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Being Human

Thought Leaders Series: 2018

Religion recognises a metaphysical dimension, as such, human challenges are often explained employing the concept of causes and effects, largely, as agency of either God or Satan.

In fact in earlier development of Judaism we see both good and evil coming from God, and Satan or the devil acting as an enforcer on behalf of God. One prophet even describes a council headed by God which includes the active participation of Satan, in the shape of a ‘lying spirit’.

The result of activities in this realm often manifests on earth as either ‘blessings’ or ‘curses’, hence, the emphasis on appeasing activities like prayer, sacrifice, abstinence, fasting, etc.

These activities are meant to avert natural disasters like earthquakes, famine, drought; and non-natural phenomena like wars etc.

Simply put, if an earthquake occurs, or, if crops do not yield a bountiful harvest, then God must be angry. Little wonder why it is so easy to justify doctrines like tithing, as an hedge against these risks and uncertainties – almost like an insurance policy with God.

That aside, religion can often conjure doctrines to justify unethical behaviours like alienation, discrimination, slavery (both Christianity and Islam were heavily involved in this activity in Africa), racism, inequality, and brutality; but it will be against the spirit of humanism to think, let alone act in such ways towards a fellow human.

For the humanist, the focus is on doing good and living well in the here and now, and leaving a legacy in the world for those who come after.

Consequently, change and progress can only occur by intentional actions. Through moral vision. By hard-work, perseverance, patience, education, unlearning toxic ideas, reasoning, organising, collective action, and constant review of our actions and progress.

In the words of Writer, Poet, and Theologian, Thomas Merton:

The world will not survive religion based on tribal consciousness. It will destroy the world. But if those who arrive at what is truest from their own tradition, which transcends their own tradition, they recognize each other. And if they would speak up, religious people could be a source for world unity and world peace.

We can not outsource these responsibilities to external agency, there is too much at stake. Let us put our hands to the plough for today and a better future.

Healingsprings fellowship: Human Capital Development

http://www.healingsprings.org.uk

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Who truly am I? The quest for a sense of identity: an exploration of the Book of Exodus

In previous weeks, we established that unlike traditional doctrine that the Old Testament was written by Moses, it was in fact written retrospectively by multiple contributors.

Most scholars now agree that the recording of their oral history, compilation and redaction started during the Exile, and was completed at some point after the Exile.

By way of background, amidst the disruption of political and spiritual institutions, and the destruction of The Temple; they needed to come to terms with their understanding of the Divine, and the geopolitics of their time.

Much like we have today, the competing powers of that era were: Egypt, Babylon, Greece and Persia. And as a result of the location of the Israelites (the bottle beck between Africa and the Middle East), geopolitically they became an important nation for these competing super powers.

Consequently the book of Exodus is not historic or biographical, but what is known as a founding myth. Although more comprehensive in terms of depth, it is not dissimilar to the founding myths of African Kingdoms like the Yoruba’s in western Nigeria, which is centred around a mythical figure – Oduduwa.

Therefore, it’s purpose was not to account for what happened in terms of historicity, but as a reflection and commentaries on the historical experience of the exile community in Babylon, and later Jerusalem.

Like all founding myths, the primary goal was to galvanise the people towards a metaphysical and physical identity, and for the purposes of nationhood.

With the benefit of hindsight, we can see the positive impact of these stories on the Jewish people, and in the same vein, the detrimental impact of competing ideologies and beliefs on the psyche of people that have been enslaved and colonised.

In the absence of a central narrative that provides a sense of identity, co-existence and nation building becomes an impossible task.

Here lies the challenges of Africans and our dear brothers and sisters of African descent.

After years of being educated to believe that we are pagans, that we are backward, that we are cursed, that we are black, that we are uncivilised, that we are primitive, that we are uneducated, that we are ugly; and that God was angry with us because we were not Christians or Muslims.

Scriptural focus: Exodus chapters 7-9 (NRSV)

Join us at 3pm

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Church Rd,

Sidcup DA14 6BX

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Today @ Healingsprings fellowship

By way of background, we know that what we refer to today as the New Testament is a collection of letters between members of the early or primitive church, and various biographical accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry. Then, why was the Old Testament written?

The Old Testament was written as a means of galvanising a people towards a metaphysical and physical identity, and most importantly, towards nationhood. They thought it necessary following the destruction of what we refer to as the North and Southern Kingdom of Israel, and subsequent Exile of the people, especially the ruling elites.

It was written by the elites and it’s central theme is: One God, One People and One Covenant. For the first time defeat was seen as victory. Instead of ascribing victory to the gods of their enemy, Yahweh was Sovereign, therefore defeat was because they forsook Yahweh.

Furthermore, their ‘gentile’ neighbours were blamed for seducing them into serving their gods. Hence the likes of Jezebel, the so called ‘Witch of Endor’, or anything foreign or gentile was vilified. Apart from the faithfulness of Uriah, Ruth, and Rahab the prostitute; gentiles were hardly role models within the texts.

In fact the saying: “shake the dust off your feet when you leave their house” was a well known saying passed on from a very early age depicting metaphorically and physically what they should do whenever they had any dealing with a gentile. Hence the reason why the Parable of the Good Samaritan was very radical to the audience it was delivered to.

Consequently they captured their oral history and used the process of historical reconstruction (a bit of history, and a bit of fiction) in weaving these three fundamental ideas into their folklore, poetry, myths and other means of communication in their era. To this end the Bible is not infallible as tradition implies.

The lesson that stands out in all of this is the philosophy that we should never give up. The destruction of the Temple could have meant the end of the people, their identity, their faith; but the Elders reinvented other means of atonement namely: fasting, praying, and alms giving.

When Yahweh did not show after all their efforts to draw his attention through acts of holiness. When they saw their heroes die in battle, prophets executed, second Temple destroyed, evil kings reign, injustice and abuse of power; they came up with yet another invention: justice in the afterlife (in the shape of heaven and hell).

For them defeat was only an episode, and never the end. The redactors were careful to use characters known through Jewish history to convey the sort of values that will strengthen and foster unity and prosperity; and those that were detrimental to their cause.

Hence they weaved into these stories values like collectivism, selflessness, faithfulness, loyalty, sacrifice, patience, humility, vision, kindness, unity, etc. At the same, time inverses or polar opposites like individualism, selfishness, disloyalty, greed, shortsightedness, pride etc.

The characters we find in these stories are not there by coincidence, they are symbols and milestones in the struggle of a people trying to carve out a distinct future amidst the complexities of the world around them.

Therefore we find ourselves in grave difficulties when we try to read these stories through the lenses of the New Testament or Christian dogmas and doctrines. Worse still, treat them as timeless universal principles that govern all aspects of human life.

Today I will be setting the scene for my series on Moses.

Questions include:

  • What were the redactors trying to convey?
  • How did it serve the community in their nation building project?

In other words, what sort of Operative Narratives and Scripts were the Elders envisioning through this ground breaking project.

Join us at 3pm

St John the Evangelist Hall

Church Rd,

Sidcup DA14 6BX

Reachout | Revive | Recover

http://www.healingsprings.org.uk