May 31, 2009
A lot of times as African christians, we tend to believe that the things we hear about christianity in established market economies(EME's), or developed countries , ain't true. Sometimes its hard to comprehend the news that Europe, where christianity once had a powerful foothold, has rejected the concept of christianity! That may be a blanket statement that isn't totally evidence based, as there are still lots of Europeans who believe in God as we Christians know Him. Still, a growing majority of Europeans are refuting the essence of religion in any form - the need of faith and worse, the concept of God!
I'm in the Netherlands, and have had an oppourtunity to go site seeing in a beautiful town there. We were given a tour and one of the sites to visit was a beautiful medieval church. Imagine my shock on entering to find out that buying and selling was going on in the church auditorium, as we wil call it! Yes, I had read about cathedrals in Britain being turned into pubs and cinemas, but to be actually confronted with a live example was a bit too much! The other African with me was less shocked as he had already witnessed such scenes, he however took pictures - according to him, a picture is worth a thousand words. This will convince those back home that spending millions to build edifices as worship centers were not necessary as it may end up someday like this, a market place! He wished the money will be spent on human lives, things that directly impact people and will have eternal value.
Further forays into the surronding neighbourhoods revealed similar things, churches especially large cathedrals were of little use to these people. Its relevance now was in its tourist appeal! Its spiritual relevance was non existent. This mirrored clearly the spiritual state of most of the Dutch people.
I'm staying at a Catholic University here in the Netherlands. The centre for religious activity, in the University, is shared by free thinkers, muslims (who have a separate room with washing facilities), the gay community, catholics , anglicans etc. What was most amazing and distressing was that the gay lunch was presided over by the overall Chaplain. I know this will draw ire from some readers and I may be labelled as judgmental, critical unloving bigot. I however try to imagine a muslim cleric presiding over a gay lunch! In our bid to be politically correct, show a humanistic face to our beliefs, potray God as a loving father, we have lost our moral edge and I think that's one of the reasons, these people we are trying to win over have no respect for Christians. I maybe wrong.
Now back to my story. I did a little investigative research, to try and understand the mind of the average Dutch. I discovered they are exactly what we thought they were. The average Dutch believes the Church has done more harm than good. He believes that since science, which is evidence based, hasn't discovered God, so He doesnt exist. He believes religion makes morons(couldnt find a better term) of intelligent people. As far as He is concerned, science has solved - is in the process of solving - man's problems, so why factor God into the equation? He explains to you the fact that history has proven that religion only leads to schisms, sectarianisms, wars, backwardness etc. A lot of young dutch do not see the need for any religion, and as far as they are concerned they are doing just fine.
I query the " just fine". Maybe am being prudish, or a naive African, but a society were same sex marriage is legalized, prostitution is legalized and is freely promoted on air and none of these is seen to negatively impact on the future of that society? I dont know. But my problem is with the church, it was the fight for prominence that drove Christianity out of the Arab nations. The church schisms was what made people to question the truth of our doctrines and decide not to belief in any of these. The indulgences and hypocrisy made many part ways with the church, and gradually with God!
Truely, Christianity seems to be thriving in Africa, but we havent learnt the lessons worth learning from the history - of the empty and emptying churches of Europe. It's not in the edifices, its not in the amazing physical wealth or spread of the church. It isn't in the number of people attending church sevrices, of all the visible things, that proclaim our prosperity. The kingdom of God is - and should be - built in the hearts of Men. Then and only then will the church avoid a repetiton of the sitution in Europe.
God will build His Church if we only let Him do it His way and not our way!