Africa is a religious continent. No doubt about that. Be it African traditional religion, Christianity or Islam. Anyone from the African continent definitely takes religion seriously. But sometimes, in our attempts at being pious, we tend to take it a little too far if the mushrooming of questionable churches and beliefs is anything to go by. My country is no exception.
Picture this scenario;
Last Sunday, we had a work related meeting at 2 in the afternoon. Now a handful of us showed up on time and were already seated before the guest speaker arrived. One of my colleagues of a higher ranking than us, showed up equally early. What caught my attention was his choice of an ice breaker. You see, a majority of us are not well acquainted with each other as a result of the nature of our job. So we were obviously seated there not speaking to one another.
And our colleague (in good faith I presume) asked, “You people do not go to church on Sunday?” (Forgive the very Kenyanised English). And you could immediately sense the kind of discomfort that particular question created among us. I mean, we are Kenyans and over time we have grown used to a majority of Kenyans attending church on Sunday.
I mean 3/4 of Kenyan shops and all Government offices are usually closed on Sundays. It is a day we set aside for religious purposes and sometimes, act hypocritically astonished that some of us never saw the need to attend service as we did on Sunday.
Then we condemn them with hell fire in our hearts, when we notice with hidden glee, how uncomfortable our question has made them. Nobody in Africa desires to be associated with lacking in religious belief. So it wasn’t really a shocker this particular colleague asking if we didn’t go to church. I can’t really blame his choice of an ice breaker never mind the slight negative effect it caused. But was the question necessary really?
Anyways, a couple of weeks back, one of my neighbors (with whom I’m not very close but we occasionally chit chat) decided to play the good Christian and hand me a flyer inviting me to her church. Her intentions seemed genuine so I mentioned my denomination and promised to attend service with her next Sunday if I would be available.
Come next Saturday evening and this neighbor gave me a call just to confirm if I would be attending. Unfortunately, I had left earlier in the day for a relative’s place and therefore, apologized that it wouldn’t be possible and that I would attend my church wherever I was. So I thought the whole thing was sorted then.
The following Sunday, I got a call again early in the morning from the same neighbor and that is when my irritation set in. As if 100% sure of my movements that particular Sunday, this particular neighbor decided to conclude over the phone that I hadn’t gone to church.
And she kept on insisting that she just knew I hadn’t attended service never mind the fact that I wasn’t even home and hadn’t been that weekend. My exasperation got the better of me and I remember demanding to know why she thought I hadn’t been to church. It took a generous amount of self control on my part, not to snap at her and still play the friendly neighbor despite my irritation. That was the last time she called me on those same lines.
My reaction was not at all related to shame and guilt but rather to the fact that sometimes, people tend to assume to know you more than you do yourself. In my adult life, I have never felt the need to justify my beliefs to someone. I have equally never seen the need to put someone on the spot over what beliefs they hold concerning religion.
I used to when I was younger but over time, I realized that condemning others for their beliefs or lack of, was simply not necessary. If condemning someone’s beliefs made me choose who to interact with and who not to, then there was no point in me condemning in the first place.
I have a pretty religious background myself which I hardly publicize. I have been to strictly Christian schools and experienced deep religious Christian beliefs at home.
However, I tend to think of myself as someone who is very private with my religious beliefs. I have been put on the spot many times in the past, by people who assumed I do not pray or attend church as often as they did, just because they have never seen me pray in their vicinity or have witnessed me skip church a couple of Sundays.
I value my relationship with God but it is not something I would like to gleefully rub in the faces of others just to feel more pious than them. To me that is simply hypocritical and instead of drawing people to your beliefs only push them further away. There’s no perfect Christian out there. We all have weaknesses that sometimes need a lot of praying about.
Like it or not, as an adult, you are going to interact with people of all kinds of religious beliefs be it at the workplace or at the social scene. I know there’s that argument of being a lukewarm believer which goes further to state that you have to completely lean on either side and not be in the middle. But if subscribing to that school of thought only makes me constantly rub people the wrong way, I tend to steer clear from it.
I have absolutely nothing against religion. It is what defines us as human beings. It is a way of life. But you cannot force your religious beliefs down the throat of a non-believer who has no intention whatsoever to subscribe to your beliefs. That is where you draw the line and choose to stick to your boundaries without seeming offensive to the other person. However, many of us choose to rattle others on a daily basis on religious lines.
Is it worth it?