Ethiopia journal: Churches

Nearly everyone I have spoken here with is from Addis and has no vision to leave. Americans move too much I tell the driver. He agrees. The riches of the west are not accepted at face value. The people here are interested but rightly skeptical. A friend of mine who visited Addis a few months ago said a local told him that the prosperity gospel was a terrible disease recently imported from the USA – how dare we bring that crap here? (Or some variation on that with strong language.) This, said in the context of all their kindness and hospitality just made it more striking. Our vending machine Jesus who rewards faithfulness with nice cars deserves harsh words.

I wrote this after attending the early morning worship at Holy Trinity Cathedral (though I had to stand outside in the cold like most of the crowd since the place was packed out.) Back in my town in the US, many church-goers pride themselves on their 4-part harmony congregational singing. I hold it in high regard myself. Still, I was struck by a certain consternation when Africa forced me to zoom out a bit:

In what a ghetto does the reformed high harmony psalm singing American intellectual dwell! He studies the classics but the rest of the earth studies him as a freak of nature. If the eschaton is indeed a good thousand or two thousand years away, who will our great great grandchildren study as classics of the faith? We assume it to be Calvin or Edwards but only someone who couldn’t see past their own nose would make such an immediate assumption. The throngs gathered around this one church on this cold morning, chanting holy scripture is more than the whole of all CREC presbyteries combined. And despite our best efforts back here in the states, they still baptize more than twice as many children each year. Who, WHO is the instrument of God on earth today exactly? Are you sure? They are hemmed in on 2 sides by Islam and by a corrupted gospel of greed from our own land. We may be left with a barren wasteland of secularism here back in the states. They face their own great challenge.

Visited a protestant church tonight called “You Go City Church”. Even though it was a weekday, we sat in the over-over-over-over-overflow seating. The service reminded me of a comment N.T. Wright made during a lecture that I listened to on the plane over here: One definition of a white person is someone who can sing without moving.