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Health & Fitness

Ultimately, church is your choice to make

woman prays
A woman prays during a Sunday Church Service in Nairobi. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG 

Qn: My dad last week cautioned me against joining Pentecostal churches that have sprouted up around town claiming they would brainwash and derail my view about life. Is this factual?

Unless your father knows something about all Pentecostal Churches (which we don’t know), then it is possible that his opinion was directed at some churches that “have sprouted up around town.”

So, if your question is whether some churches "could brainwash and derail your life”, the answer is yes, that is possible, and you must be careful who you decide to call your spiritual guide.

That said, we must proceed to tell you that matters of faith are very complicated and no simple answer will satisfy you or many others unless a detailed discussion is held with you in person, and all your circumstances are taken into account.

First of all, and by way of example, how old are you and why did the discussion with your dad take place on the day it did?

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A few months ago, we saw a man in his mid-twenties who had disagreed with his parents about matters of his faith. He had met a girl at the end of the previous year. He was a Muslim in parentage, and she a Christian by practice. He was not a practicing Muslim and to him, it did not matter what the girl believed in as long as she believed in a good future for him and their children. Matters of faith did not matter to him one way or the other. His parents were livid. How could their son fall in love with a Christian? Were there not enough girls of Islamic faith he could marry? What demons had come to him to be possessed by such a girl.

The girl had an even bigger problem. The mother explained that as the leader of the women’s group in her Church, such a union could not take place! A white wedding in church to a properly brought up boy in their church was the least she expected from her daughter.

The girl explained to the parents that they could not control her choice of future spouse. After all, they had exposed her to a liberal world in which she had explored the world, studied in the best schools in the country and met a “Muslim boy” at a university in the UK where they both graduated as doctors!

Neither of them planned to meet there and none obsessed about God or religion. Her parents were good and practicing Pentecostal, and she was a self-proclaimed agnostic, much like the man she planned to marry.

The girl’s mother went into a state of clinical depression, and we looked after her. The boy’s father also went into a state of depression and was under the care of a colleague.

Both families were unable to live with their own liberal ways of bringing up their now adult offspring who demanded to practice their faith (or lack of it) in a liberal manner.

The next difficult situation was that of an 18-year-old boy who came to our attention after he had had a psychotic episode. He had smoked huge quantities of cannabis just before his Form Four exams claiming that cannabis helped him concentrate. His parents held the view that cannabis was a drug that was banned in Kenya.

The Holy Quran specifically prohibited gambling and the use of drugs. Whatever the boy wanted to do with his life, there was a specific prohibition from the Prophet himself. The young man argued that he was a Rastafarian and in his religion, cannabis was not only allowed but was encouraged. He also pointed out that Kenya was a backward African country and that in future, it would join European countries and a number of American states in legalising the use of marijuana “for recreational purposes”.

The parents were horrified that their son might go into another mental breakdown if he continued to defy the teachings of his religion. The young man refused to be put into a “religious straight jacket” by his parents. They were old fashioned and did not understand “modern ways”.

It is possible that you and your dad were going through a similar crisis. If your parents are say, of the Catholic or Anglican Church, any move to “those noisy and unstructured” Pentecostal Churches are as bad as becoming a Muslim or Rastafarian! As an adult, perhaps your dad will enable you to make your own choices (or mistakes).

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