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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A Head of Half-Dreads

What do you do to feel empowered?

To some people, empowerment can take the form of metaphysical expression. As aspects of distinct cultures uncoil and fade away in the modern world, individuals still ascribe to physical expressions of culture. Ideally, these echo the spirituality of the cultures they descend from, but, more often than not, they simply become a “hipster” trend.

If you’re like Amanda Daggett, you may feel empowered by wearing your hair in dreadlocks. She views her mane of blonde dreads as a “unique journey” that is different from those of others who decide to also experiment with hair traditional to mystics, warriors, and sailors in many cultures. Amanda Daggett states that her dreads are not a cultural statement, but rather a method of self – empowerment.

On the other hand, Tessah Schoenrock, a blogger on Thought Catalog, describes Caucasian dreads as “frizzy pieces of dog ****” that present a cultural offense. While caustic, her article stems from a topic that needs more awareness in the West: cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation occurs when elements of minority culture are adopted by a dominant, oppressive culture for materialistic reasons. The societal, and, in some cases, spiritual roots of these elements are ignored or manipulated in order to make one appear more “interesting.” As members of a dominant society, it seems as if young Caucasians want to disassociate with oppression. We hardly have any cultural or physical identity that lies beyond the favored territory of the West. We want to be more “ethnic,” and this desire navigates to the broken record of Western materialism. In a context of racial discrimination, “white” dreadlocks sometimes are tokens to buy societal ground under capitalistic regulations.

I’ve thought a lot about committing to dreads for a cultural statement. What if I decide to bear dreadlocks in order to diminish my own white privilege? By choosing to promote a non – Caucasian trend, won’t I revolutionize society? And, because so many white men and women already sport dreadlocks, won’t my dreadlocks reflect both “ethnic” culture and mainstream culture?

The hard truth is that I am still classified in the Caucasian range. No matter if I mold my embryonic dreadlocks into a head of glorious Medusa snakes or how many times I am told I could pass as “Romani,” I still breathe the tacit privileges of a white woman. That is where the boundary of cultural appropriation lies.

Sanjana Sharma and Stephanie Mithika recognize cultural appropriation as a valid issue. Mithika says that cultural appropriation stems from “deeply rooted stereotypes that bleed into everything” while simultaneously questioning as to “who has the right to cultural artifacts?” Similarly, Sharma questions that, while “we listen to ‘black’ music,  what makes it ‘black?’ Isn’t [imitation] a mark of respect?”

I don’t think it’s wrong for people to empower themselves for the right reasons. Forms of physical expression, removed from cultural shackles, echo the spiritual pursuits of the ancient. When they succeed in doing so, are they transcendent of the laws of cultural appropriation? Does cultural appropriation crystallize the fluidity of culture?

And, the fundamental question: is it always appropriate to culturally appropriate?

Modernizing Modesty

The hijab (حجاب) is a veil that covers the head and chest, worn by some Muslim women as a symbol of modesty and morality. The Western media often portrays Muslim women either as veiled victims with a lack of free choice, or a threat to the Western societies in which they reside.

However, the level of acceptance of the hijab is now evolving. As new generations of Muslim women come of age, they find ways for the hijab to complement their growing desire for self-expression. With this new confidence, a new breed of designers has developed, specializing in “hijab fashion”.

Hijab fashion companies currently have a great opportunity, in this untapped potential market, to showcase women of different shapes, sizes, ethnicities and ages. in making the most of this opportunity, these companies may help to counteract the negative messages and break the stereotype that mainstream advertising may be sending out about the hijab. “As a Western woman, I appreciate the Hijab; it is important for the West to realize that the wearing of the hijab is a choice. Western culture is trying to integrate it, and I think it is positive, but there is a fine line between romanticization and appreciation” says Meredith McKelvey, American student at International Christian school in Kenya.

The trend, like so many others in the fashion world, could be just another marketing gimmick, except that the hijab is not just an article of clothing. iIt is a politically charged symbol.

Muslim women who choose to wear headscarves sometimes face challenges, but Stephanie Kurlow, a 14-year-old Australian citizen, is not letting anything stop her from becoming the first professional hijabi ballerina. She has been taking ballet classes since she was 2 years old. She has faced many challenges with regards to her faith over the years; dancing, according to some Muslim traditionalists, can be considered forbidden. Add to this the self-consciousness that also feels when she tops her tutu with the modest hijab headscarf, and one can see that she has already overcome many difficulties.

But she keeps pushing forward with both her passion for ballet, and her faith. Kurlow wants to one day open a diverse performing arts academy. She says she wants to “inspire other young people who maybe don’t feel so confident to follow their dreams due to the outfits they wear, religious beliefs or lack of opportunities.”

Jhillah Chaaker, an Iranian student at Rosslyn Academy, has similar feelings about the hijab. She says, “We are normal people, we cover ourselves by choice. I wear it to embrace the beautiful religion I love. Hijabs do not restrict us or exclude us from society when it comes to partaking in daily activities or pursuing dreams. If everyone else can dress down with shorts, why cant we dress up and cover ourselves without being judged?”

In January 2016, after 71 years of a tall and skinny Barbie, Mattel introduced new physically diverse Barbies that are curvy and small. Now, Haneefah Adam, a 24-year-old who lives in Nigeria, is calling on the doll company to introduce “Hijarbie”- the new diverse body-type-friendly Barbies we know and love, dressed in up-to-date hijabi fashion. This Barbie would represent and inspire millions of Muslim girls around the world who play with the toy.

In our world, everything is changing. It’s time Mattel caught up with retail giants such as H&M, Dolce & Gabbana and Uniqlo, who have answered women’s calls for more diversity in their designs by stocking hijabs and featuring them in campaigns. The acceptance of the hijab in today’s world is truly inspiring and a positive move forward. As long as the true meaning of why Muslim women wear the hijab is not lost, the modernization of modesty is just around the corner.

 

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

Playing With Fire: The Boko Haram

They arrived before dawn, while the girls were sleeping. They assured them that they were soldiers and led them out of their dormitory. Then, without warning they set the school on fire and began chanting, “God is Great.”

boko_haram_church_attackThe Boko Haram (loosely translated as western education is a sin) is a terrorist sect of Islamic fundamentalists based in northern Nigeria. The group’s central belief is that Nigeria has been soiled by Western beliefs and constructs. They have made it their mission to eradicate western culture by terrorizing the nation through attacks on military checkpoints, police stations, highways, schools, churches, mosques, the UN building, bus stations and most recently kidnapping over 300 girls from Chibok boarding school in northern Nigeria. The price of their mission? Over 5,000 slaughtered Nigerians.

The tale of Nigeria is a tale of sectionalism itself. Under the colonial rule of Great Britain, Nigeria was exploited for its vast array of natural resources. Britain particularly focused on Nigeria’s coastal resources, which are found in the South. This fostered great poverty (so bad that people steal sand from ancient walls) and resentment in the north. This divide is fertile ground for hate and revolution.

The Boko Haram, originally named Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad, or “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad,” was founded in 2002 by a Muslim cleric named Mohammed Yusuf. Their inception came after a transition period in which the country moved from a dictatorship to a democracy. Many Northerners were suspicious of the change; democracy was seen as a western construct and many were afraid that this would be used as a tool of disenfranchisement. The Boko Haram have gained traction because of the ‘democratic’ government’s reputation for corruption, and many join the Boko Haram because they are convinced that the federal government is more concerned with enriching themselves than with enriching the people. The Boko Haram is the love child of hate and suspicion; this makes them a very dedicated and very dangerous enemy.

The abduction of 300 at Chibok is not their first attack on schools. In fact in 2013, over 50 schools were attacked and over 100 school children were murdered. Thousands of students and faculty members in schools in northern Nigerians have fled in fear of the Boko Haram. By gripping the Nigerian psyche with fear, the Boko Haram is slowly achieving their goal. They are breaking down constructs of the west, including education. This is not the first kidnapping of school girls. Two weeks before the Chibok abduction, 25 young girls were kidnapped from Kondunga, a town in northern Nigeria. When stolen, these women are converted to Islamic faith and either sold into slavery or forced into marriage, which are essentially synonyms in these situations.

President Goodluck Jonathan has declared war on the Boko Haram, but with little success. The Boko Haram is killing faster, and more efficiently than ever before with over 1,500 lives taken in the first few months of 2014. This increase sprouts from the fact that the Nigerian military has not yet partnered with bordering nations to stop the terrorists. This allows the Boko Haram to destroy within Nigeria, and then flee to other nations to plot future attacks. Also, in typical Nigerian fashion, the $6 Billion being spent on the military each year is not tracked and is likely ending up in the pockets of prominent politicians and businessmen.

The most disturbing thing about the government’s reaction to The Boko Haram is their apparent apathy. It took President Goodluck three weeks to address the matter of the missing girls, and instead of a rousing speech calling the people to arms and giving the people a reason to believe in their government, he simply stated that he did not know where the girls were. This apathy has leaked down to the military, who allegedly don’t use the information given to them by the victim’s mothers and have now resorted to indiscriminately killing northern Nigerian men. What has apathy brought the country? More killing, as 300 people were massacred in another attack on a northern Nigerian town on May 8, 2014. At this rate, the burning of Chibok may foreshadow the fate of the entire country.

–          Stanley Kalu

Know Ye Not That Ye Are Gods? Part I

We are gods. The mind is capable of so much and over the past years, its potential has been severely supressed. The common man has been drowned with mindless entertainment whether it may be through the television or the internet, and not fully appreciating what our minds have to offer. The power that human minds possess is incomprehensible. We have close to infinite amounts of knowledge in our heads that can be learned and can be ventured into.

KYNTYAG1Man, according to many beliefs today is separate from God. God is above watching over the footsteps of man and man is underneath he almighty deity. When looking at major religions and ideologies, we can see that this way of thinking, that we are separate from God is wrong. Following are quotes taken from multiple sources of religion and philosophers.

“Know ye not that ye are gods?”- 1 Corinthians 3:16

“You are god yourself.” – Buddha

“Abondon the search for God…instead take yourself as the starting place.” – Monoimus (Gnostism)

“Know thyself.” – Socrates

These are just few of the many verses from hundreds of thousands of sacred and important texts from all over the world. These few verses point to one thing: mankind. In the Bible, the Greek word for “supreme deity” is “theos” and it is used it is used to describe God, but also at a few points, for man. We are created in God’s image and we have the potential to be like God, but we just don’t accept it. It may seem heretic or false, but multiple religious and philosophical texts suggest this. It can be argued that the physical structure of humanity has been shaped and moulded but it was not the body that was created in the image of God, but our minds. If man can accept that our minds are like that of God, than surely we are capable of unimaginable things, and our minds can harness that power.

I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.- John 14:12

How? How could we, as man, do works like that of a perceived deity like Jesus, if we are just simple man, incapable of much? We have been bestowed with unimaginable power and the key to unlocking it is through the mind.

This piece of information provided here can be thought of as too big of a leap of faith. Rather than faith, one could perceive it as perspective that the world is not what one imagines. The world is flat. The atom is the smallest thing in the world. These are few of the many perceptions that have been changed. Minds that are incapable of understanding have debunked the mysteries of life and accepting what could be false but safe.

This has just been a religious and philosophical look on the power of the mind.  Following will project specific examples the power of the mind can have, what the mind is capable of, looking at this issue through more scientific lenses, than philosophical or religious. We are gods.

–          Andrew Kumar

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

Atheism is Terrorism?

There is now a policy in Saudi Arabia being implemented in which atheism is equivalent to terrorism. The law in Saudi Arabia now states that people who are nonbelievers are now considered the same as violent terrorists.

HRH+Saudi+King+Abdullah+Bin+Abdul+Aziz+Al+SaudIt has occurred in the past where people in Saudi Arabia who have been accused of doing something that is considered an act of atheism have been interpreted with that of a terrorist. Currently, any critical expression associated with the Saudi Arabian government’s ruling will be considered a criminal act and as a result the perpetrator will receive harsh punishment. This has been caused because of the large amount of people traveling to fight the war in Syria that come back with ideas of overthrowing the monarchy in Saudi Arabia. Because of these ideas arising in the people of Saudi Arabia, there has also been a ban on participating in hostile activities outside of the kingdom. Not only are atheists and people fighting abroad being put under fire, but this removes any chance for peaceful protesters as well. The people who decide to protest peacefully have also been included in the new anti-terror law that has recently been put into effect in Saudi Arabia.

The new law that has been passed now states, “Calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.” Not only will people who show atheist thoughts be prosecuted, but anyone who dares show support to said people will also face punishment for their actions against the Islamic religion. Article 4 explains this idea further, “Anyone who aids terrorist organizations, groups, currents of thought, associations, or parties, or demonstrates affiliation with them, or sympathy with them, or promotes them, or holds meetings under their umbrella, either inside or outside the kingdom; this includes participation in audio, written, or visual media; social media in its audio, written, or visual forms; internet websites; or circulating their contents in any form, or using slogans of these groups and currents of thought, or any symbols which point to support or sympathy with them.”

With the current ruling system in place in Saudi Arabia being based on the interpretation of the Islamic religion, it has been understood by the leader that anyone who shows insubordination toward the Islamic religion and laws in place is by definition an enemy of the state of Saudi Arabia. The punishment for the people who disobey this law and are considered to be atheists or “terrorists” is the highest form of punishment, the death penalty. The punishment of being a part of hostile activities outside of the kingdom ranges anywhere between 3 and 20 years of imprisonment.

– Adam Samji

What is a Martyr?

Belief is such a strong word. When I picture belief, I see dark gloomy dungeons. Rays of light peeking through iron barriers, the sound of scurrying and scratching seem to dispel a heavy shadow of gloom. There is a little girl in the middle of it, crouching on the dirty floor; blood stains her pure white dress. She seems crestfallen; her wings have been clipped but she manages to raise herself up. She brings her palms together, touches her lips, and raises her hands to the sky. “Angels exist,” she murmurs to herself. She feels the warmth invading her body, invading her soul. She cries because she is free, she has fought. That little girl’s mother was a Christian who refused to renounce her religion.

Angel drawingMartyrs are recognized throughout all culture and history. To die for one’s beliefs is no easy path. It takes great courage, and in my opinion, an iota of stupidity. Martyrs are seen as heroes. The biggest aspect is that these people don’t choose to become martyrs; they don’t wake up one day with a big smile on their face saying, “I want to die.” I have met people with tremendous faith, but I have never met a martyr, because they’re dead. I “strongly dislike” (my mother so often reminds me that hate is a strong word) martyrs. Clarity can be heartbreaking; the world prefers to live in ignorance. People like to say how the best one can do for its country is die. I completely disagree with that. The best one can do for its country, or anything, is to fight. That’s what martyrs do, they don’t die for their beliefs, and they kill with lethal poison tipped arrows of love.

If all one has to do is to die for something to become a martyr, why aren’t smokers considered martyrs or heroes? Society today has tarnished the true meaning of being a martyr to the general public. When we think of martyrs, we think of those cold, dark dungeons with that little girl. I asked my mother if she would renounce her religion to save her children. She said, unfailing and unflinching, “If I had to save you guys. In a heartbeat.” For me, my mother is a martyr. She would fight for us in a heartbeat. But if a martyr means dying for something, call that alcoholic on the street corner a martyr. For he fights for what he believes in, whether it’s right or wrong.

Those who are persecuted for their beliefs are nothing but persecuted. They are the hunted, more often than not, and we forget to applaud the hunted that bit the hunter back. More often than not, we forget what fighting truly means, and what death truly means. I would never want to become known for martyrdom, for dying. If I was to become a martyr, I would want it to be known that I died fighting. If not, I would feel ashamed. Life has become something that a lot of people take for granted, every little boy wants to become known, so society can decide his worth and tell him how awesome he is. How many “likes” or how many “comments” he gets on his Facebook page.

I want to die whilst fighting, fighting for what I believe in.

–  Divita Raithatha

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