THE BLANKET: YOU ARE NOT WHERE YOU COME FROM

“Americans are irreverent.”

“Nigerians are scammers”.

“Arabs are cheats.”

These comments (or things like them) are said about people of specific nationalities and ethnicities on the daily. And for the most part, this sort of labeling passes unchallenged, because it’s more frequently done in group conversations involving people who actually believe that individual behavior can be put down to the purported tendencies of the societies from which they originate.

Interestingly, many of these people will resist attempts from others to slap the same sort of negative group labels on them. They will claim exceptions for their own individuality, perhaps even reject derogatory descriptions of members of their group.

A lot of us have done these things at some point in our lives. Some of us still actively identify the behavior of individuals with popular stereotypes of their countries or cities of origin.

If you’re reading this right now, your default response might be to “condemn negative stereotypes” and “encourage us to see one another as unique in ourselves.”

Of course, there are irreverent people, scammers, and cheats in every ethnic group, country, or race. In any case, there’s next to no empirical evidence that any specific nationalities are more given to doing bad things than others.

The problem with blanket statements, positive or negative, is that they significantly distort reality. They tell us that things are as they are not. And these distortions have serious consequences.

There’s one obvious example. Young children don’t seem to mind about the colour of their friend’s skin or where they are from, until they get exposed to negative social ideas about race and their parent’s take on geopolitics.  As they grow, they pick these ideas up. By adulthood, they have acquired a full set of stereotypes which they’re ready to slap on to the next available target.

That’s a very easy takedown.

But what about positive cultural stereotypes then? Do we give those a pass?

We suggest not. Claiming that the Chinese are accommodating by default simply glosses over a sizeable number of instances in which Chinese people have treated strangers badly.

But there are consequences for so-called positive stereotypes as well. When we say that an ethnic group has some fantastically good qualities just by virtue of their being that ethnic group, we’re claiming that ‘goodness’ is expected of people of that group by default. In reality, it’s wishful thinking (and even dangerous) to trust that ethnic identity will confer positive traits by themselves.

It’s wishful thinking because selfishness, the default human tendency, eventually rears its head even among the most ‘pleasant’ people, if we hang around them long enough. It’s dangerous because it sets us up to be disappointed, to lose the trust we have invested in people, and to despise them for disappointing us.

In the end, we are individuals, with a capacity for both good and evil. Our expressions of these things may vary according to our environments (and some stereotypes may be drawn from characters that actually exist). But this doesn’t change our individuality. It doesn’t make us any less human in God’s eyes.

This rings true for Christians, united as we are by our faith in Jesus. As the apostle Paul says in Galatians 3:28,

There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

Ikenna Nwachukwu & Ezeonyeka Godswill.

THE BLANKET: THE BIG SIN DILEMMA

Once in a while some “new” social vice steps onto the scene that seems to rock the very moral core of the world. Whenever this happens, the church has been known to be very damning in their judgment of whatever it is, giving the world the notion that though God hates sin, He hates some sins more than the others.

Of course, this is laughable for anyone who has actually studied the Bible. In theory, it is clearly stated that in God’s eyes a rebellious person is as bad as a murderer. The thing that creates these distinctions is our own moral bias and since we are somewhat afraid to own up to them, we just slap our God on it and hope that everyone accepts it without question.

The only problem with this is God only backs up his word, not yours. So, if and when the inconsistency is found in your judgment of some “big sin”, your sense of judgement called to question. But the God you claim told you that is also called to question. Making the world doubt the sovereignty of God’s wisdom and stray farther from salvation.

Another problem with this dilemma is the way a blanket is thrown over anyone struggling with such vices or tendencies. This happens because once you put the spotlight on a character flaw, a single story begins to manifest and sure as day it is slapped on every individual with even an inkling of a trait close to the said character flaw. Popular instances are, “All smokers are wife beaters”, “All serial killers are loners”, “All homosexuals come from broken homes” etc.

These look harmless and probably justifiable on the surface but if you look deeper, it is hurting more people than we realize. A very big reason for this is when people build their lives on such a premise, it does cave in and when it does, they lose trust and begin to question everything. It is just like the proverbial hole covered with a blanket and throne set on it as told in African folklore. We are setting a trap for ourselves when we proliferate these stereotypes. Even when we do so in goodwill.

The human character is perhaps the most dynamic phenom on the planet. It may look like the same trait, but it frequently changes in its expression. This tells us that to help anyone with a character flaw, an individualistic approach is the best way. An approach that considers the human in question and their specific experience with the said struggle.

Also, take off the veil over the act. Every sinful act is sinful before God and Jesus died for them all. Once we give one priority over the other, we inadvertently give power to a sinful act; which should not be so. No matter how horrendous it may seem, it is no different from what we may call ‘everyday’ sin and it is a product of man’s inordinate desire to control his own destiny. The way out is always to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus and let the Holy Spirit guide you.

Sin is quite the topic in the Christian sphere, but that is about it. There are no big sins. And no matter what it is you and I are struggling with, the fact remains, it is wrong, and God wants to help us with it. Go to God in prayer, change your focus from yourself to God, get all the help you need and see God save you as He has promised.

 

Grace.

Ikenna Nwachukwu & Ezeonyeka Godswill.

Blanket One: The Cross-Bearer’s Blank Intellect?

‘Godidit.’

That’s the trendy new term with which internet atheists mock ‘scientifically illiterate’ Christians for ascribing every good thing to God. When us faithful people praise God for the birth of a new baby, deliverance from dangerous circumstances, or even the beauty of a sunset, skeptics now respond by shooting that short ugly line back at us.

‘Goddidit’- a bundling together of the phrase ‘God did it’ -is the latest addition to a pool of cliché terms that militant unbelievers draw from to highlight the apparently lazy intellectual attitudes of Christians (or their lack of any intellectual attitude).

The careless compaction of the words that make up the term is itself supposed to suggest that Christians can’t speak intelligently about what we say we believe. It also carries with it the idea that we are unwilling or unable to probe physical reality with our minds, and just invoke God as an explanation for things we can’t understand.

In a nutshell, it’s supposed to make Christians look dumb.

But are Christians really bereft of intelligent thought?

As a Christian and a proud lover of all things intellectual, I deny that this is the case. I know too many straight-thinking, ridiculously smart people who live a life of faith to accept the assumptions implicit in mocking terms like ‘Godidit’.

I mean, there are brilliant responses to such derisive claims, as well as to the more sophisticated arguments against belief in God- responses formulated by Christians. There’s even a whole branch of Christian ministry- apologetics –which tackles these issues. It’s clear to any well-informed person that Christians aren’t intellectually inept by definition.

Also, contrary to popular belief, faith, especially in the Christian context, does not defy logic. Too many times in the bible has the message and personality of Jesus been called to question and that many times it has stood its ground against reason. The abhorrent laziness of ‘some’ Christians in our day does not do justice to the fact that ours is a faith-based on undeniable facts and answers not many are willing to accept.

Unfortunately, many Christians have accepted the unbeliever’s caricature of them as weak-minded without realizing it. You see this resignation in the way a lot of us respond to questions about God and suffering, or nature and its functioning, or the resurrection of Christ. “Just have faith” or “because the Bible says so” appear to be the standard answers to such inquiries. This sort of attitude fuels atheist memes about Christians, and undermines our attempts to reach out to a world that won’t simply take our word for it.

We’ll conclude with a two-sided appeal. To the unbeliever or skeptic: Christians aren’t silly by default. We can and have answered your questions about our faith with logic, facts, and sympathy. If you’re open to sound reasoned arguments for Christianity, please look up the works of Christian apologists. We’d recommend reading C.S. Lewis if you’re a regular fella (like us), or William Lane Craig if you’d like more advanced stuff or watch lectures by Dr. Ravi Zacharias on Youtube.

To our Christian brothers and sisters: faith is not an excuse to indulge in intellectual laziness. Always be ready and willing to give reasons for your faith (1 Peter 3:15). Be like Paul at Athens, if the occasion demands- debate the skeptics with smarts and tact. Show them that to believe in Jesus is not to cower from reason, but to believe in the one who is Logic made flesh.

Selah.

 

By

Godswill Ezeonyeka and Alexander Ikenna.

Why do You fear the stars

I do NOT fear the stars
I fear the sky’s span, its depth and breath, its embrace that swallows everything my size and yours and makes them disappear into insignificance.
Do you have the slightest idea what the sky does to you, mortal man?
That scape up there, it makes you marvel. It lifts a smile unto your face, drives awe into your heart. Your feelings twinkle with the stars. You feel fly. Fly like a firefly, a little dot of light persevering in a dark world. You feel like a peacock, strutting its gaily colored stuff. Just before it gets slaughtered.
The sky’s beauty is a stolen garb woven from a trillion diamonds, the stars that hide the cold, dark, unfeeling universe beneath its ‘skin’. The rule of that universe is selfishness, its path is self-preservation, its goal is self-elevation. And no mortal has ever won against its brutish march.
Neither will you.

Neither will the stars.
Like you, millions have tried to soar past the skies. They pierced it with towers, crossed it with rockets, coursed about it with satellites.
Like you, trillions have burned bright, over eons unfathomable. They gave light and life to worlds innumerable. They were the suns of their age, the stars that stunned our forebears.
Today, they are gone. All of them. All shredded trillion bits, devoured by the same universe. And the sky, this pretty mask of a cold dark monster, keeps its sunlight front, its fraudulent smile.
And the world keeps spinning.
I do not fear the stars. I fear the wretchedness they hide.

Ikenna Nwachukwu Alexander
© 2019

HELL IN THREE STANZAS

Hell is rebellion
Pulling plug on life source
Drifting off from Definition
Dissolving into nothingness
Like fading fragrance mocked
By the briefness of its glory days

Hell is silence, is crushing grieved cries
Of wild drunken raves, quiet robbery
And the cold indifference of a million Church pews
The stench of pious hatred
The rot of carousing infidels
And the carcass of juggling both these

Hell is bitter dead end to living sweet route mirage
Trap Disneyland, minus innocence
It’s the sick deal Christ scrapes off the table
Evil’s two faced grand joker
Swept aside by God’s deft Checkmate
Process reverse, death-to-Life card

Ikenna Nwachukwu Alexander
© 2019

GET YOURSELF THE CROC!

Croc bags have been brought to my notice and girl, they are oh so expensive; they don’t even look fancy. You won’t believe that such a plain Jane of a bag would cost over $150,000. I understand that there are budget crocs but I am really speaking of the premium ones, the crocs for those who set the trends.

But why is there such a fuss about crocs?

Crocs are a fashion staple, bags made from pure crocodile hide.

I am writing about croc bags because I want to get down to something about crocodiles. Crocodile hides are highly durable fashion pieces. Anything put in a croc is really safe from pocket pickers; a blade would have a hard time getting through. Anything you put in there is good to go, in the rain and in the sun.

Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty of this talk:

Genesis 15 vs 1b;

“…Fear not: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward”- KJV.

So, how has that got to do with crocs?

Good question. Let me amplify with Strong’s concordance:

…Relax: I am your crocodile scaly hide of covering from the world’s worst and your extremely huge net worth; you have me, I am more than enough.

See? God knows how important we all need crocs, boys and girls alike. For Abraham and for anyone else who wants to appropriate that scripture into his life, Yahweh God of Israel is willing to be your croc.

Allow yourself to be a tiny little piece of fur hidden away in the right croc. I believe you know who the right Croc is.

 

© Favour Omeje, 2019

Swimming in molten streams

You say your heart leapt when our paths first crossed
That my frame made you melt, shook you shoulders in spasms
You say sparks flew in our sights when they first locked
Like rough iron faces slamming together
At the start of a melding of souls

You say molten streams surged up your skin when we held hands
Roaring and smashing and battering and burning and sinking us
You say we swam and splashed in pleasant thoughts of each other
Together, woven up in skyward soars and seaward plunges
A glinting pearl of cosmic thirst for love quenched

You say I played up your craving heart like a game
Hugs for dice, kisses for cards, every moment a bet tied match
You claim I aimed for your delicate core
Where trust sits tightest, where hurt cuts deepest
And yes, you say I fractured your fragile soul with imaginings not lived out

You say you’ll be wrecked no more
So you sit beside loving hate and cursing smiles
You raise a cynic facade to mock a mirthless world
But you die a million times over on your insides
You shut sunlight out to mourn love lost in secret darkness

You’re coming round to truth now
For we did swim and splash and sink in love’s molten streams
But I became the life raft to keep your shaken frame afloat
The burden of wreck forced your pained flight from Light
But I’ve owned it as paddle to steer you back to me

Ikenna Nwachukwu Alexander
© 2019

I HATE COOL AND SWEET

For some reason, I detest cool, sweet, and smooth. Here’s why: when they settle too long, they become lukewarm, sour, and ugly. They stink. They turn worthless.

Then they become poison.

I would rather carry live flames in my arms. I’d rather they burn and sear my delicate skin and roast my plump flesh to ashes.

I crave the blood to soak my bruised face, that front of handsomeness that assures me falsely, that flimsy foundation of confidence. I would give everything to be on fire, to be a lamp, a candle’s burning thread, consumed to give light to a world being killed by sweetness, sweetness of the kind that rots the soul.

My fear isn’t for the fire that sinks my swag and shatters my claims on being ‘cool’. What I do fear is the inferno of coolness itself, the molten dissolution the world considers sugary, the fraud that embraces the tongue with caramel lather, only to steal its sense of taste.

Don’t be deceived into thinking that love is sweet. It isn’t. It isn’t bitter either. Love’s very presence renders taste secondary. The stronger it is, the less interested we are in what is does to our taste buds- whether it makes them tremble with excitement, shudder in awe, or retreat in terror.

When we are so far gone in love, it is Love itself- not its sweetness or sharpness -that consumes our being.

When you think that love can only be sugary, you will believe that reproof and compassion do not belong together. You will believe that a loving God could never damn a sinner to eternal torment. You will be alright with replacing the one true God with a sky dwelling grand-daddy figure too cowardly to correct the wrongdoings of his grandchildren.

When you think that love is only hugs and kisses, without rules or toughness, you will more easily wander off into dangerous openness, that vast but counterfeit ‘freedom’ called hell, the eternal coldness which lies at the end of all pursuit of crowd-pleasing ‘coolness’ for the sake of it.

We can reach beyond shallow sweetness to take hold of the exhilarating, all-consuming roller coaster of intense joy and deep-cutting anguish that true living brings us. That’s because in the midst of it all we are sure that a God who loves us fiercely will give His own life to preserve ours. Even if it means snatching us from the flames of cool with some degree of compassionate force.

 

©Ikenna Nwachukwu