Obama: A View from Kenya
Barack Obama’s victory was received here in Kenya with both jubilation and great shock. It was like when the foundation of the temple was completed: “The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud commotion that could be heard far in the distance” (Ezra 3: 13, NLT) Why would this be so? I think at the bottom of this is the issue of identity. Kenyans and Africans in general are happy that their own is becoming president in the most powerful country in the world today. However, they also recognize that he is an American. We feel a sense of pride and importance as a result.
My sisters and brothers in the Lord, this leads me to explore with you Joel 2:28-29. I personally believe that God is at work in history and that the Spirit of God is unbounded. Among the things the Spirit has come to do is to help us cross the dividing walls that separate us in order to make us one. The four major walls include nation (all people/ all flesh), gender (sons and daughters), generation (old men and young men), and class (male and female slaves). You will agree with me that the struggles in the world today revolve around these things. It is all a question of power between men and women, the rich and the poor, the blacks and the whites, natives and foreigners, this tribe and that tribe. Who wants to give away power?
The same power struggle was witnessed when the civil rights movement engaged the powers of the day as they sought to promote racial reconciliation. We are thankful for people like Martin Luther King and his colleagues who dared venture into this work of the Spirit. Could we risk our theology and say that this is a struggle between God and humanity, God wanting all peoples to reconcile, and humans wanting always to dominate instead of exercising dominion?
We too have a similar problem in our country, but ours involves tribalism. One ethnic community seeks to come to the fore and therefore there is constantly jostling for power. The post-election violence our country witnessed at the beginning of last year had a lot to do with this issue. Even in the churches this evil continues to raise its ugly head. We have been defined by our ethnic group, skin color and social status. We find it “normal” to exclude others, and Christ’s message to us does not seem to sink in. He has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5: 11ff).
Let me ask you as I ask myself: what goes on inside you when you think about the different “other”? Who among you is more deserving? What are the stereotypes that we carry along that pitch us against the other people who are also the image of God? Honestly, each one of us struggles with such questions. For the church, it is not an easy thing but can we can rely on the Holy Spirit to help us cross these walls. We recognize our imperfection and I believe God is gentle with us in this matter. He is not condemning us but he is inviting us to ask for his enablement to embrace the “other.”
Resident of Kibera
Defies Kenyan laws of time by showing up early