A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of teaching a group of about 15 teenage boys. I was taking them through a series on biblical manhood. Before we read from the scriptures, I began by narrating an unfortunate incident that occurred to a friend of mine.
One Sunday night, earlier this year, two lady friends of mine walked from a concert in the Central Business District of Nairobi, heading to their bus stage. They by-passed a few bus stages before they got to their own. As they walked past the touts in a particular stage, one of the men grabbed the hand of one of my friends.
She pulled back her hand and stated clearly that it wasn’t her bus stage. As soon as she pulled back her hand, the man pinched her breast. She was flustered! She pushed the man away in defiance to the violation. When she did, he descended on her with a sharp slap on her face. He then proceeded with blows and kicks on her petite body. Her other lady friend tried to help and she too was slapped. Meanwhile, the touts at the stage (all men) watched as the pervert abused these women. They did nothing to stop him. The poor girls grabbed their bags and ran away screaming for help. As they did, the abuser shouted.
“Shika hao Malaya!”
The idle men at the stage began running after the girls who were screaming for help. They luckily got to a crowded area in the city and the men stopped pursuing. They were safe. Such incidences are becoming common in our city, I told the boys. Recently, a matatu conductor and his tout were sentenced to death for sexually harassing a woman and trying to strip her naked in public.
After painting this picture, I asked the boys for feedback, especially concerning the abuser and the passive men. I was dumbfounded by their remarks.
“Well, we can’t blame the man; those women must have been dressed in a sexually provocative manner.”
The look on my face could curdle milk! Did I not paint a clear picture of the incident? Did I describe my friends as villains? I decided to calm down and respond to their bizarre claims.
“That is no justification because both my friends were both dressed very decently, actually.” I began. “And even if they weren’t…”
“Well then, they must have done something flirtatious to provoke the man,” another one interrupted me!
This was a surprising turn of events in my talk. I decide to engage the debate.
“They did absolutely nothing of that sort. They were simply talking a walk when…”
“Well why were they out at night?” another one interrupted me. I don’t remember interrupting a preacher as a teenager but I patiently indulged them further.
“Is it illegal for women in our city to walk in the night? Should we restrict women from walking freely in our city by perhaps imposing a curfew?”
“Well…no,” another one responded, “But they should not be attending those funny events where girls get drunk!”
“It was a Christian event and both girls were very sober. In fact, they are both born-again.”
“Then perhaps the guy was drunk,” another said.
“Perhaps he was,” I said. “But majority of the men at that stage were pretty sober.”
“But it still can’t be his entire fault.”
A part of me was glad that I was getting to know what the boys really thought. However, a part of me was dying that we were having this debate. They were 15 for crying out loud!
“Let me ask you guys something,” I said. “Please finish this sentence for me: It is okay for a man to physically and sexually assault a woman when…”
“Okay,” I proceeded. “Let me ask you another question. Do any of you have sisters?”
Everyone but one boy raised their hands. I turned to the boy.
“Do you have female cousins?” He nodded.
“Good,” I said. “Now tell me, what if I told you that among my friends who got assaulted, one of them was your sister.”
The room was filled with uh-ohs and wincing faces.
“Whoa! That changes everything!” one of them said.
“What if she was drunk and skimpily dressed and walking in the CBD late at night?”
No one objected. Nobody wanted their sister in such a situation even if she was “asking for it.”
“Well of course it would be unwise for a woman to be drunk, skimpily dressed and walking late in the night. The world is not safe. But I need you to understand that the men in our society today are preying on women who do not even fit that bill. And it is also happening in the day. And many more men are silent. Now, tell me. What if it was your mother?”
They protested, now clearly understanding my point.
“That’s it, guys,” I continued, “And what if you found out that I was one of the men at that bus stage, who just watched and did not stand up for your sister or mother?”
The silence was pervasive but I could almost see the anger on their faces as they imagined the situation.
“Then you wouldn’t be a true friend,” one said gently.
“That’s right. Guys, listen to me; If you’ve never heard it from your fathers, I want you to hear it from me guys. It is NEVER okay to hit a woman. It is NEVER okay to touch a woman in any way when she is unwilling. And finally, it is NEVER okay to touch a woman sexually if you are not married to her. Do you hear me, guys?”
They nodded. I knew that deep down they may have simply agreed because I was a preacher but they still had reservations and questions. But at least I started a spark in their hearts.
“And you must be ready to stand for the oppressed even if you are the only man.”
“What if I get beat up for doing the right thing?” one asked.
“Then it’s a worthy and godly beating to receive! However, many a times if you speak up you will encourage many more who think it is wrong but are just afraid. The evil men seem to dominate simply because the righteous men sit quietly. Remember the gospel of Jesus. God in the person of Jesus took more than a beating for you. He demonstrated that to be like him we must deny ourselves for others to benefit. When you get married, the scriptures command you, the man, to die for your wife just as Christ died for the church. You will have to take a beating either way. Not necessarily physically, but you will need to lay down your benefits for your future wife and even your kids.”
I proceeded my lesson by doing a quick exposition on Luke 15 and explained how the gospel makes us man enough by following the example of the ultimate man, Christ. I explained to them how the gospel removes our pride in imperfect good deeds and our shame in the sins we have committed. Without the gospel, all form of goodness is but filthy rags in the sight of a Holy God. We talked of how Christ Jesus was the ultimate man. We looked at how he treated a woman in John 8, the prostitute who was about to be stoned. We discussed how Christ’s gentleness must not be confused for condoning sin. He still hated the sin of fornication by the prostitute but he is gentle to the perishing, not wanting any to be lost in eternal damnation. Thus he said to her, “Go and sin no more.”
When I was done with the teaching, I couldn’t help but ask why the 15 year olds would have such a warped view concerning women. I remembered how sometime back at the gym, one lady started a conversation with me during one of the cardio breaks. She was seated in a matatu and the man next to her started searching for something in his pocket frantically. As he did so, his fingers rubbed against her thigh. She moved sideways giving him room thinking he was merely retrieving fare from his pocket. He moved closer and kept digging in his pockets for something that was clearly not there. All the while, he kept rubbing his finger against her thigh. It was then that she noticed that he was being a pervert and angrily sought to find another seat. Another lady in the gym who was within earshot of our conversation chimed in. She was walking in the CBD when one of the idlers spanked her. She turned to confront the pervert. He was laughing and seemed to enjoy her frustration and his short-lived hedonism. And this is not exclusively to the brutes in society. Even among the “cultured” ones who would not necessarily undress a woman in public, the perversion persists e.g. boyfriends who insist on sex and threaten to end the relationship, men who father children and run away from responsibility, husbands and boyfriends who consume porn for leisure etc. Why is this happening? Here are two reasons:
- A gospel failure in the family
- A societal permissiveness
A gospel failure in the family
When you speak to these kids you realize that most of their parents are okay with raising good children even if they aren’t necessarily godly children. This is a big mistake. The parents cannot demarcate the difference between goodness and godliness and so they expect the bare minimum behaviour of morality from the children. As long as the children don’t get into trouble, don’t get a girl pregnant and don’t do drugs then they are good to go. If you understand the gospel, you realize that hell is filled with this kind of people. The good-without-God kind of people. Even Jesus taught that the pimps and the prostitutes rush to the gates of heaven and take it by force. They thirst for spiritual renewal while the “good” guys miss it by depending on their own goodness.
The Gospel warns us from redefining goodness in a way that God does not. We are being warned not to teach our kids that it is alright as long as they are not hurting anybody. Otherwise we will raise 15 year olds that blame the woman until it is their sister. A goodness apart from godliness will not speak up for fear of self. This goodness is really selfish in nature. It may be morally and politically correct but it is spiritually dangerous and it is far from God’s will for his children. It may keep one out of prison but it won’t keep one out of Hades. Jonathan Edwards rightly said, “All your good deeds could not keep you out of hell any more than a spider’s web could stop a falling rock.” God’s end game is not for universal moral conformity but for personal spiritual surgery; He desires godly children whose sins are forgiven and whose spirits are born anew. The Gospel is not an addition to one’s moral structure; it is a spiritual renewal. Moral behaviour is but one outcome of the new birth; it is not the new birth.
The Gospel is for those that realize goodness without Christ is just as damning as sinfulness. It is for those who can locate sin even in their good deeds and repent of it. Those who realize that their salvation is not based on how good they are but on how good Christ was when he died on the cross for them. The message of the gospel is the greatest assault on morality. It isn’t a call for more morality. It is a revolution of morality. It looks at Mother Teresa, Billy Graham and the Pope combined and damns them to hell unless they repent and accept the sacrifice of Jesus. Unless you are born again, your goodness is of no worth and will only serve your own interest. But when 11 followers of Jesus willingly get crucified, get boiled in oil, get dragged to death and get stabbed to death for a cause they believe in, then you realize that the gospel must be true if it is worth all that trouble. Nobody refuses to recant a fairy tale in the face of death unless that fairy tale is the greatest story ever told. Can 15 year olds be moved by this man, Jesus? Yes they can. And if they are, they will be moved for every suffering human, even if they are drunk and skimpily dressed late at night in Nairobi city. This is godliness and it serves the world not self. 15 year olds need to hear this message of the gospel. And if by the time they have turned 15 and it sounds like Greek to them, be assured their parents have not been transformed by it either. There is a gospel failure in the family.
A societal permissiveness
The second reason is the permissiveness of society. We know that the spirit of the antichrist is here and his influence so far is seen in our pop culture. The west is on a campaign to redefine gender. They even state that your sexual organs do not determine your gender. Paul was right when he wrote about them in Romans 1, “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” You could get arrested in Canada for use of incorrect gender pronouns instead of gender neutral pronouns. They have hushed all the scientific voices in the transgender debate and have placed celebrities as authorities on their subjects. Forget what Dr. Philip B. Collins published on homosexuality just listen to Tyra. Forget what scientists like LaVey said on their findings just listen to Orprah. Forget why medical practitioners have warned of the abnormally severe health risks of this kind of life just listen to Hollywood. And this madness, my friends, is but a tip of the ice-berg. The influence of antichrist is not nearly a lower percentile. Why? We know from the scriptures that the restrainer is holding him back (2 Thess 2:6-7) and that he will soon be revealed when the time is nigh. This permissiveness is psychological on one layer, cultural on another layer, moral on another layer but it is spiritual on every layer. This permissiveness has a target; 15 year old boys like the ones I spoke to.
On the flipside, permissiveness still reigns on boys who even proudly state to be straight. These boys have watched tonnes of hours of music videos that display women as sexual accessories for a man. Our local artists are producing music videos with women gyrating their rears on every screen. These boys have consumed tonnes of hours of TV series that glorify a man having his way with a woman sexually. Women in pop culture entertainment and pornography always consent to whatever a man wants. Constant porn consumers (mild or bizarre) often relish the thought of deriving sexual gratification from unwilling women. Women in porn movies are often subjected to sexual acts they are not willing to participate in. Our entertainment is painting women as creatures who will bend over backwards (no pun intended) to overly-titillated men. And some start when they are 15 years old. They have also consumed tonnes of hours of movies that portray an alpha male as one with boatloads of money, unrivalled social dominance and apocalyptic sexual conquest over several women who have ridiculous standards of physical beauty. They are consuming more than 3 hours of this filth even on a school night. The tragedy is that their parents are consuming this as well. So the home, that is meant to be the fabric of society, is already corrupted. Our matatus are playing profanities in the name of rap music and if you dare protest, “Utashukishwa!” So the 15 year old boys are exposed to all of this and the remedy counter by the church is a 25-minute sermon on Sunday. And even on this Sunday, the preachers in the youth churches still entertain them. We have an over-entertained generation. And if the sermon does get serious, morality is preached instead of the Gospel.
What can we do? We can start by praying for our men. Never underestimate the influence of prayer. We can do everything else but only after we have prayed. Next we can teach our men what it means to be men. We have a program called POWERHOUSE whose aim is to inspire men to express their sexuality purely, to love their women passionately and to live their lives purposefully through the power of the Gospel. As I do my part, I pray you do yours. When the bigger man comes, may he find us feeding his children; may he find faith on the earth.