FAITHFUL REASONINGS AND REASONABLE FAITHS
I was after all inside a church when I wrote it. Sure it isn’t it for the witty sermons that I drag myself as early as six-thirty a.m. every Sunday morning to go to church, and nor is it for the angelic praises and heavenly worships.
But because there is a solemnness inside a church; a presence, of palpable and impalpable forces, some within, some without; a sort of struggle, one could imagine, between the hundreds of souls inside the auditorium, all seeking to be saved—hence the struggle, between the light and the dark; between the savior and the doom; the doomed and the saved. A yearning in the air for panacea.
And also for this deplorable yet astonishing fact—that there is not a place in the whole of my country where a gathering of people is more adorned with hope than inside a church.
And so it is for this reason, this solemn quest of the neglected for a savior; this forces within and without; that I go to church.
Because amidst the forces and the struggles; amidst this hope-adorned eyes and my own supercilious considerations of their futility, something exists which is invaluable to an artist.
For if truly, true art is an amalgamation of opposites; the bringing together of presumably conflicting or actually conflicting ideas or phenomena, to create something truly aesthetic or truly sublime, then there is not a better workshop for the artist than the insides of a church.
And the hope in their eyes, the seemingly imbecilic faith encroached all over them; that veritably just by stepping inside a church, all problems are solved; problems which comes of course in different shapes and sizes (for example there was a woman sited right beside me with whom, she claimed, every single night a daemon or two engage in mind blowing intercourse.
But once inside the church this problems vanish, if only for those moments, and their hopes becomes ostensibly inexhaustible. And it just so happens that hope is the fulcrum of my own creativity.
So there I was, this very last Sunday, sited in the very middle of the church, a selfish hypocrite in search of hope to feed on, when ebulliently a man came out to the podium, shouting at a pitch so high that it overshadowed even the humming of the microphone.
Apparently he had a testimony to share.
He had a dream, he explained, kneeling on the alter with his eyes closed and his hands oscillating in the air, facetiously inside his black and white colored Dansiki—a traditional clothing, with arms so large that it made his impression quite like that of a penguin.
Inside the dream, he narrated, standing upright now on the podium, he had seen a very black cobra, which had seemed to him to want to devour him. He had woken up covered in sweat, he said, and the next day he had the same dream again.
Of course naturally he prayed against all evil snakes, sent by the devil to torment him, and so it was not much of a surprise to him when the very next day he sent his son to get a wrench from the garage, the poor child came back screaming.
There was a snake in the lightless part of the garage, the frightened kid reported, a cobra whose neck was wider than a soccer goalpost.
Now according to the man, his child had been spending so much time in the garage lately, sometimes sitting in the lightless part, and the snake had failed to bite him.
The poor snake did not bite the poor kid.
Said the pastor, an attenuated young man with a voice so hoarse, and an accent so humorously weird that one must display the highest level of decorum to keep from bursting into tears.
—Iz it not inzide the bush?
He continued. —that cobra live? But because they have mark him spirishually,
He revealed. —They have mark our brother spirishually. In fact they are playing scrabble on his head.
And so, continuing in his narration, the spiritually marked man, paying no mind to the fascinating game being played on his head, confessed—to the utmost joy of the congregation—that he finally killed the snake.
And, said the spiritually marked man, it was made possible only by the strength of god.
The joy of the crowd was deafening. No one seeming to care at least a bit for the demise of the poor snake who, accused of being a proxy from the depths of hell, no doubt suffering from the crimes of his ancestor, had gotten no chance to prove or disprove its own innocence.
But the noise died down after a while, and with the conclusion of that awe-inspiring testimony then, that aspect of the service was over.
It was time for the children’s presentations.
And they were to do it all, the poor kids; God’s mighty instruments, they were to act and sing and dance and recite and mime—and basically everything there is to do.
And when they had first climbed on to the stage, in the most utterly uncoordinated fashion, with their supposed coordinator—who was supposed to lead them orderly onto the podium—engaged in her own personal display of her groomed self to the congregation.
Although it should be mentioned that I was informed later by an equally concerned church member, that it was albeit no fault of hers, apparently the pastor had earlier revealed to her that her future husband was among the congregation on that day.
But yet somehow the poor kids managed to cover up the adult’s ineptitude, and arrange themselves in a very not-very-bad manner.
And then the farce began.
Mumbling and jumbling of words during the recital, the most absolutely egregious renditions of music, assuaged sinisterly with a jumbled choreography. The most horrendous pronunciations.
And worst of all, when the kids who were to quote the bible verses were called out on stage, the holy words, meant conventionally to be recited off-hand, were written dubiously for them behind a cardboard paper.
All in all, it was a disaster.
And on seeking to protest again this farcical torture of a farcical culture with the closing of my ears, I caught aglimpse of a young man sited behind me, whose admiration for the performance was radiant without blemish.
Then on further investigation of the crowds, it turned out it was I who was guilty of philistinism. All other members of the congregation were genuinely impressed. The cheers after they were done was earsplitting.
And then another round of dancing began. And I had scarcely began wondering why the farce was being prolonged, when an announcement was made for the congregation to proceed towards the alter, apparently we must offer something to appreciate the kids, who remained still on the stage, swaying all the while to an all too familiar tune.
Do they not know they’re being used? Of course they don’t.
And so I sat quietly, amidst a euphoric crowd, all rushing towards the alter to drop their offerings, pondering the similarity of this scenario to a lot other I had seen, which all had this appalling syndrome—the basic disparagement of African kids.Only never had I seen it benefited from as this.
Now one might say; but I do not understand, did the crowd not appreciate the kids? How can one have disparaged something one appreciated so enthusiastically?
There had been a general conclusion, I concluded, made already in the mind of the adults in charge of the kids, and even everyone in the congregation, and indeed everyone in this part of the world; that children are dumb, and as a dog standing on a leg amuses onlookers, so does a kid with a microphone, no matter how bad the sound he makes with it.
That he is incapable of anything truly impressive, and so with him the unimpressive should be regarded as impressive.
THIS IS NOT AN APPROVAL OF A STRICT TUTELAGE IN A SILLY QUEST FOR PERFECTION! But an exhortation that a child is capable of great things, if first greatness is believed of her. That one’s limitation must be decided by one, and not by another person’s assumption of it.
And that one mustn’t benefit from a farcical display of another’s ineptitude—their age no matter—just as the children’s department teachers had done. As if saying in essence to the children;dance on little fools, amuse the crowd with your ineptitude, as long as we make a few bucks off it.
And the business of writing the words of a bible recitation on a cardboard—how sordid!
And so sending the kids off the stage the second they were done and the offerings collected, the pastor said further, that there occurs a lot more evil in the world today, with each passing of the day; evil which inevitably leads us to the end; end which unsurprisingly is closer than most of us thinks.
And take a look, he said, at this matter of homosexuality—thank God it’s illegal in our country—is it not an obvious sign that the world is closer to its end? That the devil has seized more control over the hearts of men?
And was it not written clearly in the holy book, he went on, that such and such will happen in such and such way? And is such and such not happening now in the exact such and such way predicted?
The end is near, he reiterated, because the signs could not be any clearer. And the Christians, he exhorted, must be steadfast in their cause, lest the way of the world should sway them. For they’ll promise beautiful things, the sinister world, and guise it in the veil of freedom. So sweetly will they enunciate their evil ways, like the snake in Eden, but the Christians, he emphasized, must be steadfast in their stand against evil.
And the crowd, with the exception of myself alone, was steadfast in its attention, unmoved to muscle-numbing laughter as I was, by the pastor’s ridiculous accent.
And it is not homosexuality alone, he continued, but also transgenderism and polygamy and the legalization of divorce, and this overtness of sexzual desires amongst others. Brethren, he shouted, in finality, the end iz near.
And when he was done, up climbed another pastor, a younger one this time, dressed in a white suit, no doubt of quite the cost.
His topic was the same. The end is near and we’re all doomed.
But there was a thing about him, the way by which he enunciated hisdoom, not as something he feared selfishly,not as be saved that you might go not to hell, but as one with a genuine care for the human race, and its fate.
Faith, he preached, calm as a cucumber, dreads the addition of more differences to a world which by default is quite different. Faith, he enunciated, fears the re-categorization of categories. The division of divisions.
That faith knows somehow—spirishually perhaps, I thought—that it would be eternally easier if Life is divided into A and B, as it naturally was, and not into, say perhaps A and B and some A which might also be B and some B which might also be A and some AB and some BA and then some C.
And that of what good is it convincing ourselves that we can all live in harmony, no matter how diverse, when even since the time of Adam and Eve, Abel and Cain, Esau and Jacob, Joseph and his brothers—all extremely small
family with very little differences—there had been no harmony at all.
All in all it was, thought a supercilious artist amidst the crowd, a profound argument.
But then, thought the same supercilious artist still, was there no compromise between faith and reason?
And inscrutably, as he began typing furiously on his phone, and as at the same time the closing prayers were being said, this supercilious artist wondered why the hatred of indifferences must be quenched with indifference.
—Go in peace then,
The pastor shouted, looking very much depleted. —and return back with joy!