Posted in Faith, Features

Searching for Jesus, finding Krishna

It is Wednesday evening, at around 6:30 pm, and I am sitting on a small mat, my legs crossed into a tight knot. The large doors, the high ceiling and the artwork on the walls evoke a sacred, reverent feeling in me. I am caressing a set of beads between my fingers as I chant and sing just low enough not to disturb the woman seated next to me. She is also singing.

My story today begins where it will end: Inside the Hare Krishna Temple at Ngara, Nairobi.

My name is Jayne Adhiambo Opondo. I am 22, and I am a follower of Krishna. I know “Opondo” and “Krishna” in the same sentence sounds strange, because there is this strong stereotype that some religions belong to certain people.

In the same way people assume every Arab or Somali is a Muslim, the name Adhiambo Opondo is likely to have Christian, rather than Krishna, associations. So how did I end up here? Perhaps the best picture to illustrate the beginning of my journey is that of a box.

Read the full story here.

Posted in Commentary, culture, Faith, Religion

Celebrating the Bigger Picture in Benny Hinn’s Shift on Prosperity Gospel

When I first came across a YouTube clip circulating on social media that Benny Hinn had renounced the prosperity gospel and that he will no longer “ask people for money”, I was reluctant to celebrate.

First, being the skeptic that I am, I thought the clip was had been edited to fit a certain narrative, so I wanted to watch the entire message before forming an opinion. So I looked for the original message. I found it tucked inside a 3-hour long Facebook Live video on Benny Hinn’s page. I even posted the full, unedited transcript on this blog.

The more I listened to his original words, the more I felt my reservations fade.

More questions than answers

However, many questions quickly followed this initial excitement. Does this mean that Benny Hinn is on the path to affirming and preaching the true gospel? What about Benny Hinn’s views on other teachings of the Bible?

Wait, it sounds like he renounced the prosperity gospel, but did he say what the true gospel is? Was he always preaching the true gospel and then adding the prosperity stuff on top or is he now changing his entire understanding of what the gospel is?

Come to think of it, Benny Hinn doesn’t use the phrase “Prosperity Gospel” anywhere in his message. He uses the word “prosperity” a lot, and rebukes those who try to peddle the gospel as a means to prosperity. Is this the same thing we mean when we speak about the prosperity gospel? Are we putting words in Benny Hinn’s mouth?

As far as I know, prosperity gospel is the teaching that Jesus died to make us healthy, wealthy and happy. But the true gospel is about Jesus dying to save us from our sins and restore our broken fellowship with God. Did Benny Hinn make this distinction? Is he even aware of the nuance? What exactly is the gospel according to Benny Hinn?

These are just a few questions that led me back to my previous reluctance to celebrate what many have lauded as a significant shift in Benny Hinn’s theology.

But I am a communications specialist, and I like to think I understand the power of context and environment in determining the effect someone’s words have on another. It is why echo-chambers continue to thrive on the internet and why confirmation bias tends to rule our convictions.

When you’ve already decided that a person is against you and doesn’t want you to succeed in life, you develop filters for whatever positive thing they say. You never associate with them or give them a willing audience, and when you are forced to listen to them, you always expect them to speak against you and you grow suspicious when they say anything positive about you.

This is why, no matter how good your arguments and how compelling your evidence, you will never convince a Jubilee party die-hard to vote for the opposition party.

Bigger picture

This brings me to the point I refer to as the “bigger picture” in Benny Hinn’s latest words. I am celebrating Benny Hinn’s words, not because it says anything about the overall change in his theology (or even a change in the trajectory of his theology), I am celebrating his words because of the people who got to hear them and, for the first time, consider the truth of those words and possibly believe them.

The “bigger picture” is not the man who claimed to renounce the prosperity gospel, the bigger picture is the masses who heard, listened, and believed him.

There are those who have faithfully followed Benny Hinn Ministries who will struggle with this question. Probably for the first time in their life, they will feel the instinct to disagree with their teacher and like the Bereans, they will go back to their Bibles to confirm the truth of these new and strange claims.

Some of these people will share the clip with their friends in the same prosperity and Word of Faith circles. Hopefully, the anouncement will be subject of discussion in Bible Study groups and Whatsapp groups and after-church conversations in those circles.

“Did you hear what Benny Hinn said? What do you think it means? Do you agree? What do we do with this new shift?”

Listening again, for the first time

And in the process, many will Google their questions and they will encounter other people speaking about the same topic. Probably for the first time in their lives, they will dare to examine the words of those “enemies of the church” who have always spoken ill of their pastor and movements.

They will wonder how what these people knew that their pastor did not; what they said that caused their pastor to change his mind and announce it so publicly and so brazenly. Then they will listen to these enemies again, for the first time.

The more I consider all these possibilities, the more I realize that Benny Hinn’s public renouncing of “prosperity” is not about Benny Hinn. It is not about expecting Benny Hinn to go out and sell all he has and give to the poor. It is not about expecting Benny Hinn to now change his circle of friends and denomination and join the “true-gospel” movement.

It is not even about whether Benny Hinn should now apologize and make amends for all the people he ostracized for calling him out when he preached the prosperity gospel; or whether he should now begin a ministry of calling out those he once walked alongside.

For all we know, this may be the last time we hear about it. He will probably do an interview or two about it and then quickly fade back into the movement that he has led and been a part of for decades.

For all we know, he was probably using even this supposed recanting as another opportunity to make himself look good and honorable before human beings. Only God knows what is in Benny Hinn’s heart — It is possible to confess that you used to be a people-pleaser and still do it as another act of people-pleasing.

Of course I want and pray that Benny Hinn will fully embrace and preach and live out the true Gospel. As far as I know, what he has said is worth celebrating. But it is simply to early and we know too little to tell whether this is indeed what it happening. We celebrate the teaser, even as we await the rest of the story.

Yet despite this, I see a bigger and a more immediate cause for celebration. In just 5 minutes Benny Hinn has planted a seed of (or at least a curiosity for) the true gospel in millions of hearts that may never have considered listening to someone who wasn’t Benny Hinn.

Whatever we think of Benny Hinn in this season and afterwards, we cannot deny the fact that God has, in this moment, used him as His instrument. And this is definitely worth celebrating.

For the fame of His name.

Posted in The 4th Dimension

Religion is not the opium of the masses; we’re just high on ourselves.

Last night NTV aired a useful investigative piece exposing all the falsehood that masquerades as religion in this country. The piece exposed “prophets”; “apostles” etc who are ripping of congregations, manipulating the Scriptures to suit their own needs and preaching godliness as a means of gain [1 Timothy 6:5] (financial; spiritual or otherwise). The truth is that although these prophets, preachers, ‘men of God’ etc are travestying Christianity, the responsibility for discerning between truth and falsehood rests with congregants (lay Christians) and if you are in Christ you have the duty of searching the scriptures to find out if what a preacher says is true (Acts 17:11).

However, the main point of this article is not to shout about what the ludicrousness of what was revealed and I’m especially not interested in trying to defend God and/or Christianity. The question I would really like to ask is this: is religion really society’s problem? Or even one of its problems?

What the investigative piece portrayed is a (false) hope industry, if you will. One that is preying on the weak, the desperate, the helpless. The piece correctly identified that desperation can drive many of us to a bad place where we are willing to pay any price for what we need: healing / financial provision etc. Where we will believe the irrational and accept the incredulous, in order to find rest; comfort and peace.

I could not help but draw some other parallels to this truth.  I could not help but think of all the other false religions we hold on to in life. As I watched, I thought briefly on we who, desperate for career success, have sacrificed our families in order to ‘make it’ or who have been tempted to sacrifice our personal holiness in order to ‘make it’. I thought about we who, desperate to retain society’s respect have sacrificed our unborn children (or encouraged our children to kill their unborn children) who were conceived in iniquity (pre-marital sex / adultery). I thought about we who, full of political ambitions, have compromised our values to succeed. I thought about we who, desperate to be accepted in all the wrong circles, conform to their standards even if those standards contradict God’s.

You see, the problem with society is not all that we are religious. It is not that we are genuinely seeking God. It is the opposite. It is that we all are naturally and fundamentally irreligious and self-serving. It is that we seek our own pleasure, rather than God’s.

False hope. False promises. False gods. False religion. The truth of God traded for a lie – that is the problem.  That we are not worshiping the Creator of heaven and earth (in the way that he desires and requires), but rather we are worshiping the created: our boyfriends, girlfriends, money; parents; preachers etc (and in all this, who we truly worship is ourselves) – that is the problem. That we treasure money and comfort over Christ’s will – that is the problem.

That we are servants but servants of own evil desires, slaves to sin – that is our problem.

We, are the problem.

Julie

Posted in The 4th Dimension

God and Science: Friends or Foes?

Pick up your Bible and trace the historical story-line of the Israelites, from Abraham down to the New Testament Jesus and His followers. If you read the story like any other story, you will notice a significant trend. Take Moses and the burning bush, for example. Apparently, this event was unusual to Moses. It was not natural. Bushes just don’t spontaneously ignite; and when they burn, they get consumed; they just don’t burn on and on and on.

science godOr take the case of the Israelites at the shores of the Red Sea. Moses, at the command of God, raises his staff and voila! The body of water divides into two great walls with a dry path between them. Waters don’t just part with nothing but air to hold them in place. That was not natural.

These events and many others, as described in the Old Testament, were considered strange, miraculous and “unscientific” by those who witnessed them. They were considered unnatural, even supernatural, if you’d like to call them that.

What these events, and the reactions evoked, tell us is that there was a norm the people were used to, what they could see with their eyes and perceive with their senses. These Old Testament “primitives” knew a miracle when they saw one. Why? Because their senses and minds were scientific. They could discern a specific pattern or law in nature, and they knew when this law was defied.

These people were not blindly superstitious as they have often been presented. Continue reading “God and Science: Friends or Foes?”

Posted in The 4th Dimension

Blog Break (1 Mar 13)

Here are some interesting reads to end your week and start your March:

  1. THE MYTH OF GOVERNMENT NEUTRALITY : “Most Americans, recognizing that a government-sponsored philosophy would conflict with many citizens’ cherished beliefs (and possibly violate the establishment clause), would say that the government should be neutral. But at the same time, they would want the government to defend and promote certain ideas—about human equality, for example—even if that promotion conflicted with the beliefs of some Americans. We want the government to be neutral, except when we don’t want it to be.”
  2. In HOW TO BE MENTORED WITHOUT A MENTOR, Jodi Ware empathizes with those who do not have the privilege or opportunity of having a one-on-one mentoring relationship with an older man or woman. “I had in mind, of course, the idea that mentoring involves a formal, weekly or biweekly meeting with a wise older woman—doing a Bible or book study together and learning how to live as a Christian woman. I have never experienced this specific kind of mentoring.”
  3. Finally, AFRICA NEEDS GOD. This is the last thing you would hear coming out of the mouth of a self-confessed atheist. Matthew Parris: “The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world – a directness in their dealings with others – that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.”

Have a blessed reading time, friends.

 

Posted in The 4th Dimension

Jesus is Not the Christian Muhammad

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – Jesus

cross-crescentA brief review of the major world religions will show that they all had their respective founders. Judaism was founded by Abraham, Buddhism was founded by Buddha, Islam was founded by Muhammad, Mormonism was founded by Joseph Smith, the Jehovah’s Witnesses were founded by Charles Taze Russell…. and yes, for the sake of remaining politically correct, Christianity was founded by Jesus Christ. In all these religions and their founders, only one founder claims to be more than the others, Jesus Christ. No matter how much the Jews respect and honor Abraham, no one has deluded himself into equating Abraham with God. No matter how protective the Muslims are of Prophet Muhammad’s name and image, they draw the line at equating Muhammad with God. Muhammad is the greatest and the last prophet, but he is not God. Each religious leader and founder points away from himself and towards their respective deities. Only Jesus claims to be God. Only Jesus points to himself and says, “Follow me!” Continue reading “Jesus is Not the Christian Muhammad”