Sunday Advice to Ghanaian Christians From a Ghanaian Non-Christian

It has been my privilege to address college students all over the world, usually as one defending the Christian worldview. These events typically attract large numbers of atheists. I like that. I find talking to people who disagree with me much more stimulating than those gatherings that feel a bit too much like a political party convention…

… Christianity, when it is taken seriously, compels its adherents to engage the world, not retreat from it…

… Christians must be willing to listen to other perspectives while testing their own beliefs against them — above all, as the apostle Peter tells us, “with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)

These are excerpts from Larry Alex Taunton’s article in The Atlantic last week, ‘Listening to Young Atheists: Lessons for a Stronger Christianity.

I’m dedicating it to all Christians (especially Ghanaian ones) who fail to engage with people who hold different beliefs than them in the name of not being ‘unevenly yoked’. I encourage you to read this article, think about it, read it again, share it with your friends and then actually start engaging with non-Christians the way that you are supposed to.

Question: when is the last time you engaged with non-believers at all, much less with “with gentleness and respect”?

I ask because I encounter too many (young) Ghanaian Christians who either:

a. Do not associate themselves at all with ‘sinners’ but rather mingle only with fellow Christians.

This really makes no sense to me. Jesus didn’t say anything about preaching to the converted. The article has this brilliant quote about how much you must hate someone if you think they are doomed to hell but you keep the message to yourself.

I actually heard an argument from one such Christian recently in which he criticized another Christian for ministering to prostitutes. This struck me as weird, seeing as Jesus himself rolled with prostitutes… and – for that matter – with all other manner of people deemed outcasts by society at the time (lepers and gentiles, for example). He did not roll with the holy people of his time: the Pharisees and Saducees that some Ghanaian Christians so easily vilify, casting the first stone without first looking at the log in their own eye.

Who are Ghana’s social outcasts today? People who are mentally-ill, homosexual, atheists, prostitutes… These are the people that Jesus would be engaging with if he was in Ghana today. He wouldn’t be up in church, giving sermons, preaching to the already-converted.

If Jesus not only rolled with but attracted social outcasts, then I don’t understand what your problem is.

Don’t presume: engage. Get to know why people believe what they believe. Don’t just assume they are lost, worldly souls. By the measure of your own faith, such thinking isn’t even Christian.

In my experience, however stupid someone’s actions may seem, it is always smart to assume that that person is not stupid but is doing what they do for some reason that seems logical to them. Working on that assumption, I work my way backwards and try to think what would compel me to think, say or do whatever it is that that person is thinking, saying or doing.

To my mind, that is what it means not to judge, and I honestly think that if more of us (Christian or not) tried it, Ghanaians would understand each other better and treat each other better. On the other hand, if you are treating people with intolerance and judgment – making them feel persecuted, silenced and judged by everyone around them – then you are creating what is ultimately a non-Christian society that does not reflect the principles of Love upon which the faith (especially The New Testament) is supposedly founded.

The other thing young Ghanaian Christians do (linked to all the above) is…

b. Try engaging with non-Christians, but with a sense of judgment.

My thoughts on this particular type of Christian are already well-documented.

I’m neither Christian nor Atheist, but I live in a country in which Christianity (and Christian culture) is regularly forced down my throat by people who ironically seem to think that they are the ones under attack. I think they believe this is because they have blindly imbibed the perspective of Christians in the West, where Christianity is under attack.

Ghanaian Christians don’t know how good they have it. Over here, Christians ‘run tings’. In fact, they run everything.

Literally.

You live in a country where there is little separation between church and State. No self-proclaimed atheist could ever run for Presidency here. Rather, our late President proudly described himself as a Christian and sought counsel from a Nigerian pastor. Pastors here have more posters than musicians and film stars combined. Religious issues become national issues here (and vice versa). You don’t need TV channels dedicated to Christian content, because half the content on national television is Christian content (especially on the national channel: GTV). Regular shops and stalls are named things like ‘My Redeemer Liveth Hair Salon’…

Don’t talk to me about being under attack from ‘the forces of secularism’. The forces of Christianity here are just as strong, if not stronger.

My point is that, if you are going to try and spread the Good News (and your faith dictates that you should), do so not only by understanding and grappling with your own faith (which is harder than some of you seem to think), but also by at least attempting to understand and grapple with other people’s ideas, faith and beliefs.

I have a vested interest in raising the standard of Christian attempts at conversion. Not only will it make my life easier, but it is actually fun and informative engaging with people who do not speak to you like you are somehow mildly slow.

If I am going to be forced to engage with Christianity on an almost day-to-day basis, I would prefer to be engaged by Christians who know what they are talking about, rather than by automatons who simply regurgitate Bible quotes without putting them in context; without being able to comprehend the idea that not everyone considers the Bible  the absolute truth; or without – at the very least – knowing as much about their own faith as an infidel like me.

Please read that article, people. It will help.

14 Replies to “Sunday Advice to Ghanaian Christians From a Ghanaian Non-Christian”

  1. well articulate. It’s absolutely irking when such christians attack your being rather than your views,which most often layered on reasoning and common sense.
    You know about the ‘baning’ of traditional form of worship-libation pouring at National events? what an act!

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  2. Just like the US (and most of the world) depends on there being millions of mindless consumer automatrons in the US to blindly go through life purchasing things they don’t need, I think that if the mindless Christian automatrons in Ghana who blindly go through life as vessels that purchase someone else’s view of spirituality and religion suddenly became self-aware and realized they existed as individuals with their own thoughts, free-will and control over their own destiny, there would be a big problem.

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  3. hmmm interesting read…indeed Jesus was always breaking the stereotype, (John 4:9)….yet…..Anywayz, Kobby lets continue this discourse though via email.

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  4. I am happy to learn that at least you are NOT AN ATHEIST 🙂

    I think we’ve crossed path before online, remember?

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      1. I see. Graham is an acquaintance of mine. Someone I admire. We don’t share the same views but I value his bravery, his opinion and his sense of humour.

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  5. Well written from the pen of a man seeking for acknowlegement of folks like himself by ‘christians’ and for a better expression for the christlike nature. Nice piece, although seemingly having some aggressive undertone and entrenched dispositions.
    Just to clarify a bit: Jesus did go to temples (church) preaching sermons. He dined with pharisees and lived/rolled with those who solely believed in him (disciples, he even spent the most time with them).
    Also, some christians might not feel intellectually capable yet to defend their belief system juxtapose to another and so might avoid such a discussion.
    I however, fully agree that some christians must engage and stop “judging”… And I hope that when they choose to engage, folks like youself should also be willing to abandon certain entrenched positions and viewpoints if they are found to be flawed. There are also nonchristians who have strong entrenched positions who refuse to leave those viewpoints even if they are proven wrong. I believe non-christians should be prepared and willing to embrace opposing view points that are proven true. I donot believe christians (in my opinion) are interested in a fruitless engagement/discourse that become merely argumentative. Both parties need to be willing to learn.

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    1. Thanks for this Braimah.

      In all honesty, I’m not really looking for validation from Christians. That really isn’t the point of what I wrote. I am quite happy with what I believe in. In fact, I think that learning how to apply and live by Love (instead of judgment, for example) would actually enhance the experiences that Christians have of their own religion.

      Neither do I mean to come off as aggressive. That said, I increasingly have little patience for Christians who spend their time judging non-Christians instead of reaching out to them the way I’m pretty sure Jesus intended. Jesus may have spent some time in the temple, but not all of it. His most famous sermon – for example – took place on a mount. He spent most of his time with disciples who – yes – believed in him, but he did not restrict his message to them. He told them to spread the message. Moreover, theologians will tell you that his disciples extended beyond the twelve to include the likes of Magdalene (a prostitute) and many of the social outcasts he saved.

      That said, I completely agree with you that there are non-Christians who are just as closed-minded as some Christians. As I have however pointed out, much of that is to do with how Christians approach them. If Christians are going to engage with non-Christians – as their faith instructs them to – then they have to know how to go about this. It is in this spirit that I write my more religious posts. I try to show a perspective that is probably quite alien to many Christians here because they very rarely meet actual non-believers. Or understand them. Much less know how to engage with them. I am actually trying to create engagement. I want people to think… and then act.

      Personally, I try as much as possible to engage with Christians. In fact, with people of other faiths too, but mostly Christians because I am surrounded by Christians. I do not tell myself that it will challenge my faith. Or stand at a distance and judge. And when I say engage, I mean engage: we have discussions. Not arguments. I do all of this with as open a mind and heart as possible, as I have explained. You’ll be surprised to find that most conversations end in agreement. About the supremacy of Love. Where there are lessons to learn, I learn them. It is exactly this kind of engagement that has in fact resulted in what I believe in today.

      If that sounds like someone with entrenched positions, then so be it!

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  6. Hi Kobby,

    Point well taken. I am a Ghanaian Christian and I think your post represents fairly well the situation on the ground. Sad and embarrassing (for me). I also think you’ve been quite gracious in your criticism of how some us have related to people of other beliefs. I gather you are neither Christian nor atheist. I have two questions though. 1) How do you describe yourself then, with respect to belief in a supreme being. 2) In your reply to Briamah I get the sense that you believe in the supremacy of love for human relations. Why is that and what is your definition of love? By the way, I’m also a ‘Kobina’ just like you, but born in Ghana 🙂

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    1. Hi Kobina (nice name you have there!)

      You’re quite right: I’m neither Christian nor Atheist. You ask some cool questions. These are my answers.

      1) How do you describe yourself then, with respect to belief in a supreme being?

      I would describe myself as a living, breathing part of a supreme being. I believe that we are all part of God. Every last being.

      2) I get the sense that you believe in the supremacy of love for human relations. Why is that and what is your definition of love?

      I do believe that love is and should be supreme, particularly in human relations. I explain it at length here: https://kobigraham.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/love-is-my-religion/

      Hope that helps.

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      1. Hi Kobby,
        Thanks very much for the reply. From your answer and your article on love, it’s quite clear you hold a pantheistic belief system – the belief that we are all part of God and that there is God in all of us, in fact in everything. In case you are ‘allergic’ to categorization of your beliefs, I apologize 🙂 . But anyone remotely family with world religions should be able to see that your beliefs fall within that framework. I very would like to ask some questions directly on this belief but first kindly give me your response to following.
        In your article on love, you did mention that you read Jesus words and try to make sense of it and that, although you cannot call yourself a Christian, you can call yourself a student of Christ. Now you don’t say exactly from what source you read these words of Jesus from. Meanwhile you also say you honestly do not know whether Jesus actually said all the words attributed to him. And from you piece it’s clear that what you have in mind especially on that point is particularly the words ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’ I would like to know what book or source you read Jesus’ words from? I ask for this information because if it is from the same Bible (which you say contains the ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life’) then in all fairness I think you should properly give a defence for why you consider as historically credible all the other words of Jesus in Bible to the point of actually spending time to study them (with the exception of the ‘I am the way …’ bit, for which you should also give sound historical and intellectual reasons for rejecting). I think as far as intellectual honesty goes, you owe us your readers this much. Simply wondering aloud (i.e. on the net), about whether or not Jesus said those words, without concrete or factual evidence that should reasonable provoke such a doubt would be like you screaming that a monster is coming to get us when indeed you have seen nothing.
        Also if it is the case that the source from which you read Jesus’ words is not the Bible, as known within the popular culture, but a different source (a more credible source) then kindly point us to it and furnish us with reasons why you consider this source to be more credible than the present mainstream Bible.

        Lastly you keep mentioning ‘love’ and talking about it as if it is an ultimately good thing yet you are unable to tell us what is. You say we come to know it although we may not be able to define it. Well at least almost everyone tries to give some sort definition or characteristics, especially when they are in love. So Kobby, you being ‘a student of love’ I really think if you know this supreme love so well or even just a part of it (to the point of giving you allegiance to it as your religion) you should be able to help us identify how it looks like so far, what are the characteristics – what is it which will indicate that such and such is love or supreme love. You talk of loving others and loving ourselves. What and what shows that Mr X is loving himself and is loving others. There must be some identifiable things. Or is it just a feeling we should have in us?

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