Monday, April 16, 2012
The African Bushman
It keeps coming up; the African bushmen. The solitary few living alone in the depths of the mountains or desert, living off the land, no technology, no ties to the rest of the world. They are, except for each other, entirely alone.
We can learn a lot about a person’s faith by what they think about these people. Not in the “shouldn’t we be helping these people” sense, but in the “where do they do when they die” sense. Without outside influence, if they have a sense of faith and religion at all, it’s the same faith and religion passed down to them by their ancestors before them. Maybe they believe in rain gods. Maybe they don’t have time to think about gods because they must work constantly just to eat and drink and stay alive. Whatever they believe in, it’s likely not the same God that is believed in by the western religions, and they probably don’t follow the philosophies of the east.
So what becomes of them when they die? This was a question commonly asked by students in my high school youth group, and again in the early years of the philosophy program at George Fox. As Christians, we believed that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to God except through Jesus. This is a very specific, some might call it narrow, view of how salvation happens. I recall one youth pastor suggesting that while these folks may not have had the gospel preached to them specifically, God present Himself to them in some manner. The pastor thought that each person had a moment when they somehow understood that they had a choice to make - good or evil - and in that moment the African bushman made the choice that would determine his eternal destination.
What kind of God is your God? I propose that how you answer the question of the African bushman tells you a lot about the God you believe in. Certainly different faiths answer differently. In my first two interviews for this blog, the answers were starkly different. For the Evangelical, the answer is, with sincere remorse, “tough shit.” For the Mormon, there is a glory that awaits these people, even if it isn’t the very best glory. From what I understand of Buddhism, it doesn’t really matter what they believe in. When circumstances are no longer suitable for human life, they cease to manifest, but when circumstances become suitable again, they will manifest again.
My purpose here is not to critique one as being a better answer than another. To critique is to suggest that I have a better alternative, and I do not. But here are a few questions that might be worth thinking about:
According to my beliefs, what happens to the African Bushman when he dies?
If he goes to heaven, why does he go to heaven?
If he goes to heaven without having faith in anything, of what value is my faith?
If he goes to hell, why does he go to hell?
If he goes to hell, what does this say about my God?
If I don’t like how I feel about what this says about my God, what do I do about my feelings?
Does it matter if I’m uncomfortable with certain aspects of what I believe to be true about God?
If I dislike something I believe about my own God, do I accept something I dislike, or do I change how I view God?
If I believe the bushman goes to hell, what am I doing to make sure he doesn’t?
I’d love to hear your answers to some of these questions!