06.01.2007 25 °C
Blog 2007jan Christianity in Kenya and HIV/AIDS
I find I am getting annoyed by the Christianity here in Kenya. In the UK, some people yearn for a faith that is constantly present and visible and active in society, but seeing it in Kenya I am pleased we have moved past that.
Overly established Christianity leaves itself so open to arrogance, superiority, abuse, corruption, rigidity and intolerance of difference. This is a constant problem of a religion that was originally inspired by a man who came to challenge the arrogance of an established order of his day.
In church on Sunday, the sermon was about how Christians should reach out to the foreigners and never return insult with insult, but instead love – but then in the same service the prayers (given by a parishioner and not a priest) were petitioning god to protect us from the wave of Islam that is threatening the country. You will not be surprised that I didn’t yell out “Amen to that!” but I was disappointed to hear this in an Anglican church.
Easy-listening music in supermarkets in Britain is never a beautiful experience, but transfer that to the Christian easy-listening genre in Kenya and UUGGGGHHH! I just don’t want to listen to threats/promises about how Jesus will change my life as I’m choosing my Dijon mustard. I don’t know what the head scarfed lady beside me was thinking.
Not all of the songs are that bad as songs and some are perfectly nice in the home (Michael Row the Boat a Shore being one of the better ones and didn’t contain any threats), but what really annoys me is that most of them are European/Western creations. I had hoped Africa would be full of African Gospel songs of the type sung by the black slaves in America… or vibrant multipart ones, like those sung by South Africans who visited Scotland, but NO. There are very few of these. The same is true of the two churches I’ve visited here.
Matatu music is also too often Christian. Yesterday I had to listen to Zion Express FM on my way to work. Sometimes you get reggae Christian music instead, which is definitely preferable.
Faith here isn’t all bad. Annike (who I wrote about earlier) said that there are churches all over the slums and while Annike is a dedicated atheist, she truly believes that they have an amazingly positive impact on the people they serve. Also, that Pentecostal church I visited had an HIV testing clinic one Sunday. The pastor had apparently encouraged the whole congregation to be tested and receive counselling if necessary. Nobody was to judge anybody for being uncertain about their status (one reason being that everybody had a past before they were born again).
And nicely linked into HIV. I’ve found it very encouraging how much HIV/AIDS is talked about here. Unlike India (which has recently been designated the country with the most HIV+ people in the world) where AIDS is denied, hidden, stigmatised against and unknown I have had a conversation everyday here in Africa about the condition – and very few of them have I initiated. People talk about it. They are aware and concerned. While some are still confused about protection, thinking that condoms don’t work and so there’s little point using them.