NEWS MID JUNE 2017
Cognitive studies is good for theology. I have recently had reason to explore the new (basically, post 1980) academic discipline called cognitive studies. Amazingly, much of the reasoning used earlier in the 20th Century to undermine the Christian Gospel is almost gone – undermined – although many of us have not been told. Cognitive science is almost another way of saying ‘theology’. Cognitive studies looks at the way that the human body and mind determines the ways in which people perceive the world around them.
We can’t think. Talking to an African colleague recently, I had to realise again what a terrible bind folks around here are in. We could say it is such that they cannot think. Even here in Kenya, the only legitimised way of ‘thinking’ is that of the West (UK or America). Instead of being allowed to think, outsiders do our thinking for us. The spread of English in much of Africa is in this respect horrific. Thankfully, some churches are maintaining use of their own languages. I ask: is it immoral to provide material incentives for African people to use English?
We love preachers. A vast contrast between the UK and Kenya is evident regarding preaching. Telling someone they are being ‘preachy’ in the UK is an insult. The love people here have for preachers is amazing. Crowds ignore news and American movies on TV, but gather and listen intently to TV shows of preachers! “We know we’re bad, that’s why we love the Gospel,” a colleague said to me a few days ago.
Church and Development. A British scholar did some research in Uganda. He thought people would be appreciating development aid, but ignoring the church. Instead he found that churches endure, while development projects simply end when the money stops. Contrary to earlier widely expressed views – the Bible, and the church, profoundly engage people’s hearts.
“Both the church itself and the various committees it established, have become enduring features of [African] community life. In contrast, argues Jones, the activities of the NGOs failed to offer meaning or morality to the people . . . and thus their institutions – water committees, marketing associations, rural innovation groups – remained extrinsic to community life and disbanded as soon as the project finished or the NGO left.” (Freeman, Dena, (ed.) 2012, Pentecostalism and Development: churches, NGOs and social change in Africa. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 30. See also: Jones, Ben, 2013. 'The Making of Meaning: churches, development projects and violence in Eastern Uganda.' Journal of Religion in Africa. 43 (2013), 74-95.)
Collapse of Secularism. Lookout, there is change in the wind! The foundations of secularism are fast being whittled away. It’s funny how people look at the decline of the church in the West, while not realising that the ground they thought they were standing on is moving!
Encouraging the Sick. From a Western point of view, some patients at our hospital here in Kenya might be misled, because they blame their ailments on people they think don’t like them. Telling them that they are wrong to think that way is likely to confuse them rather than to help them. Instead what I find myself doing when visiting them, is to tell them that God is greater than their enemies who they think are hating them. That is true, and that works.
Sobering Moving around the hospital wards talking to the patients can be sobering. I yesterday discovered that there had been a road accident about 15 miles away, when two patients testified on the amazing way they survived when five died in the accident they were in.
Required humility. Some of the above issues are not very man-like. If you want a man-like ‘religion’, follow Muhammed. He guarantees wives, authority in your home, and fighting. Those are the kinds of things that have attracted many men to his teachings. Christian teachings tend to be followed very much by women. We men need to be very wise, ready to stamp on our egos, and embrace the teacher who said ‘blessed are the poor, mourners, meek, merciful, pure, peacemakers. …’ (Mt. 5:3-9).
Please pray for my trip, including 3 weeks visiting churches in Tanzania, to begin 3rd July. I am beginning to plan my UK and Germany visits for 2018. Anybody I do not usually go to wanting a visit please let me know.