Thursday, March 17, 2011

Is Benny Hinn good news ?

Apparently he is on his way to Cape Town. The miracle man, in the white suit, arriving in his private jet. Is he good news ? Or is it a case of just another stop on a whirl-wind, world-wide tour.

Benny Hinn has of late, been embroiled in a few controversial situations and certainly amongst some commentators, he is perhaps not the most appropriate embodiment of the message of Jesus Christ. If Jesus came to proclaim liberation to the oppressed, sight to the blind and the good news to the poor, i.e. radical socially relevant messages, what are we to make with the image of a millionaire religious tycoon, whose aim seems to be to make a buck, out of the faithful, i.e. fleecing the flock, so to speak.

Others might see Hinn, as a man of God, for he moment. That's why they invite him, pay for his expenses and let him loose on their flock. He is an instrument in Gods hand and brings healing, miracles and salvation to the sick, the lost. For them, Hinn embodies what God can do, for us all. Secretly they pray to God for a miracle...just to be like evangelist Benny. Nothing wrong with that, one should think.

Perhaps it would be wise to monitor the situation and try to study the impact of his ministry, his teachings and see whether Benny Hinn is good news. After all, the Bible teach us to 'discern the spirits'

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Japan, Libya needs our prayers

Will prayer help Japan? This is the question from Johan Swarts, in his most recent post for News24. His answer is honest, and, I suppose provocative: 'I don't know. What I do know, is that no-one's pleas stopped the ongoing disaster and that the words, "Japan is in our prayers" is beautiful, but it sounds empty when you make the effort to look at Japan.'

One should ask the question, why Swarts would write such a post? Is it an honest quest to understand spirituality and the role and function of religion in times of crisis, or is it another subtle jab at the stupid religious lot, who still pray, in the air. Perhaps for these thinkers, the disaster in Japan is a welcome opportunity to prove, again, to this simple lot, the futility of prayer and religious observance in general. It would be fair to concede that religious people would also see human tragedies as an opportune moment to cash in on the vulnerable space where people are.

Swarts is correct if he wanted to point out that religious platitudes is certainly not helpful in the face of the magnitude of the destruction. He spends a lot of space describing the scale of the disaster. Indeed, it boggles the mind.
Perhaps this is exactly the point where one should take issue with Swarts. It does boggles the mind. When humanity and all our brave and often breathtaking feats, are taken as the final word on 'our world' and we try to put what's happening around us only through the filters of our 'mind', then we have reduced reality to what we have sensed. Our senses, informing our minds, becomes the final arbiter of what's actually happening in the world. Yet, this disaster and a possible nuclear meltdown, and many other disasters today (like what is happening in Libya) paradoxically shows the limits of a positivist rationality and worldview. It shows indeed that humanity, cannot control the much bigger forces of nature, let alone the cycles of birth, life, death... In fact the ecological disaster, we find out now (and which most industrial nations still deny), is caused by our own human technological advances. Does this now mean that the human mind are to be discounted as a critical capacity to make sense of these realities and to co-create lifespace? No, it does mean that sensemaking is much broader then a simplistic rational process. What happens in our world (as we know it for now), many times boggles the mind, because we have more capacities to make sense and to be able to 'survive' this reality. It's not about a God who cause this or that or stops the consequences of this or that, its about an awareness of a bigger interconnectedness, a spiritual reality, if you wish.

It is here that the capacities of the spiritual, the non-sense of prayer becomes critical. The sense-making role of prayer, at periods of transition, the spaces between the possibility of painful birth and death, the attempt to invoke deeper meaning, in the community's stories and traditions, cannot simplistically be scoffed at. Whilst the people of Japan and Libya needs blankets and fresh water, as well as engineers to stop a nuclear spill or military protection, they also want to find a deeper reservoir of hope to keep on, to fight nihilism and despair. These critical capacities of hope, nihilism and despair can not be measured on a richter scale, but does that means that it doesn't exist? Does this mean that we must teach or shock people to abandon all the avenues they have, to build these sensemaking capacities?

At the end of the day, its the spirit of a people, which cause them to go back to find more under the rubble, to eat the snow, to rebuilt Hiroshima and to able to survive in the midst of the catastrophe. And to build that spirit, that hope, some might light a candle, walk around a tree and others might sit in a circle chanting and mumbling, 'Japan is in our prayers' , whilst they eke out a living, with their own human disasters. For many this is an affirmation that we don't know all the time; the prayer becomes a 'I don't know....' yet I will not give up trying to make sense, to live. That's what we all need. And that's what our sisters and brothers in Japan and Libya need, right now.