After getting ‘born again’ half a dozen times, I had finally settled for this church which as I was led to believe did the whole born again thing on a different level; largely appreciated by the urban bunch of educated masses who disliked spiritual melodramas. Melodramas which among other things included speaking gibberish in the name of the holy ghost, and making the lame walk, the blind see and curing terminal illnesses which perturbed even doctors!
You see, the whole lot of these protestant churches have different notions as to how they go about being born again, with each church differing from another- like they are in some kind of competition as to whom does it better. So ideally most Christians undergo two levels of baptism; the first when they are infants and the second later on in life when they decide, or pushed by circumstances to accept Jesus as their personal savior!
The first was a teary event for me since, as eye witnesses were later to tell me, I screamed and cried all through it. I was just a kid and perhaps the idea of having some weirdo padre pour water on my face may not have been so appealing. Again I guess it’s because we are all born into the Fitra as Muslims until our guardians or parents change us into Protestants, Catholics, Buddhists, atheists and a bunch of other things. I must have been protesting for being changed from a Muslim to a Christian against my own will!
Truth be told, I joined this new church because right then it seemed the most natural thing to do. I was staying at my maternal aunt’s place and her family were all active disciples in church; so to fit in and not be the pagan in the house talked of in the Epistles of Paul, I tagged along. True to the principles of the church, I was assigned what they called a ‘discipling’ partner (he could have been my handler if I was a CIA asset!!) who was to see me through the first 40 days into ultimate discipleship. I was baptized along with other naïve freshmen in the green chlorinated waters of Nyayo Stadium, with sister disciples in short minis and high heels clapping and shouting emotional amens. They hugged us and told us that Jesus loved us, and that we were now in the family of disciples and we would share cookies after church and we would hang out on ‘fellos’ (fellowships where we could hang out with other disciples).
I loved the miniskirts FIY! The whole ‘fello’ thing was rather cool!
So it was firmly indoctrinated into our medullas that we were to make disciples of other seemingly lost people, just as Jesus had commanded the disciples to be fishers of men. That if some pagan or modern day gentile was to slap you on the right cheek, you gladly give him your left! That we should confess our sins to each other so we can attain forgiveness. However, along with the order came a disclaimer that even then in my naivety found to be without clear purpose and good intent.
It was a warning delivered (by one of the pastors who had an American accent) with a measured degree of contempt, superbly seasoned with a pinch of ignorance. DO NOT MAKE DISCIPLES OF MUSLIMS, other faiths and churches and maniacs yes, but stay away from Muslims! I saw it as the kind of respect you show an enemy you fear and loath with the same intensity; an enemy you know you cannot overcome using your ideologies, perhaps because theirs was stronger and more justified.
I did venture a query as to why we couldn’t reach out to Muslims, yet we strongly believed in making disciples the world over. Was it that the Muslims were a special lot or were they just too waist deep in their sins that it would have been absolutely futile to ‘fish’ them out? The simple answer from my discipler was that Muslims did not believe in Jesus, and trying to make them believe so would be like trying to turn a mule into a race horse!
A had a mule back home, this beast of burden had the heart of a stallion and I strongly believed you can change anything or anyone with the right dosage of truth backed with traceable proof.
So what did they believe in, I queried further. I was told they believed in some prophet from the Arabs called Mohamed who was among the descendants of Ishmael who The Lord God banished to the desert. They were the crazy terrorists who had brought down the twin towers and hated Israel and Christians and pigs and did not believe in the bible. They had a Kalashnikov wielding maniac called Osama who ordered them to blow things up, and bring down tall glass buildings. As my discipler was all agitated cursing malediction at the Muslims, I remembered some lyrics i had listened to by rappers Immortal Technique and Mos Def (a revert!),
‘Bin Laden didn’t blow up the projects, Bush knocked down the twin towers,…’. And what was I to do if I chanced upon a Muslim? Well, you can cross the street; pray to God he doesn’t make you breaking news or just dial a cop! I queried no further.
Later on I reverted, not because any one called me to Islam but there was just too many contradictions in what I was been led to believe in church. I was searching for some truth, something I could hold on to with proof and say, ’now this feels right’. Searching for the true meaning and purpose of life, not just singing praise songs with girls dressed in miniskirts (did I mention I loved the miniskirts!), Christmas carols to mark Jesus’ birthday, or ’celebrating’ his death over Easter. Damn, I am no scholar or over-rated puritan but if the son of God died I would be dressed in black and mourning in Easter!
Islam gave me everything, showed me everything I was and am to be. Now I understand why I was warned against reaching out to Muslims; it’s because the message of Islam is very true, calling to only that which is good. It is the most contagious thing in the entire duniya, the most exhilarating and intoxicating of feasible truths that to live without Islam is to NOT live at all!