The impact of western secularism has great implications for Christianity and social change in Ethiopia. The reality of globalization and the ever-growing cultural exchange between Western and developing countries, like Ethiopia, makes the impact of modernity inevitable. Unarguably, there are benefits of being connected with everyone and everything but we need to pay attention to our social imageries. In this age, I think no one can possibly be immune to the ramifications of modernity. Secularity is unstoppable; a considerable imagination is required to engage with modernity in our own specific context. The gradual process of cultural changes taking place in Ethiopia helps us realize that we can no longer insulate ourselves from the emergent influence of Western Christianity on our country.
One example of this influence is the growing number of Christian TV programs broadcasting in Ethiopia. Some self-appointed ministers who like to call themselves pastors or prophets or apostles host many of these programs. Most of these TV program are sensational and superficial. They deceive many well-meaning Christians robbing their resources and convincing them to be in their network. They have now become alternatives places where believers can sit in the comfort of their home and watch the programs. Several Ethiopia Christians are already expressed their concerns that these so called healing ministries are promoting unbiblical approaches copied from American TV-evangelists. These are more entertainment than genuine ministry. They do not teach to obey the Gospel or about discipleship, but simply preach their own version of good news that disregards the importance of enduring suffering. It is about how to “choose” to live a “victorious life,” as some of them claim. Due to this, a majority of Christians are sensing the new consumeristic kind of Christianity that is pushed on us from outside. For instance, televangelists leave their contact information on TV screen for direct contact instead of encouraging believers to reach out to their own local church pastors that creates a clear problem for the ministry of the church.
For these reasons, I relate to some of Taylor’s examination on causes for the unbelief in Western societies: “affluence and the continued extension of consumer life styles; and geographic mobility; outsourcing and downsizing by corporations; new family patterns, particularly the growth of the two-income household, with the resulting overwork and burnout; suburban spread, whereby people often live, work, and shop in three separate areas; the rise of television, and others” (pg. 472).
It is unfortunate that Christina Tv programs’ approach has been adapted by many local churches. Recently, I sang at a conference organized by one of a Pentecostal church. The aim of the conference was to raise money to finish the construction of their new church. The church invited a guest speaker who preached and also prayed for healing. During one of his preaching a minister brought a word of prophecy that still trouble me when I think about it. First, he said, God told him that there are 20 people right in this conference God is calling them to give 1000 birr so that he would bless them. Amazingly to me that 20 people came forward and promised to give the amount as soon as they can. After that, the preacher again said, there are 10 people in this congregation that God is asking them to give him 2,000 birr. It was not easy to find who could donate this much money since the majority of members are youth under age of thirty. What is troubling to me was seeing the church elders stand in front of the congregation and squeeze these poor believes to come up with these money. To my surprise I saw a similar incident in my current church here in Portland where a preacher asked us to give money to support a ministry going on a mission, so that we would experience God’s blessing in our lives. Trust me, I am all about giving back to church and supporting missionaries, but I do not believe we should play the God’s blessing card. It saddens me when I see spiritual gifts used, in Taylor’s words, as “commodities” to assert ones authority or even as “self-definition” of one’s identity. The challenge is our believers often do not know how to challenge false prophets. One of the reasons is most of them view one’s healing ministry and spiritual gifts as proof that he/she is a prophet, however, as we know this is not the Biblical test.
In short, churches have become a place of spiritual consumption; where people go to hear feel good sermons. The mission of the church seems to me simply to fulfill the spiritual thirst of their members by inviting prophets and teachers who can deliver individualized messages, but hardly challenge them to go and make disciples. As Taylor says, we are truly in an “age of authenticity” where sin is tolerated and truth is compromised. In my opinion, we are in a such challenging time where everything we do is about “me” not “thy Kingdom.”I am grateful that Taylor is helping me see things from my cultural context.
I am grateful that Taylor is helping me see things from my cultural context.