Questions of an African Child
It was one of those Sundays: inextricably sunny, bird chirping, crickets dancing, ants singing.
All that kind of stuff.
But, I was SLEEPY beyond what that word could ever stand for. And this Sunday wasn’t about to let me acknowledge that. It was the perfect day for church.
Unlike others, this one felt like one of those where I would fully connect with the spirituality that the long tiring week had demanded from me.
I would sing, I would praise and I would pray in gratitude.
So to begin the day, I needed the perfect breakfast- not too much and not too little. And I wouldn’t rush it either. I would give it enough time and attention.
No one (and certainly not self) was going to forgive a neglected empty tummy or a loud attention seeking tummy. Nope, not today. This day was going to be a great day of praise. No distractions.
Fast forward to church.
And there I was, fortunate enough to sit next to a friend’s child, Qinisela.
It was hymn time. I was singing away with my nothing-to-write-home-about voice, feeling very much in sync with the atmosphere of praise. Qinisela had been singing too even despite the fact that his 7 year experience in this world could not allow him to read the words as fast. Every line he sang was a tad too slow for the melody.
Then by verse two, I noticed that the singing from down there had stopped.
I looked down.
Qinisela seemed fixated on the image of Jesus Christ that was plastered behind the altar. I gave him a little nudge and with a split-second hesitant head turn, he looked at me. I smiled and he returned it with a half-smile that seemed to camouflage some deep reverie.
By then I had abandoned the singing altogether. I bent down to ask if he was okay. He said he was. So I (unfortunately) insisted. And finally, he decided that the question on his mind was too heavy for him to carry. So he dropped it on me- bombshell style:
“Why is Jesus 'white'? And not black like us? Why am I black?”
“Um……….Well, He……U-um, we….Uh…..U-um….just continue singing. We can talk about that after church.”
This was meant to be a day of praise with no distractions - but no, two loaded questions had to be dropped on me. Today. And by a 7 year old!
That's how fast a planned-worship day can turn into a thinky day.
So my brain left church and began a curious journey.
It all began with this mind billboard: Children: The little people with the BIG questions
Children are adorable aren’t they?
I mean - with their tiny everything, their innocent outlook on life, their inquisitive nature, their simplicity, their spongy-ness -- these little guys can take in anything. They are so open to the world.
And how can we forget how lovable they are when they are screaming straight into our ears? In pitches higher than what dogs can hear?
Or the times they decide to ask the weirdest questions –or better yet, the ones ‘impossible’ to answer?
‘Why is Jesus 'white'?’
And this then naturally cues you to change the subject or take them on a guilt trip about how they should love Jesus just the way He is.
Or they could ask:
‘Why am I black?’
And this could very easily prompt you to remind them that they left their toys on the kitchen floor. Anything to escape answering it….or to buy time until you get a practical answer.
Why can they just be like adults? Not questioning every single thing?
And why are such questions so hard to answer?
I thought about it for a little while….and then a lot.
In my thinking, Jesus is 'white' because he came from a world where 'white' people are more than black people so it made sense to make him in their likeness. And if 'they' were going to come and use Christianity as the alleged ‘tool for colonization’, then it made sense that the Jesus they brought to Africa was white. How else would we then be defeated in mind and conquered in soul if not to make us think we serve a God that looks different from the one we worshipped before?
But can I really tell this kid that?
Especially now that his mother decided they'll join my family for lunch?
This kid is relentless.
I'm in trouble.
-----To be continued-----