Tuesday 17 December 2013

Decade Blogs - 'Seyi Shimoshi - On Faith, Fiction and Friendship

Decade Blogs
Shimoshi as we know him has one of those baby-faced facades that belie a propensity for mischief, that permanent smiling face leaves me shaking my head always.
Yet, witty, humorous and fun to engage with, an engineer of things, thoughts and words, whilst we have never met, I feel quite honoured knowing him in the virtual world and hope to meet him someday.
His contribution to my #YourBlogOnMyBlog Series commemorating my Decade of Blogging is on how we cultivate friendships that transcends beliefs, stereotypes and caricatures to embrace our greater humanity.
Besides this, I remember when someone expressed surprise at two Nigerians with Yoruba parentage conversing in Hausa on Twitter, that was Shimoshi and I chatting, and yes, I am impressed with multilingual Nigerians, they see a bigger place than where they are from.
‘Seyi Shimoshi blogs at www.shimoshi1.wordpress.com and he tweets as @shimoshi1. Thank you for this excellent piece.
Here is Faith, Fiction and Friendship
I have been lost for a topic to talk about ever since Uncle Akin made a request that I should put a post on his blog to mark his decade of blogging. It is not because there is nothing really to write. No, he gave me a carte blanche to talk about whatever catches my fancy, but I struggled to get a topic I could feel comfortable with and that we both share interesting views.
I settled for Faith, Fiction and Friendship. I hope you find it a worthwhile reading. If you do you, you owe Uncle Forakin a great deal of gratitude. He was the first who made me own a blog and made me believe that I could do it irrespective of my professional background and leaning. Here is to another decade of blogging, Uncle Akin.
I am not sure religion is a comfortable turf for me to play in. Anytime I dabble into such issues with some of my friend, I seem not to agree with them on many things even though we profess the same faith. Often, I have always liked to argue things that are decidedly secular. In that terrain we can apply logic and see various points of arguments for their pros and cons rather than base it strictly on faith where we may never reach a common ground.
Right from childhood, I have always longed to get proper clarity between where the vestiges of deeply rooted faith in the supreme being stops and where it begins to metamorphose into just wishful thinking,  religious fiction or  mere fantasy. For ages, I craved to understand what exactly should be the ideal interaction between my faith and the friendship I keep. I have often wondered what the perfect way is to combine my faith and the boundary of friendship I make, especially with folks that do not share the same religious leanings with me.
I grew up in a home where people of other faiths were not spoken of or condemned with acerbity. The tone was not about our religious one-upmanship in serving the creator. Certainly, my folks were not the type that made you believe that you should relish the fact that you were heaven bound and gloat over the impending doom that will bedevil those on the other divide if they do not join you before they get ultimate call. Nevertheless, we were reminded of the verse of the bible that talks about not being unequally yoked with an unbeliever, “For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?” That is II Corinthians 6:14.
That verse created a mental imagery that resonated in me for a long while. I had the mental picture of oxen with a yoke on their neck pulling a plough in order to furrow a land in preparation for seed planting and other farming activities. By my understanding, this activity could only augur well for the two oxen if they were both willing to pull the plough. I fathomed then, that if an ox decides not to cooperate with the other and decides not to pull; it inevitably adds to the load that the willing one wants to pull. Therefore, I felt that if I was willing to do good, then friendship with an unbeliever either will weigh me down or would just dampen the resolve I had, to be a child of moral upbringing.
I remember being friends with people of the same faith yet different denominations, and I was looked upon as a lesser Christian. It was an inner battle I could not carry home. For, I have been made to believe at home that we were trained in the way of the Lord. It was puzzling for the small mind of mine to comprehend that these standards do not measure up to what my friends were expecting of a person that shares the same religious beliefs with them.
I was sitting in a Sunday school class one day when I heard about rapture for the first time. The lesson came with the teaching of the second coming and the great tribulation. It all sounded like fiction at first; a tragic play of the highest order, causing an untold amount of trepidation in my heart. Frankly, there was a preacher - still alive today - whose preaching on eschatology has caused me horrendous trauma and nightmares.
I used to tremble when I heard him preach on such topics, later I ran away from listening to his sermons and avoided his messages in print. The accompanying pictures were too scary for my fragile mind that I would feel like locking myself indoors for days so as not to go out into the ’ world’ and commit sin. Years later, I was to hear from Tunde Bakare in a message that you could maintain contact with the world without contamination.
To date, I am grateful I attended one of the unity schools where I was opportuned to meet with people from different backgrounds, religions and culture. It changed my perspective in many ways. My best friend for a greater part of my school days was one Lukman. We were both Yorubas, but he was a Muslim and most people thought we were brothers. We were so close that when some “nice” seniors stole my mattress, I slept on his with him until the end of the term.
My encounter with him uprooted every notion of stereotyping and every seed of fallacy of hasty generalisations when it comes to people of other faiths. I have had loads of close friends that belong to various religious bodies, denominations and persuasions. If I must add, sometimes I enjoy friendship with them than people of my own belief system.
Often it is not about those who share a similar creed with me. It is the mentality and notion most religious organisations inculcate in us about the others. I mean, “We have been saved, others are doomed for perdition mentality,” we have grown used to this mantra over time. A question some of us never think of asking ourselves is - “Would I be in this faith, if I was born into a family that wasn’t of this belief system?”
If we are frank with ourselves, a lot of us chose our creed by the family we were born into. That came as a default setting and we have never bothered to re-examine it ourselves. This acerbic condemnation is essentially one of the points the late great storyteller, Chinua Achebe, wrote against in his book, There Was a Country.
For a while, arguing religious issues has been a no go area for me. I hardly do it with folks I share the same faith with let alone people on the other side. This is because, frankly, our opinions most times come as fait accompli. Even when the evidence points to the contrary, we do not yield to superior argument. Often our religious opinions only hold water if we take a vacation from common sense. I am sorry, but that was not meant to be insulting. However, if we must be honest, religion more often than not, is no turf for logic.
It is easy to believe your religion is true, and others are just fiction. But in the midst of this, how do you find common ground? How do you ensure that you are a good ambassador of the faith you profess? Do you wear your religion as a signpost on your head saying “Don’t come near me; My God is a consuming fire?” Alternatively, do you relate with people with a friendly mien and welcome people with a warmly smile and hospitable warmth, irrespective of their religious leanings?
Do they look at you and crave to know the kind of God you serve or see you and wonder if you were also created by God. Sometimes an act of kindness persuades more than a thousand sermons. Mahatma Gandhi said, “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.
Are you willing to give the bread within your reach or you will rather pray that your God should feed them? Have you found that common habitable ground between your faith, your friendship and other people’s “fiction”? Think about these things.

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