Kenya Mission, Day 2 & 3

December 28, 2005

We arrived in London at Heathrow Airport after the overnight, overseas flight, about as refreshed as, well, people that had been on an overnight, overseas flight. Simple little trip over to Gatwick; our flight to Nairobi doesn’t leave until tomorrow so we have an afternoon here.

I learned something about London. It gets cold here. It was approximately -23 centipedes in some sort of metric temperature. I had no idea it got this cold here. The bus to Gatwick was challenging, trying to get 8 people and all the luggage onto a bus in the cold. I think it took nearly 3 hours to finally get to the hotel for the overnight stay. A quick cleanup, then a trip to a pub for some lunch was the plan.

We hopped on the bus outside and when we arrived at the tube station, we hopped off to buy tickets. Well… most of us hopped off. In our jet-lagged condition we left 2 teammates on the bus, and now we have no idea where they are.

A huddle with the group: what now? We decided their most likely action would be to stay on the bus until they arrived back at the hotel, and we also found out the bus made a loop that took 40 minutes. We checked every bus for the next 40 minutes, and sure enough, it was like homecoming when we found our two missing teammates. Hurrah! We’re all back together again.

A short tube ride, then off to a pub. Except… the first pub was full. Ok, we’ll walk around in the cold to a second pub… which was out of food. Then to a third pub that was too small… and this pub was juuust right, said Goldilocks. I was ready to eat some darts and coaster by this point. The traditional fish and chips were better though.
London afternoon, it gets dark early.
Afterwards, we took a short afternoon tour of London, trying to stay awake long enough to make sure the jet lag was over in a day. I wish I could tell you what we saw, but I can’t. I was sleepy and cold… just leave me, save yourselves!…. and didn’t take good notes. Buckingham Palace, Westminster Alley and St. Paul’s Cathedral, for sure.

December 29, 2005

Yes, we’re on our third day of travel. You know, the language here sort of sounds like English here in England, but we don’t seem to be able to communicate. We took a bus from the hotel that went to the airport, but not our terminal. It took far longer than we expected to finally arrive at the right terminal and get checked in, moments before the flight to Nairobi took off. We skipped breakfast this morning because of the rush but survived by eating the airplane seat cushions (which, by the way, can also be used a flotation device.)

Another 9 hour flight nearly due south and we arrived in Nairobi after dark. We were met by our driver Sammy who took us to a local Methodist Guest House. Exhausted from traveling, we all crashed early. We’re still not yet at our destination and have a long van ride tomorrow.

A Non-Christian Narna

People that hate Christians should not go see “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

The Guardian Unlimited, England’s ultra liberal rag, says “Narnia represents everything that is most hateful about religion.” Exceprts:

The Christian radio station Premier is urging churches to hold services on the theme of The Gospel According to Narnia. Even the Methodists have written a special Narnia-themed service. And a Kent parish is giving away £10,000 worth of film tickets to single-parent families. (Are the children of single mothers in special need of the word?)

I would say “yes.” I don’t know what the author has against single mothers, but apparently she’s opposed to them receiving Christian aid and encouragement in any form.

The president’s brother, Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida, is organising a scheme for every child in his state to read the book. Walden Media, co-producer of the movie, offers a “17-week Narnia Bible study for children”. The owner of Walden Media is both a big Republican donor and a donor to the Florida governor’s book promotion – a neat synergy of politics, religion and product placement. It has aroused protests from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which complains that “a governmental endorsement of the book’s religious message is in violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution”.

That would certainly be hard to prove since the words “Christ” and “God” never appear in the movie in any form.

Disney may come to regret this alliance with Christians, at least on this side of the Atlantic. For all the enthusiasm of the churches, Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ bombed in Britain and warehouses are stuffed with unsold DVDs of that stomach-churner. There are too few practising Christians in the empty pews of this most secular nation to pack cinemas. So there has been a queasy ambivalence about how to sell the Narnia film here.

If you were unsure of the author’s hatred of Christians, that should have cleared it right up for you.

Most British children will be utterly clueless about any message beyond the age-old mythic battle between good and evil. Most of the fairy story works as well as any Norse saga, pagan legend or modern fantasy, so only the minority who are familiar with Christian iconography will see Jesus in the lion. After all, 43% of people in Britain in a recent poll couldn’t say what Easter celebrated. Among the young – apart from those in faith schools – that number must be considerably higher. Ask art galleries: they now have to write the story of every religious painting on the label as people no longer know what “agony in the garden”, “deposition”, “transfiguration” or “ascension” mean. This may be regrettable cultural ignorance, but it means Aslan will stay just a lion to most movie-goers.

Explain to me again that if “Aslan will stay just a lion to most movie-goers” why the Americans United for Separation of Church and State are complaining? I find this sad, that the European young have lost touch with their faith and are no longer being taught by their parents.

Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to?

Goodness. How repugnant. I wonder if the author feels free to insult all other religions, too, or if she’s reserved a special hatred for Christianity. The answer, by the way, is no, we did not ask Him to. God did it for us, unasked. It is a gift, it is grace.

There’s lots more hatred of Christians (and conservatives) aplenty if you’re interested:

  • So the resurrected Aslan gives Edmund a long, life-changing talking-to high up on the rocks out of our earshot. When the poor boy comes back down with the sacred lion’s breath upon him he is transformed unrecognisably into a Stepford brother, well and truly purged. (The author doesn’t say what part of Edmund’s new behavior is repugnant.)
  • Philip Pullman – he of the marvellously secular trilogy His Dark Materials – has called Narnia “one of the most ugly, poisonous things I have ever read”.
  • Because here in Narnia is the perfect Republican, muscular Christianity for America – that warped, distorted neo-fascist strain that thinks might is proof of right.
  • I once heard the famous preacher Norman Vincent Peale in New York expound a sermon that reassured his wealthy congregation that they were made rich by God because they deserved it. The godly will reap earthly reward because God is on the side of the strong. This appears to be CS Lewis’s view, too. In the battle at the end of the film, visually a great epic treat, the child crusaders are crowned kings and queens for no particular reason. Intellectually, the poor do not inherit Lewis’s earth. (The author has mistaken earthly riches for heavenly riches and so misses the point entirely – Michael.)

Children are supposed to fall in love with the hypnotic Aslan, though he is not a character: he is pure, raw, awesome power. He is an emblem for everything an atheist objects to in religion. His divine presence is a way to avoid humans taking responsibility for everything here and now on earth, where no one is watching, no one is guiding, no one is judging and there is no other place yet to come. Without an Aslan, there is no one here but ourselves to suffer for our sins, no one to redeem us but ourselves: we are obliged to settle our own disputes and do what we can. We need no holy guide books, only a very human moral compass. Everyone needs ghosts, spirits, marvels and poetic imaginings, but we can do well without an Aslan.

So ghosts and spirits are great, but not a faith in a redeeming savior. The author has preformed ideas about Christianity and uses those ideas to bash Christianity. Setup the strawman and knock it down. Do Christians use their faith to avoid taking responsibility, or do Christians feel their faith calls them to devote their lives to service in faith? There are thousands of Christian faith-based service organizations feeding the poor, helping the homeless, with millions of volunteers. That’s a far cry from the author’s portrayal of Christians.

And all of the Christian-bashing over a movie that never utters a scriptural word.

Far Left, Far Right

Far Left:

Al Franken is laughing it up, I suppose. Nobody else is, because he’s not funny.

He’s promoting his new book on Amazon with a video clip showing how good it feels to kick a conservative between the legs. Michelle Malkin has video stills and here is the video clip. Basically, he questions a reviewer who claims to be “a right wing jerk” who gave Al’s book a poor review. So Al kicks him between the legs, smashes a chair over his back, then cracks a bottle over his head. It makes Al look… deranged. Weird. Unglued.

Far Right:

Or at least, that’s how the news portrays it, labeling Fred Phelps as a far right Christian and giving Christians a poor image. Most Christians, though, have denounced Fred Phelps. I’ve read some of his stuff, and I think Fred is as loony to the right as Al Franken is to the left. It’s one thing to decry the degrading morals of western civilization; it’s quite another to gleefully rejoice over their deaths and wish for more.

The Sky Report has secretly filmed one of America’s most controversial Christian minister’s praising the London bombings.

Fred Phelps, who set up the controversial Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, told an undercover reporter about the attacks, which killed 52 people:

“Oh I am so thankful that happened. My only regret is that they didn’t kill about million of them. England deserves that kind of punishment, as does this country (America)”.

The church, which has 150 followers, recently started picketing funerals including those of American soldiers killed in Iraq, waving banners such as ‘Thank God 9/11’, ‘God Hates Fags’ and ‘Aids Cures Fags.’

This Fred Phelps fellow gives Christianity a black eye. It undoes the good works that Christians do in the name of love of our God as an expression of our faith. Fred has confused the “hate the sin” and goes all out to hate the sinner, too. While following Jesus teaches us discipline, insulting people and hoping they die does far more harm than good to Christianity. It’s not… Christian.

Nearly all conservatives denounce Fred Phelps. I’m still waiting for liberals to denounce Al Franken.