Believing in a Kumbaya World

intolerance montageIn this world, I am often labeled as a member of the Christian right. This world has some very interesting labels that get attached to people who share my political and religious views. Some leftist champions affixed “extra chromosome conservatives” (Bill Maher), or slurred faith as a “mind-virus” (Richard Dawkins), or referred to us as “bitter clingers” to God and guns by none other than the President of the United States. As a target of irrational hatred, I experience a blitzkrieg of intolerance in many forums. But I am certainly not alone, being on the receiving end of irrational hatred and intolerance.

For their part, the liberal / progressives have taken plenty of incoming fire from the right. David Horowitz once stated, “Inside many liberals is a totalitarian screaming to get out.” Ann Coulter painted all progressives with the comment, “By openly admitting to being philanderers, draft dodgers, liars, weasels and cowards, liberals avoid ever being hypocrites.” Charles Krauthammer summed up his opinion as, “To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil”. There seems to be a mutual admiration of each side smearing the other side.

Image credit: cheezburger.com
Image credit: cheezburger.com
It would be so easy just to have a kumbaya moment, everyone lay down their mean-spirited rhetoric, and the world could get along in love and peace. Such an idea is inviting to all who are sick of the partisanship, hatefulness and intolerance in the world. Such an idea is also absurd. For a “kumbaya world” to exist one of two things would have to happen: (1) all hatred and divisiveness among earth’s peoples would have to end, or (2) we would have to redefine “kumbaya world”.

One would think that Bible-believing, church-going Jesus-followers would have some plan for an end to divisiveness. Indeed there is a strain of Peace Churches, particularly in the Quaker, Mennonite and Brethren movements, where adherents go to great lengths to live in harmony with others and incline either partially or totally toward pacifism. Still, with the ranks of Peace Churches, individual members have left the fold, committed violent crimes, and intolerantly ostracized family members. It’s worth noting that the Christian Bible holds that Original Sin and a wicked heart damn all of unsaved humanity, as God says through one prophet:

Jeremiah 17:9 (NLT)
9 “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?

Credit: imagekb.com
Credit: imagekb.com
So Christianity is no place to look for a solution to all hatred and divisiveness among earth’s peoples. Perhaps there was a recent time when humanity looked like it would end war and everyone would love everyone else. Wouldn’t that be a “kumbaya world?” In the 1960’s, many of America’s youth and academics advanced an ideology of “make peace, not war”, and “free love”. It sounded good, but in reality peaceful protests became violent, and the socialist influence in the Peace Movement sought “freedom” from capitalism, which inflamed divisiveness on many fronts. Both, society and the peace movement morphed into a contest where each side of the divide accepted the world as divisive and distrusting of the other. In a recent article from Mother Jones, Tom Engelhardt writes,

In a world of war-making that has disappeared into the shadows and a Washington in which just about all information is now classified and shrouded in secrecy, the only way to be “safe” and “secure” as a citizen is, by definition, to be ignorant, to know as little as possible about what “our” government is doing in our name. This helps explain why, in the Obama years, the only crime in official Washington is leaking or whistleblowing; that is, letting the public in on something that we, the people, aren’t supposed to know about the workings of “our” government.”1

Try as either side may, it seems like neither the right or the left will offer a solution to our “kumbaya world”. If politics was ever figured out, religion would be yet another front on which multiples of people would be divided. The morality of sex would also serve to divide, as one side will not see homosexuality as a disgusting aberration, and the other side finds exclusion of a group in society to be disgusting bigotry. We’re divided and hateful when we approach science, too, one side finding righteousness in going to great lengths for conservation, and the other side unwilling to deprive humanity of needed resources. If we solved every divisive issue, humanity would almost certainly find extra issues to hate one another about along the way.

The only “solution” is to accept an alternate definition of a “kumbaya world”. Though Christianity fails to find a solution, the God of the Bible does not. The Apostle Paul writes,

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)
1 “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

We also may find a better definition in understanding what the creators of the song, Kumbaya, knew of their relationship with

Gullah culture alive today
Gullah culture alive today
their creator. Many are unaware that the song did not come to America from another continent (Cumbaya, Ecuador), but it is rather an American folk song of the Gullahs, who are a people who inhabit islands off of the South Carolina coast. Gullah is its own indigenous language which takes an amount of influence from English. Kumbaya is their way of telling God to “Come By Here”.

The song is a cry out to God in their desire to be heard in their day to day lives and struggles. Perhaps the best way to understand the song is simply to read its lyrics:

Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Kum bay ya, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

Someone’s laughing, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone’s laughing, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone’s laughing, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

Someone’s crying, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone’s crying, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone’s crying, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

Someone’s praying, Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone’s praying, Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone’s praying, Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

Someone’s singing, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone’s singing, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Someone’s singing, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

Oh, I need you, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Oh, I need you, my Lord, kum bay ya;
Oh, I need you, my Lord, kum bay ya,
O Lord, kum bay ya.

The Bible offers no expectation of world peace until after the return of Christ and His victory in the Battle of Armageddon. The works of mankind have failed at peace and unity since the beginning of recorded history. History may have called the Pax Romana a time of peace, but it too was a time of domination and oppression. I’m convinced the best hope for a “kumbaya world” lies somewhere between Romans 12:1-2 and they lyrics of Kumbaya.

intolerance jarsWe have fooled ourselves if we believe that we profit from being on the “right side” of any issue. By any Biblical standard, the world we’re living in today will never be on the right side of God. Christians are certainly not on the right side of His Law, which is why they require Jesus, the Lamb of God sacrificed in their stead to take the punishment for their sins. Utopian dream-societies have never existed, and their pursuit has never lasted. There are no lasting victories to be had on this earth.

The only lasting victory we can enjoy on this earth is to not be conformed to it, but rather be transformed by the renewing of our minds. And this is done moment-by-moment, day-by-day. A high-school math teacher once told his struggling students, by the inch it’s a cinch, by the yard it’s hard. We have a lot to learn from the Gullahs, who cried out to the Lord for their daily measure of peace. If we pray for peace for today, or maybe just for the moment, as we’re singing, praying, crying, laughing, or just needing Him, God seems to answer that prayer.

Christ watches montage

Advertisements

3 comments

Comments are closed.