Rosslyn Academy’s Spiritual Emphasis Week (by David R.)

| New Internationalist | by David Rausch |

Every year, Rosslyn Academy dedicates a week to furthering its students spiritual lives, and while the majority of the student body have cited Spiritual Emphasis Week to be a positive force, there are some who believe that changes are in order.

A typical day in Spiritual Emphasis week entails four classes in the morning, followed by activities, a chapel service and a small group discussion between members of the same grade. The speaker in charge of the week-long daily chapel services this year was Jacob Jester, with whom I sat down with to understand the purpose of Spiritual Emphasis week.

What he told me was simple; Spiritual Emphasis Week existed to foster students’ spiritual lives from the perspective of Christianity (as Rosslyn Academy is a Christian school) and aimed to encourage pupils to have intensely spiritual experiences even after Spiritual Emphasis Week had ended. However, when I asked Jacob about…

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Gambling in Kenya: Are the Chinese to Blame?

One afternoon as my family was driving towards the Westlands roundabout in cosmopolitan Nairobi, we stopped by the Shell petrol station for gas. I looked out from the car window at an advertisement board right beside the station. Its florid designs emphatically communicated the opening of a casino, promising a great fun experience, and a chance to win what we all need more of: money. As I looked closer at the advertisement, I noticed a line written in Mandarin at the bottom of the billboard, and it stated – “this will be the luckiest place for you.” At first I was amazed that my language had been written on an ad in Kenya, a country where many languages are common, but Mandarin is very rare. Why advertise in Chinese? I was unsettled by the statement that this advertisement was making: the Chinese people are perpetuating the increase of the gambling industry in Kenya.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), a professional service network working in Kenya, there are thirteen licensed Casinos currently operating within Kenya . These casinos are usually situated in hotels such as the Intercontinental Hotel or The Safari Park Hotel, popular Chinese rendezvous points. Many of these Chinese citizens are here in Kenya because they are construction managers or workers, and the view these casinos as perfect places to have some fun and relieve the stress of daily work. Mr. Zhang, a Chinese Construction manager working in Nairobi, says, “Looking around the casinos, all you see is Chinese and all you hear is Mandarin.” Many of these Chinese workers enjoy the sensation of sudden monetary loss or gain, and fail to the see the detrimental effect that casinos and gambling can bring to their lives.

Mr. Shen, a Chinese business man in Kenya, says that “Gambling in Casinos is just like playing games.” To most Chinese who are working in Kenya, gambling is not an affront to any of their moral standards. They enjoy the thrill of winning and losing, just like many people around the world enjoy board games. But to many others, gambling can be classified as a heinous act. Sarah, a student at a local Nairobi school, states “My Christian background is what determines my view of what’s right and what’s wrong.” Often, our beliefs and our cultures determine what we believe as right or wrong. If the Chinese men and women in Kenya believe gambling isn’t wrong, what’s the ptoblem?

Is culture the only thing that is provoking the Chinese to gamble in Kenya? Kenya, as a country, tolerates gambling. Along with Nigeria and South Africa, Kenya is one of the countries in Africa where gambling is allowed by law. The PWC projects that the revenue generated by the gambling industry in Kenya will reach 29 million dollars (USD) by 2019. This can be seen as a boon for business. Is it cause for concern? Some would say that this money is filtering through the economy through the weakness of  human nature. The government, by allowing gambling, is manipulating human nature to generate more money for its own use. It is using the people that it is governing. A government should make rules that restrict the people from making poor choices, and should never make money as a result of the poor choices that people make.

The Chinese, due to a surrounding culture and their own value systems, take the bane of gambling lightly. But the Kenya government takes advantage of this to further boost the gambling industry in this poverty–stricken country. It uses the weakness of others to increase its own revenue. This needs to change.

Bill Yang (photograph and article)

So Who Are You Really?

So who are you? When asked this question, most people reply with something like “I am a mom,” “I am a doctor,” “I live in Ohio,” “I’m from Kenya.” But is that who they are?

As human beings we are quick to identify ourselves by our circumstances, how others perceive us, our behaviors, or our positions in life. It makes us comfortable, and gives us something to identify ourselves with. The problem with this is that when these things are stripped from us, we are left lost and confused.

So then who are we? How should we answer this question? Is what defines us who we are? Then that begs the question of what defines you. Is it your character, personality, religion, family background, GPA, appearance, intelligence or the size of your bank account?

So when asked who are you, what is your answer? How do you interpret the question?

When I asked Adora, she replied with, “I’m Adora. . . I don’t know what you want from me.” This is the response that many people have when asked the question. It seems suspicious that someone would be asking Who Are You?

When I asked Mr. Lehman, he responded with, “I’m a Christian, husband, teacher/coach, and a friend. There are so many aspects to that question; I’m not sure where to begin.”

Is there really an answer to this question? I suppose there is. The answer might lie in religion, and it may be that we are what God intended for us to be. But what is that? We are his creation, his precious beings, his sons and daughters. We are his people, and we are beautifully and wonderfully made because he said so. So if you are not religious, does that mean that you are not these things? Then who are you? What defines your definition of yourself?

For many it is achievements, hence the “I am a doctor, or I am a lawyer” complex that we as people like to refer back to.

Is the answer different for different age groups? I asked a teacher and a high schooler. What is the opinion of someone younger, say, a middle schooler?

Kofi, an eighth grader at Rosslyn Academy, said this, “I am a fourteen year old boy in eighth grade who is a friend to many and a poet on the pursuit of happiness.” Granted that he is not your typical eighth grader, that is a very interesting answer. But what is happiness? Does he know? Do you know? Does that define who we are? How happy or unhappy our lives are?

This is an article full of questions, of that I am aware. But I believe that they are essential questions. Does anyone really know who they are? Are we what the world is telling us to be? Can we be something outside of the world?

I honestly don’t know, and it’s just something to think about.

In the words of my poetic brother, “It is limitless. We are infinite. Who knows who we are really but the stars and their maker…”

–         Henrika Amoafo

Rosslyn’s Red Tag Label: An Editorial

Books, to many, are a wonderful escape from the reality of the moment. They can take you to new worlds, whether in the past or the future—or even those places that have not been explored yet. You can experience a whirlwind of emotion, and go through happiness to sadness to confusion within just a few pages. Thus, if books have so much power and offer an experience like no other, then is it right to mark certain books as inappropriate, and slam a red tag on them?

HP 7A well known series that deals with the tag is the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Essentially, it’s the story of a boy who lives with his uncaring relatives, and at the age of 11, finds out the truth about himself; he’s a wizard. When he was a baby his parents were murdered in order to protect him from Voldemort—a Dark Lord trying to rule over the magic and Muggle [non-magic people] world. Within seven books, the story talks about Harry’s trials and tortures as he tries to protect everybody, as well as deal with normal issues—wizards have homework too!

Although the books develop a darker tone as Harry grows up, the backstory shows the essence of friendship, loyalty, kindness, sacrifice, and primarily love. He suffers through struggles such as losing family, friends, and trust. So despite this story taking place in a wizardly setting, it still has morals and issues people can relate with. Thus, what puts people off the series? Is it the fact that it is associated with magic? That it mentions witches and wizards? The wands, the spells, and the potions?

In the following interview with Mrs. Kranik, the middle school and high school librarian here at Rosslyn Academy, questions concerning Harry Potter and the red tag were asked:

Eagle Watch: What do the books that you red tag normally consist of?
Kranik: A few things–sex, too much blood, being overly grotesque. This is a middle school library, so we have kids as young as 6th graders coming in. Also books that are controversial, like that Harry Potter series. It’s very controversial, especially with parents. Some parents are okay with it, some aren’t.
EW: Who is in charge of red tagging the books?
K: Ultimately, it’s me. I know people will read every book… All of our fiction gets read by somebody to make sure the book is appropriate. If there are concerns, whoever is reading it will tell me. The reason Harry Potter was red labeled was that when I came to Rosslyn, they were put in the back room and people didn’t have any access to them whatsoever. So I decided that at least if they were red labeled, people could read them.
EW: What do you personally think about the books?
K: I think I’m more comfortable with high schoolers reading them. As they go on, they get more darkly spiritual. That’s just me–I know parents that are comfortable with their upper elementary kids reading them but because they were so controversial… Red label means the parents ultimately decides; because unless you’re a junior or a senior, you have to have a written permission.
EW: Do you think it has anything against Christianity?
K: I think once you start getting darkly spiritual, by definition, yes. When it starts bordering on so much magic, it’s dark magic, then by definition it’s anti Christian.
EW: Would you consider ever banning the red tags off the books?
K: I have, but because of the younger people who do come to the library, it’s not something they should be able to check out without the approval of their parents.

As an avid reader, and a huge Harry Potter fan, the red tag rule still comes across as somewhat ridiculous. Although Mrs. Kranik did explain her case, it’s still a strange phenomenon–to block people out of a world that can take them on adventures with Harry. The story only needs magic to enhance it, if this was an ordinary boy with no powers, surely the series wouldn’t be too interesting. If kids are allowed to read Lord of the Rings, and the Chronicles of Narnia, why are they restricted from this?

What do you think? Should the red tag exist at all? Should it remain on the spine of the Harry Potter books?

–  Silmi Jariwalla

Church Business: An Editorial

Churches around the world are getting bigger and bigger, which should be viewed as a good thing, right? More and more believers are gathering together to fellowship and worship God. More and more people are getting saved. This is a great thing. However, as the congregation grows, so do the billions of dollars in profit pouring into the church.

Money and churchChurches are becoming big money makers for the ministers running them. Through self-help books and CDs, churches are becoming as rich as some of the biggest businesses around. Some churches can hold up to 15, 000 people in a single service. If every person gives about 50-100 shillings, imagine how much money that is. What is it all used for?

The church is making money off of people’s hope. It is also strange how churches never seem to go through a recession while everyone else experiences dips. Some may claim that because it is promoting God and making believers out of men, it is spared of heartache, but I disagree with this point. The church seems to be going up in jean size while everyone else tightens their belt. Curious, no?

When the church started ministers and disciples were humble men, living one day to the next, living off of the word of God. They had what they needed but were far from rich. Now, ministers and pastors are richer than some famous people and live as though they were celebrities. Bishop T.D Jakes lives in a $1,700,000 mansion, he has been called America’s best preacher and has been featured on the cover of TIME magazine. This man of God has been endowed with a $150 million net worth. Pastor Adeboye is a messenger of God who was listed in an African magazine, NEWSWEEK, as the most powerful man in Africa and one of the top 50 global power elites in 2008/2009, among others such as President Barack Obama and Nicolas Sarkozy. Pastor Adeboye heads the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), something he has done for the last 28 years. Amongst his possessions are private jets. Joel Osteen is an American preacher, televangelist, and author who has a net worth of $40 million dollars. A pastor, author, and televangelist, Joel Osteen is the pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. He took over his father’s role as a pastor and televangelist, despite having very little formal religious training, in 1999. Since then, the Lakewood Church has grown exponentially and can be seen in 100 different countries.

These are but a few examples of rich pastors. They are known to mingle with the rich and multitudefamous. Where does all this money come from? Is it not the tithe that believers pay religiously every Sunday?

Is this right or wrong? The fact that the church is not poor and is actually doing well in and of itself is not bad at all.  When it comes to the church becoming nothing more than a money hungry vessel stealing from people just like any other con man or corrupt business, then it is wrong. I am not saying that every pastor has done this, simply stating that there are some that have.

Is it wrong for pastors to own million dollar homes? No, if they have the money by all means let them use it. But when the focus of people is being drawn away from ministering to people about the Lord and all his wonders, and is redirected to pastors with big houses and who seem very materialistic, then it becomes a problem for me. That is not what Christianity is about, and the fact that people now view it as another “thing” or idea of the world, is bothersome.

-Henrika Amoafo

Allured by, But Unappealing to Be

Of all religions, Christianity has been pretty alluring to me. The fact that I have grown up in a semi-Christian environment might have something to do with it, but having also researched other religions- Christianity and Islam have always stood out to me.

gandhi_on_christians_by_fiskefyren-d6brxpbAs of recently, I would have said that Islam was appealing to me, but I have looked into it more. It seems rather difficult. Besides the fact that I believe Jesus exists, is the son of God and did die for our sins (the last two points which contradict Islamic beliefs), there are more “steps” to being a Muslim. It seems that it would be hard to convert to Islam, especially for someone brought up in Christianity.

As I became more intrigued by Islam, I advanced in my research. So google, yes. Search “wiki how to become a Muslim.” Fourteen steps.  Not bad compared to eleven steps on “wiki how to become a Christian.” Know what it means to be a Muslim, learn the Hadith… Alright, googling Hadith. Talk with an Imam, an Islamic spiritual leader, but I am not exactly sure where I am to find one of those.

Say the Shahada that goes “La ilah illa Allah, Muhammad rasoolu Allah.” What if I say it wrong? Yes, I can always say it in English, but it just is not the same, like a Jewish boy reciting the Torah in English rather than Hebrew. It just isn’t the same. I have begun to realize I might have to download an Islam app with translations, meanings, definitions and everything else that I might need.

Another proviso stated by “Wiki How” is to abstain from pork consumption, carrion, blood, and xtian #2alcohol. Meat must be properly slaughtered by an authorized Muslim, Christian, or Jew. Eating with your right hand, practicing proper hygiene, and saying “Bismillah” (“In the Name of God”) before meals. I forget why I even go into a room at times, so remembering this would be a task.

The funny thing is that I once had a religion and it has all come back to it- to Christianity. How to become a Christian is to accept, repent and believe. Really only three steps. Simple. I find Christianity very enthralling in certain aspects.

First of all it’s the easiest. I can literally do nothing and still be a Christian. I don’t have to dress a certain way, eat certain food, pray a certain way or travel anywhere. Seeing that the “broke” life chose me, that last one registers to me. It is not a religion but a personal relationship with a living Lord. This is just mind-blowing to me.  And again Jesus was and is a pretty chill guy, a real homie that I would definitely spend time with.

What repulses me about going back to Christianity is Christians themselves.  According to the James 1:22 Christians are to be “doers of the Word.”  I am sure that that did not mean “doing” judging, being exclusive and hypocritical, but to “doing” love, joy, compassion. “Just doing Jesus.”

One of the biggest things I dislike about many Christians that I have met is they act as if they are better. I’m better than you, and you are going to burn in hell for all your sins, is the message I get out of most. How exceedingly egoistical!

I read a story in which a man attended a funeral of a young man who had taken his life. After the burial some Christians walked up to him and asked, “Why didn’t you tell the parents that their son is in hell today?” I was shocked to see this story (and that an ex Christian website with similar stories exists) and wondered if this is what Christianity amounts to. Above all things this is what I hate, when Christians intentionally install fear.

There is also this theme of “I have to save your soul” circulating. Yes, I understand they are to make disciples of people, but the way this message is brought about is just sad. It makes me feel as If they are trying to sell Dove deodorant instead of Shield. They are so obsessed with “selling” me Jesus that they don’t want to know what my value systems are – I might be a Christian already and I used to be, but they wouldn’t know. Why? They never asked. In such situations, I don’t want to seem rude but I never know how to respond to their attempts to convert me. This makes such encounters very awkward.

Plenty of Christians have also become determined to throw Bible verses at me. It may not make sense, or go with the topic of conversation, but it just has to happen. It seems like a “who knows the most verses” competition. Adding to this, there are those Christians who are just too nice when in company, but the bravado fails them when not in a crowd.

In Kenya you will often find the bad eyed and greedy types. The type to stare you down from top to bottom. My friend does not attend Church anymore simply because of this. He has a few tattoos and whenever he attends church he is stared at, and they are not in the least bit pleased by his appearance. The others will guilt you into offering; this is a big problem in Kenya that has to be adressed. People of God, like Priests, deceive other Christians into giving large sums of money (from people who have nothing), or make them buy gifts such as houses, all in the name of sowing a seed. Some of you who watched the horrifying NTV investigation report Seeds of Sin know what I am talking about.

In all this, I  do have to be fair and say there are many Christians who get it right. In fact, when I see a genuinely nice person, I immediately think he or she is a Christian. I have found that this type of Christian is harder to stumble upon than their counterparts. They are not perfect – no one is – but anyone can see they are striving to be, going out of their way to care for others and always being compassionate. They unselfishly serve others and veritably love people.

When Christians do Christ right, it’s such a beautiful sight. They befriend those outside their faith rather than censure them on how they are living their life. They draw people rather than repel them, from their faith. I hope to be aquainted with more of these type of Christians.

-Erykah Zimmer