Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Islam: The Coming Storm

Over several trips to Uganda we had noticed a growing presence of Islam.  On our last short term mission trip to the Diocese of Kinkiizi we led two conferences; one for the clergy and one for the lay pastors.  Our theme was the doctrine of the Trinity and how we relate to the three Persons of the Trinity in our lives and experience.  Preparing the basic outline for the course I had no idea of its relevance to the spread of Islam in Uganda.

We westerners are naïve about the doctrines, teaching, and customs of Islam.  Inscribed around the inside of the dome of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem in Arabic is the following exhortation directed to the People of the Book, to Jews and Christians, “O People of the Book! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning God save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a Messenger of God, and His Word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in God and His messengers, and say not 'Three' - Cease! (it is) better for you! - God is only One God. Far be it removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son. ... Whoso disbelieveth the revelations of God (will find that) lo! God is swift at reckoning!”

Islam is in militant opposition to the doctrine of the Trinity, and to the Incarnation of the Son of God.  Did you know that lying is permissible in Islam?  That is known as Taqiyya.  The Quran says that a man may lie to his wife to please her, or he may lie to spread Islam.  Unfortunately Muslims will lie about the history and traditions of Islam and their intention to spread Islam throughout the world. Jihad is their equivalent of evangelism, and will include violence as well as other means.  As part of the Muslim outreach Idi Amin started the building of a huge Mosque in the middle of Kampala.  It is known as the Gaddafi Mosque because Muammar al-Gaddafi, the Libyan dictator provided the funds for its completion.  They broadcast their prayers on loud speakers from their mosques and believe that wherever the sound of their prayer is heard belongs to Islam.

The position of women in Islam is degrading.  Muhammad had twelve wives, one of them was nine when the marriage was consummated.  Islam now allows for four wives, including child wives.  A woman is property, and has fewer rights than a man.  In some Muslim communities, men can marry, even for an hour, a prostitute, then divorce her.  That is not considered adultery.   

Islam buys and lies its way as is spreads its doctrine and Sharia law. As Sharia law spreads, persecution of Christians spread.  There are numerous accounts of persecution from Northern Nigeria and other places.  We are already seeing the effects in the United States in cities like Detroit where many of the taxi drivers are Muslim and a single woman may have to wait for a non-Muslim driver in order to get a ride.

Uganda, like other places in Africa, is a spiritual battleground; and it is coming our way.  America with its dry as dust religion may well go up in flames as it comes our way.  In Uganda Islam encounters an intensely personal faith and there are many instances of people won to Christian faith through dreams, visions, and people hearing the voice of God; but what of us with our pseudo-sophistication and cultural humanism?

The best media news available in Uganda is Al Jazeera.  Al Jazeera’s coverage of world events is much more comprehensive than our American media news, but it comes at a price.  That price is an undercurrent, not of anti-Americanism, so much as anti-Christianity.  The problem that Islam has with Christianity is simply that we believe in the Trinity, and that we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Where is the Fire?

Let me say with all love and respect, do not come to East Africa looking for a revival in your faith. Africa has its own glories, but it has its own challenges and problems even as you do. There are wonderful Christians here in Uganda, but it is important to understand one of the effects of the rapid spread of the gospel here and wherever it occurs.

When the gospel spreads rapidly many are lightly converted who need to be deeply converted; they need to be discipled. In that wonderful emerging Body of Christ those who are lightly converted bring a little bit of the world of their past into the Church as they come through its doors. So do you. There is in this exciting formative period of revival some who have experienced the wondrous anointing of the Holy Spirit and healing and deliverance from demons, and joy follows them. Here like everywhere some come to the Church only for the drums, the singing, or for fellowship, or acceptance, or even seeking personal power over others so that they can feel important; and this is here, just like it is at home where you are.

Even where revival fires burn brightest and the works and gifts of the Holy Spirit are in evidence there is a dynamic that needs to be carefully understood. There is often at the outset of conversion and the personal experience of the anointing of the Holy Spirit a first flush of grace that enlightens the soul. Contemplative Theology has recognized this as “initiatory grace,” a grace that comes at the beginning; it is a precious gift that points towards the end destination of Christian faith and experience, and most often it is temporary. That is why St. Paul exhorts Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God” which is in Timothy through the laying on of hands from that great apostle to the gentiles (2 Timothy 1:6).

That initiatory grace will fade and all of us, children of the East African Revival, or children of the tired West, will need to give heed to God’s command through St. Paul. If you have never been warmed by personal faith and surrender to Jesus as Saviour and Lord, you have nothing to fan into flame. You will have to start at the beginning and take the baptismal vows in The Book of Common Prayer very seriously, and very personally; do not let those vows go until Jesus is yours, and you clearly know that you belong to Jesus.

If you have come that far, you have come as far as many of the children of the East African Revival have come. Now is the time to fan that flame into a brightly burning fire. That comes through three things. All three are works shared by you and by the Holy Spirit who is beckoning even this moment to you.

The first is read the Holy Scripture, meditate on it, memorize it, and make the Word and Words of God the very fibre of your own thinking and outlook on life. Read seeking the anointing of the Spirit and the empowerment that comes from God alone. Read intelligently, but read with an open heart. Every word spoken about the Holy Spirit in the Bible is a word from God and it is His intention that you experience it.

Second, pray! It is true that prayer is sometimes more labour that love, but come labour on! Let your thirst for Him, that thirst for His fire, drive you deeper into prayer. “Seek and you will find!”

Third, spend time in fellowship, not tea and cookies, but sharing prayer and the Word of God with God’s other children. And here at last, if you are surrendering your mind and very soul to Holy Scripture; if you are thirsting and praying for the anointing of the Holy Spirit, come fellowship with your brothers and sisters in East Africa and hand in hand with them fan into flame the gift of God that is within you. But remember that it is God’s gift, not the gift of the East African Revival, and while it is a joy to be here, quite frankly you can in all actuality fan that gift into flam on your knees in your own bedroom at home.

Abusing Pentecost,and The East African Revival

St Peter's Cathedral, Diocese of Kinkiizi, Under Construction
Fire, by nature, always tends to burn itself out unless you feed it and stoke it with additional fuel. The East African Revival is a spiritual fire that needs to be fuelled and fanned into flame. One of the contributing causes is the nature of revival itself. It comes with an enthusiasm that can compromise the very nature of the revival. The word “enthusiasm” has “enthus,” or “in Theos” as its root, but it is “theos,” “god” with a small “g” not a big “G.” When the strong action, work, and gifts of the Holy Spirit are incarnated in the corporate and individual lives of believers, it is incorporated in human flesh, and by necessity it is compromised by the frailty and sinfulness of our humanity.

In our context the work of the Holy Spirit is compromised by the coolness of our spiritual ardour and by our Western secularism and materialism. In Uganda it is compromised by the history and biases of Western missionaries, and by the pagan backgrounds from which many of our Ugandan brothers and sisters have come. It is compromised also by poverty, by desperate need, and by a whole society helpless without adequate medical care. It is incarnate in the flesh and the flesh is prone to surrender to base enthusiasm, rather than travel the more difficult road where the initiatory grace of revival is fuelled and fed by spiritual discipline.

Discipline and discipleship are related. Initiatory grace fades, and the threefold life of prayer: The Prayer Book Offices, the Practice of the Awareness of the Presence of God, and Frequent Regular Eucharist must be the fuel that feeds the fire. In that context, to be fully disciplined the new believer needs three conversions. The first is conversion from sin and the glad acceptance of Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord; the second is conversion to the Body of Christ and enfolding into a fellowship of believers; and the third is conversion to the exercise of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the shared and various ministries of the body of disciples which is the Church, the Body of Christ.

All revival awakens the old enemy, not only the enemy within, but that old diabolus, the devil, and all its ilk. Why should we be surprised? For the East African Revival the devil comes from two sources, first from the West, and second from the pagan backgrounds and pagan cults of Old Uganda. In the former the real danger is not the red herring of Western Liberalism and its naïve humanism, but rather the poor theology, triumphalism, and even worse practices of Western Pentecostalism and the aging Charismatic Movement. Both are fraught with an enthus that overwhelms a sometimes genuine anointing of the Holy Spirit. We children of the tired West bring not only the issues surrounding homosexuality, that is often easily seen and rejected by Africans, but more dangerously our Western enthusiasts bring with them a prosperity gospel with its false promises and a number of practices that do not translate well into African culture.

To be specific, one major American pentacostalist features healing by words of knowledge through which God gives the preacher letting him know what illness, disease, or demonization is present in those who have come to hear him and be healed. I have listened extensively to this particular preacher who is very popular among Pentecostals in Uganda. It is my observation that in his ministry in the United States this may not be abusive, but I would raise a caution regarding balance. The problem arises when the host of lesser practitioners, in their enthus, make that the one note of their “ministries.” This translates down into Uganda Pentecostalism where it uncovers itself as harsh, loveless, and manipulative. We end up with, “God has told me you have a demon of lust,” or “The Holy Spirit has told me your father has gone to hell,” or “The Lord has told me you are going to die early.” All of these arise from an unsanctified imagination under the influence of an unholy enthusiasm. What is missing is love, and God is love and he who does not love his brother does not know God. What is so often present is an attempt to exercise personal power at the expense of others.

Smith Wigglesworth
This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Below the surface there are a number of vicious and sometimes stupid practices. One of the early uneducated English Pentecostals would occasionally strike someone to drive out a disease or a demon, but he only did that occasionally. Filtered through an American Pentecostalism, itself historically wary of education, these practices arrive in Uganda with its desperate need and is grafted into the pagan background This then becomes a standard way for some Ugandan Pentecostals to exercise the ministry of healing and deliverance from demons. Just a week before the writing of this article the Dean of a Ugandan Anglican Cathedral went to a nearby medical centre. While there he saw a young woman with cuts and bruises all over her face and body. He wanted to know what had happened and he was told that these wounds were inflicted by a Pentecostal group who were trying to drive out a demon by striking the woman. He wanted to know why they did this and was told that was the way they always did it. One has to remember the origin of Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army. Kony claims that he is the “spokesperson” of God, and claims to be a spirit medium, primarily of the Holy Spirit. Kony presents us with syncretistic blend of Christianity, Mysticism, traditional religion and witchcraft.

A Witch Doctor
That leads to another major issue. In the United States, among Pentecostals in the not too distant past there were what are euphemistically called “Coffee Can Ministries.” Their theory was that “most everybody who needs any kind of healing has a demon and we better pass out the empty coffee cans because when the Anointing falls all of these people are going to start throwing up as the demons are cast out.” In a peculiar way it sort of self-validating, many people tend to gag when someone else is vomiting. Even with the peculiarity of the coffee can ministries, the theory that all sick people have demons is disastrous, whether in America or in Africa. Now the Diocese of Kinkiizi in Uganda borders Rwanda where the East African Revival first broke out in full force and these abuses among others have created much damage to the Church and dampened the fires of revival even in that area.

Of course some who read this will say this Holy Spirit stuff is all nonsense and if they could they would pour the cold water of Western scepticism over every glowing ember even as they have in much of the Western Church. The fruit of such malignant labour is obvious, the Episcopal Church is dying and being sucked into the very culture it should have been transforming. America, and the American Church, needs an East African Revival or the Church will continue to die. There are many fine men and women of God in Uganda, many of them filled with the Holy Spirit and power, and the time may be coming when they will be evangelizing us. But now for them it is time to deepen the revival, it is time to stop following Western Revivalists and instead search the Holy Scripture to see what is actually true. It is time for them to develop a sound and solid biblical East African Theology to help them give voice to their faith and experience. It is time to fan into flame the gift of the Holy Spirit that is within them.