Five Thoughts on South Africa’s Sexual Revolution

Satan has many strategies for making sin palatable. One tactic is the use of language. If he can make wickedness a part of everyday parlance or if he can edit out certain vocabulary with confining baggage and replace it with more appetizing terminology, half the battle is won.

Nowhere are these methods more obvious than in the arena of today’s sexual revolution. This is not merely a Western problem. The vessels of homosexuality washed up on African shores years ago—an innumerable fleet behind them.

As a missionary in rural Africa for over a decade, I have seen first hand the full-throttle pursuit of the West to cram the enlightened sins of the city down the villager’s throat. In a recent article in South Africa’s Mail and Guardian entitled “Searching for New Queer Terms”, the author tries to prove that old demonic scheme: change the vocabulary; change the mentality; change the behavior.

The argument runs like this. Since the LGBT crowd in Africa can only use English for their movement, the people are less likely to embrace it. Adopting African terminology for homosexuality would then make it more acceptable.

What should African Christians conclude amidst so much confusion? Here are five observations.

  1. Sinful behavior does affect the whole community.

The author knows that Africans prize Ubuntu (“I” exist because of “we”). So he must negate the African fear of taboo. He denies “bad things are happening in the community — lack of rain, crime, ritual murders …because of you or your behavior.”

Biblically, however, sin is not just personal. The snarled roots of wickedness are so complex, they contaminate every tool designed to remove it. Sin is never alone. David’s sin brought death to 70,000 men (2Sm. 24:15). Israel’s pride left several dozen soldiers with widows (Jos. 7:5). Achan’s sin brought destruction to his wife and children (Jos. 7). Homosexuals proceed not only to their own hurt, but to the detriment of their surrounding society. Continue reading

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A Call for Biracial Banquets

thumb_image-10-20-16-at-5-25-pm_1024The wall of animosity between South African whites and blacks has shrunk since the formal fall of apartheid in 1994. Government has tried to mandate equality, but only the gospel of Christ can bring true unity.

My experience in Africa has taught me that among the last dominoes to fall in unifying Christians of different races is not church membership but table fellowship. In the pews, the votes may count the same, but around the dinner table, we are more like Joseph’s court:

They served him by himself…because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians”(Gn. 43:32).

For many white believers, it is a bridge too far to have blacks equally, joyfully, and freely join them at table. We coddle our conscience: “But the foods, manners, tastes are too different.” Maybe. Maybe not. But even if we grant the former, is not a change in menu or method but a small price for unity? As John Flavel said, “If you take away union, there can be no communion.” And if there is no communion outside the church walls, can we really argue for unity within them? Continue reading

Review (pt.6): When Helping Hurts

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, Moody, 2009, 230 pages 

Corbett_Helping HurtsSixth Concern: Failure to Distinguish Kinds of Poverty 

“If you are a North American Christian, the reality of our society’s vast wealth presents you with an enormous responsibility, for throughout the Scriptures God’s people are commanded to show compassion to the poor” (13). Does it? Does the Bible talk about “the poor” in monolithic terms, or does it distinguish between the different kinds of poverty? Corbett says regarding 1 John 3:17 that no passage states the vital concern the church must have for the poor as this: “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?”

But surely this command is not as simple as it appears. The verse just prior says that because Christ lovingly laid down his life for us, “we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” Should we give our life for our uncle dying of cancer, the suicidal man who is jumping off the bridge, or the Aussie who is on death row? Doesn’t it mean, rather, that should the occasion present itself, Christians must follow Christ’s ultimate example of love by being willing to lay down our lives as well? In the same way, just as there are many occasions when it would actually be sinful to lay down our lives for our brothers, it would also be sinful to give to the poor in an improper way (e.g. he refuses to work, Gal. 6:10).

Moreover, there are a number of other observations in this verse to consider. The verse speaks about “brothers”, not the world in general. The verse specifically forbids deliberately ignoring our brothers who is in legitimate need when we have the means to do so. Yes. Help this poor man. But this is a far cry from a mandate to help single moms in Uganda.

Which brings us to the matter of why this person is poor. The answer determines how we give. If he refuses to work, he shouldn’t even be given food to sustain life (2 Thess. 3:10). Scripture gives many causes of poverty, such as laziness (Prov. 10:4; 20:4, 13; 24:30-34), pride (Prov. 13:18), and an over interest in get-rich-quick schemes (Prov. 12:11). The authors give some attention to this (ch. 4) but ignore many distinctions, choosing rather to speak of poverty without distinction, which the Bible certainly does not do.

Review (pt.5): When Helping Hurts

Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, Moody, 2009, 230 pages 

Corbett_Helping HurtsFifth Concern: Short-term Missions

The first time I read the chapter on short-term missions, I really liked it. It encourages pre-planning, thoughtful use of money, and training. But the weaknesses became clearer over time. Here are two:

Critiquing Foreign Cultures

It is a healthy exercise to address not only the strengths in other cultures but also the weaknesses. If we agree that the gospel is not only able to transport our souls to heaven but also change everything about us, including the way we do business, family, education, and work, then we must also acknowledge that some cultures have had a greater influx of gospel intrusion within their culture than others. If the culture of Scotland was not superior to the culture of the cannibals on the New Hebrides when John Paton first landed there, then the gospel doesn’t mean much. Of course the Scottish culture was superior and we mustn’t be afraid to point this out. Christians must temper this with humility, prayer, and Scriptural warrant, but the deed itself is noble.

For example, suppose there is a godly Christian professor from the mountains of India who takes his wife and children to visit the US. As they sit in the JFK airport, they discuss the books they read on the plane and the goals they have for the trip. Then he calls his family’s attention to the American culture around them. “Do you see the families hardly speak to each other? He’s glued to the TV. She’s attached to her device. The 35 year-old over there has been playing video games for an hour. Rotten my children.” Who would fault such a scathing yet accurate critique of our culture? Who would deny this is healthy for his family?

The authors cannot bring themselves to point out the weaknesses in poor, foreign cultures. At one point they observe the different ways people view time. The monochronic view—which could just as easily be called the biblical view—“sees time as a limited and valuable resource.” This would be most Western nations. Where I minister, there is such a thing as “African Time” and anyone who has lived or worked in Africa knows about this.

A pastor from Zambia spoke at our church recently and he said: “What is this I hear about African time? Nonsense! You simply do not value time. You are sitting with your friends chatting when your neighbor calls and asks why you haven’t arrived yet with the shovel and you say, ‘Oh, I’m on the way’ when you know very well you are not on the way.’ African Christians should be ashamed of African time.”

It is common for pastors to give the starting time of church an hour before it starts so that people will arrive on time. But how do the authors define the alternative view: the polychronic view means tasks typically take a backseat to forming and deepening relationships.” Right. Can’t we acknowledge that actions take so long in the third world because time is not valuable? Weekly, I have church members slither into church an hour or two late. I guarantee they were not digging deep into their mother’s family tree. They over slept. They weren’t watching. Time is limitless. That is a weakness and we should call it such. There are weaknesses in every culture, some more than others depending on how aligned that culture is with Scripture. It is not judgmental or racist to point these out.

The purpose of STMs

The authors assume that STM trips will be social in nature and they rarely even mention evangelism or other gospel work. They then say, “[the STM trip] is not about us. It is about them!” (172) If the trip is social in nature, I agree. But what if the primary purpose in taking a one month trip to Senegal is to (1) see if you are compatible with the mission team (2) see if you are deft at picking up the language (3) see if the spiritual needs fit your goals (4) see if you are gifted to minister in that area. All of these goals are self-centered in a sense. Churches should keep a watchful eye on gifted young men and push them to STM trips with these goals in mind.