea in Genesis 1:1 that in the beginning, God is the creator. As such, time began with acts of God. Time itself was a product of God establishing order in the universe. Following that order and time is organized and measured by numbers, I include mathematics and branches of physics that deal with numbers, time and the study of order in the universe.

100
Genesis 1:1 specifies that God created the heavens. In Nehemiah 9:6, the scripture states that the Lord alone is the creator of the heavens and stars. Here I assign two meanings to heavens - 1) the atmosphere surrounding the earth and 2) the galaxies and space.

200 -300
Nehemiah 9:6 also specifies that the earth was created by God as well as the oceans, followed by the creatures. God created habitats to support and sustain life. Everything to support and sustain human beings were made before humankind entered the world scene.

400
In Genesis 1:26-29, God expresses the purpose behind the creation of human beings. As such, we see that human groups and interaction were planned before their existence. The plan of God for human beings is to establish families, societies and government structures and to sustain themselves from what was in their habitation. The planning for human life and living and the allocation of resources to support their life is therefore placed in this section of the classification scheme.

500
Humanity's representation sciences and studies is put in this section.

God gave instructions not only for humanity's existence and mission, but also creates or plants a tree of knowledge of good and evil and warns human beings to avoid eating from the tree (Genesis 2:16-17). Later on, the serpent came as a medium to discredit God's monopoly on communication providing an alternative reading of God and the information he provided. Here enters concepts of deception and truth and the representation of knowledge. Here I put the information sciences, information studies, libraries, encyclopedias, media and communication studies.

600
Language and literature is also used in human representation and communication. Language was used by the first human beings to attribute blame after their disobedience. Yet it is until Babel (Genesis 11:19) that human beings began to develop varied language systems scattered over the earth.

Literature has also been important in humanity's expression. In fact, one could argue that Adam was the first poet, as in Genesis 2:23, we are introduced to his poetic expression of love for Eve on his wedding day.

700
The development of musical instruments are attributed to Jubal, a descendant of Cain (Genesis 4:21).
Other technologies and tools, farming raising livestock, and knowledge applied to helping man better cope with life after the fall from Paradise are also developed (Genesis 4:20-22).

800
History too is another representation of man's life. However this need to preserve our common history comes after human beings discover death and mortality and need to transmit life stories and history from one generation to the next.

Concluding remarks

My proposed creation-based classification schemes is a way of organizing all human knowledge according to a Biblical worldview. It imposes a Biblical worldview on all branches of human knowledge and subjugates knowledge to a hierarchy that is based on a Biblical view of life, the universe and everything in it.

While church libraries that I am aware of use Dewey's Decimal Classification Scheme, I propose that peoples of faith should develop their own systems and schemes for representing knowledge that reflect their theological worldview. Nothing is wrong with good old Dewey, but Dewey's scheme in fact, does not reflect a Bible-based representation system for knowledge, though it can be used as a point of departure and comparison in developing a Biblically-based classification system (let us call it BBCS).

Reference:

Manguel, A. (2007). The library at night. Toronto: Vintage Canada.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

An Adventist Church leader "gets" the young adults

I generally do not like to discuss a specific church or denomination in my blog, because I am not one to endorse any institutionalized way for practicing Christianity. However, I was impressed by a recent editorial and article by the Canadian Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Editor, Halsey Peat in the newsletter Ontario Highlights. In the Autumn/Winter 2014 edition of the Ontario Highlights, Peat pens two articles, which I will briefly summarize in this post and give a few comments on.

In the first article, entitled "Multi-Generational Churches or Seniors' Centres?" Peat expresses concern about the departure of the youth and the young adults from the church. In part of his editorial, Peat also points out what he feels is the problem with the church that is contributing to this:

We [SDAs] have sought to remain unchanged in a world that is constantly changing. We look to the past as if they were the glorious days, failing to recognise the struggles that our pioneers and those after them had to go through...we have stubbornly, and maybe even arrogantly, considered that our pioneers resolved every issue and question, so we default to regurgitating their answers. There seems to be a reticence to examine our beliefs and practices in light of twenty-first century North America. Meanwhile, our youths and young adults are scrutinizing what they see and hear in the church. Some will pick and choose what makes sense to them, ignoring what does not, but remain in the church. Others, what seems to be the majority, simply leave, discarding everything. (p. 2)
I believe Peat has hit the nail on the head. As a young adult myself, I have chosen to remain in the church community despite objecting to the way church is done. I see them putting out evangelistic meetings that have no relevance to my peers and the questions that my peers ask. Time and time in this blog, I have had to highlight some of these problems which are not just specific to the SDA church, but to Christian denominations that I am aware of. I feel that most Christian churches today are out of touch with the young adults and the youth and the spiritual challenges to faith in a secular world and a world increasingly hostile to Christian culture.

Peat goes on in another brilliant article to address young adults like me about why stay in the SDA church and how to go about reforming it. In his article, "For Young Adults Only", Peat begins with a lengthy introduction that indicates that he is in touch with the young adults in the church:
I f you are a young adult reading this, you’re doing so because you are still attending the church in which you were most probably raised. I’m glad that you are still there because you know of friends who no longer attend. For one reason or another, they ceased attending church, but you remained. 
I’m glad you remained, but will you stay? I sincerely hope so. I hope that you have recognised the truth that even though your church is imperfect, God still works through it for the good of His people. Yes, on occasion, it is even frustrating in how it addresses your concerns, and how it relates to contemporary society, but it is still a place where there is potential for you to grow, flourish and be happy to call home. 
Part of the frustration, I know, is with the word potential. Everything always seem to be in the future. Meanwhile, you feel side-lined, unimportant, unappreciated, and undervalued. Like your teen brothers and sisters, it can sometimes seem as if you are only appreciated when you fit the cultural stereotype of an Adventist in appearance, accepted behaviour pattern, and you use the clich├ęs and jargon of Adventism. 
Over the years, while conversing with young adults, I arrived at a conclusion, shared by many of my generation, that you love the Lord. I learned that you are in this church because you believe, and you want to participate in its mission. You seek spirituality, but you do not necessarily believe that spirituality is determined by traditional views and practices. You want your church to be relevant to your community. You want it to be such a welcoming and relevant place that you will gladly invite your friends to attend with you. However, you’re often reluctant to invite them because of how embarrassed you’d feel by what sometimes happens on a Sabbath morning. So, you wait for change. 
Waiting for change is never easy. It can be very frustrating because just when it looks like it’s about to happen, something seems to derail it. Some of your former friends gave up waiting and left, but you do not want to leave truth for error. You’re very aware that when people separate themselves from fellowship, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain spiritual disciplines and practice. Over time, there is a distancing, not only from the practices of a Christian but from its principles, and ultimately from God. Yet, you wait for the church to change. (p.10-11)
 Once again, Peat is on target. No need for me to add to his words, as he said exactly how I feel about church and Christianity on a whole. Yet, make no mistake. I do appreciate my seniors and the work they have done even teach me the elementary stuff and preserve faith so that I could learn about it today. And I am happy that they have kept track of the history and preserved it for me so that I can know the evolution of faith and where we are coming from.

In fact, for as much as I have protested and critiqued Roman (if not Western) Christianity, I still respect it. In fact, I greatly appreciate that Roman Christianity took on Paul's revolutionary theology of becoming relevant to the culture in order to conquer the culture. According to the letter to Corinth, the multi-cultural Paul argues his theological method:
Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 New International Version [NIV])
I feel that Roman Christianity, by adopting this theological position made Christianity malleable, and therefore appropriated whatever it could from national or popular cultures in order to evangelize and win converts to the religion. And so far, this approach to spreading Christianity has been the most successful to date.Whereas Judeo-Christianity (or Jewish Christianity) failed to convert Jewish rabbinic schools and perished for a while after the destruction of Jerusalem, Roman Christianity converted the entire Roman empire, from Britain to Northern Africa.

Today, I recognize the same Roman Christianity principles in the present day Pope. Assimilate some of what the modern day culture and secular world see as good or reasonable in order to win them. While I may disagree on some of the things that the Roman Catholic Church accepts as not contradicting with the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, I do realize that the church is merely pursuing a theology of adapting to its world in order to remain relevant.

So I welcome Peat's message and will try to be optimistic that at least a few adults in the church do understand the young adults and will listen to them. Nonetheless, I feel pessimistic that SDA church traditions will change anytime soon. Especially when I think of my experiences in rural Jamaican Adventism, where laymen cling to reading only the King James Version of the Bible and indoctrinate the youth into conspiracy theories about how Jesuits are trying to infiltrate the Adventist church and seminaries.

References:

Peat, H. (2014). Multi-generational churches or seniors' centres?  Ontario Highlights Autumn/Winter 2014, 2.

Peat, H. (2014). For young adults only. Ontario Highlights Autumn/Winter 2014, 10-11.

The difference between following Jesus and practicing Churchianity

During the last week of January, my experience in representative student politics caused me to reflect more on Jesus and his mission and platform while on earth. I will not go into details about my student political experiences, but will indeed go into details about my thoughts on Jesus, who I hold as my chief role model.

I have already distinguished that there is following Jesus or Christ and following Churchianity (see previous blog post on this). The two should not be confused. There is a difference between following Jesus and professing to do so, yet practicing Churchianity. To follow Jesus means to follow the life example and teachings of Jesus (as best as one can seeing that the setting and cultural differences today make it impossible to follow Jesus literally or completely). Then there is following Churchianity, which means to accept and follow the teachings of a particular church organization or denomination. The two sometimes are at great odds and one has to have good judgment to discern this.

Back in his day, Jesus was a devout and deeply spiritual individual interested in the social and political reform of the Jewish religion. His mission was to make the religious institution more just, inclusive and responsive to the human heart and condition. In the account of Luke, on his return to his hometown synagogue, Jesus claimed a portion of prophecy as outlining his mission statement. According to the passage in Luke 4:18 in the New International Version (NIV), Jesus declared:
18 

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
Hence, his actions of ministering to adulterers, the sick, the prostitutes, tax collectors and those who were either excommunicated or outcasts from the religious and political society. Jesus wanted to bring back all these persons back into the community of God's people and back into a relationship with God.

Secondly, Jesus also wanted to increase faith in God, at the same time while lifting up mercy and justice. He not only wanted people to treat others better, but also wanted people to believe in, love and trust God more. This meant that sometimes Jesus had to side with the right-wing conservative Pharisees in rebuking the left-wing Sadducees for attempting to decrease people's faith in an after-life. this is recorded in the account of Matthew 22:23-46, where Jesus had to point out that the Sadducees had errors in their interpretation of the Scripture as well as a lack of understanding about God.

Considering these things, if you are a professed follower of Jesus, you must ask yourself the questions:

  • Am I concerned about injustice and the treatment of people in society?
  • Do I want society to be more just?
  • Do I want people to love God more and have a better understanding of God and his nature and love?
These questions distinguish someone who is a follower of Jesus and believes in his mission from those who are just adherents to a church culture misnamed "Christianity".