CIRCUMCISION: CULTURE, CHURCH & GANGS

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Circumcision is one of the most revered cultural practices in my community. It is a mark of transformation and liberation, if you may. Liberation from childhood manners and anything that demeans boyish attributes. The physical mark that is painfully entrenched to the young man is a gate-pass to the lawns of adulthood. In a nutshell, it’s an achievement that serves as a height of brevity.

You see, this stage is such a big deal as ordinarily, welcomes the boys to the corridors of being the community’s pillars, so to speak. But not only does it qualify them as young men but more pertinently, bequeaths one with a whole wealth of social significants, for instance, being full members of the society including, equipping them with a hefty list of responsibilities.

While that is easier said than done especially in recent times when good morals have taken a heavy beating, we can’t wish away such an important cultural activity. However, the act is not cast in stone in that it automatically turns one into a responsible and fully-fledged young man. Ideally, it should be supported by frequent follow-up mentorship forums just to mould the young men to fairly principled youths who can’t easily be washed away by the evil millennial torrents.

At this juncture, it’s important to appreciate that there are organized men associations out there that are working tirelessly hard to foster good cultural practices that remain significant to the community. Of importance is to note that they are coming in handy to support the negated boy child who has periodically suffered at the expense of other emotive issues. For the last 5 years or so, they’ve strived to fill the void that the boy child has been subjected into overtime, by mentoring the boys and serving as credible role models. With the absence of credible role models for boys and young men to identify with, has in itself worked as a destruction to these generations.

That said, there has been controversy triggered by the role the church is playing as far as circumcision of boys is concerned. Now, to avoid being buried in the sensation, we should ask ourselves, who is supposed to circumcise the boy or rather put it differently; who is supposed to play the central role in the initiation stage of boys?

Tough as it may, traditionally, it was conducted by the elders. Why it was an elders-affair-only was for a very simple reason. They were and still are the cultural gatekeepers. No other institution or individual can challenge their authority as far as cultural knowledge is concerned. Nevertheless, with the global advancements revolutionizing the way of doing stuff, many African cultures risk being overridden and completely forgotten, if that hasn’t happened already. In the last 3-5 decades or so, elders in many communities got bypassed in the whole business of circumcision. Many families developed a preference for medical practitioners just to ensure hygiene was observed and that qualified personnel handled their sons. Actually, the best word to use is, Professionals. Yes, pun intended!

As time moved, so was religion taking root in the African context. And as you’d guess, the church jumped right in as the cookie crumbled. While this transpired, many elders outfits resulted to either being mum or outnumbered. They were seen as social outcasts and their beliefs considered unbecoming. But this didn’t erase their disquiet or tilt their views. Luckily, in less than a decade ago, tables turned. Quietly, the quest from middle-aged men yearning to become members of elders’ associations started gaining momentum. Some sections of the media started embracing these outfits too and inviting them on air.

And as if that was the lucking springboard, these cultural outfits seem not to look behind but to mop out every young man worth his salt to join them. And it’s a good thing. I will tell you why:

It’s only in these outfits that one comprehensively gets to learn about virtually anything there is to learn in a culture. At least in my community, they’ve proved to be extremely resourceful to mentor the boy child, instill values that were lacking before, pass unlimited cultural knowledge to the young men and serve as a center to diagnose a community’s challenges and propose solutions. This goes without mentioning the unmeasurable avenue of networking for the boy child and rewarding one with a sense of identity.

While this has been unfolding, it hasn’t sat well with the church. Men of the cloth have not only bashed the elders at least in some quarters but dared their male members to join such outfits. For the record, the Presbyterian Church of East Africa(PCEA) which is one of the most populous religions in this country(Kenya) advised its members to keep off a Gikuyu cultural practice referred to as Mburi cia Kiama which involves slaughtering of goats and relaying cultural studies to Agikuyu men. The elders in return, have not taken the accusations lying low. They’ve termed the ban as unwarranted and misguided since they are not in the business of fighting religion.

It is such sharp division between the church and cultural organizations that has yet again raised the lid on who should administer the circumcision act. While the elders believe they are the chief custodians of a community’s cultural resource bank, the church is riding on contemporary realities and the rule of Christianity. But it is in the wake of such quagmire that saw a section of residents of Murang’a protest due to a particular church having outsourced a seemingly fake doctor to oversee the botched circumcision act of male boys. The victims were painfully compelled to undergo the act again, this time by the elders.

One might hypothetically ask if these elders have any background in medical know-how? The answer would be; these cultural organisations have men from all walks of life and in different occupations including highly regarded doctors in this country.

That aside, more seem to be rocking this enviable stage of a man, as criminal gangs have taken upon themselves to radicalize the young boys soon after they face the knife. Dozens if not more victims have lost their lives in the recent past out of falling out with these villains and many more left for the dead having been grossly maimed. These gangs are loosely woven militias trying to fill a void of who should pass on the cultural knowledge to the young men.

The boy child is at a crossroad – To keep up with the church as it figures out how to go about the heavily important cultural act or warm up to the elders for the much-needed blessings and acquisition of knowledge. While these two institutions can have their interests harmonized, a section of the church fraternity does not seem to appreciate the role culture plays in mankind’s life. As that should be addressed, so should the criminal gangs radicalizing and misleading the youths be completely mopped out, for the safety of our young men.

In other words, the boy child has a lot of battles to win over or risk perishing in unchartered world that our forefathers sacrificed lives to safeguard!

CHURCH ETHOS

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Church ethics have evolved over the years and so have our guts. Religious leaders have been met flat-footed by the world advancements in technology and other fronts. The leadership has found itself in the wobbly and ugly underbelly of the synthetic headways. It’s not a secret that many men and women of the cloth have been caught pants down with their flock’s spouses. Many more have fashioned themselves as the high priests of impunity and daylight soft robbery. Legions of them have cases in court for grave reasons such as murder. These days you can’t board a matatu in peace without some so-called pastors sneaking in to sell and extort money for just making a prayer to the passengers. How unfortunate that many of them have thrived through taking advantage of the gullible and naive people in the society.

Many church ethics and etiquettes have been cannibalized, defiled and left for the dead from the high and mighty preachers to the low lying congregants.

Dress Code

When we were growing up, we used to have Sunday best attires. You wouldn’t wear such outfits anywhere else not unless it was a special occasion. Of course, times have changed and so has our view of what Sunday-best was. As we speak, that’s an old-fashioned mentality that has grass grown over it. We are in a different dispensation altogether. Our lifestyles have sort of ‘improved.’ At least many households can afford the luxury of not hanging on the illusion of Sunday-bests. Additionally, we have a generation that is cool enough and spontaneous in the sense like – it doesn’t attach too much glorification to the formal looks.

Consequently, the high regard to church has so much degraded. The spontaneous looks have come with their fair share of challenges and dicey moments. I saw a guy in my church dressed in solely a vest and was like; Okay, what to say! Perhaps I’m too reserved. But come to think about it, many of us dress extremely badly to church than in the workplace. That old pair of jeans that you’ve not worn in ages and the faded polo shirt bestowed by a former employer in a workshop in Mombasa somehow finds itself in church.

The contemporary church has gone so liberal and complacent to uphold and adhere on decency, especially on matters dressing. We are dressing far worse than several decades ago for reasons best known to us. It’s an open secret that women are doing far worse than men as a far as church dressing code is concerned. If it’s not dressing in attires that are too seductive and revealing for church environment then it is showcasing their flesh for-god-knows-who and for what purpose. Makes me wonder – if one is not breastfeeding what justification is there to have your cleavage sunbathing or better put; distracting a poor fellow who has no control or rather struggles on some aspects? Okay, put it differently, which male adult wants to breastfeed in church? Fact – there is a massive decline in dressing standards in the church, today.

If just maybe it’s a question of flaunting, who wants to be carried away in church, surely? Now, why would you wear a miniskirt that you’ll keep pulling down or sitting awkwardly just to discourage the prying eyes dashing up and down? Why parade your thighs to the rest of us and seat with your bare bum and expect the man seated next to you will concentrate on the sermon? Interestingly, some women will still dress erotically and sit indecently. We are only human and men are tamed beasts for crying out loud. And by the way, there is a reason some body parts are referred to as ‘private parts.’  You see, you can’t have your cake and eat it. And if you’ve got to eat it, at least don’t do it in the House of God.

In a nutshell, self-respect and value to oneself should help you decipher as to whether what you wear to church is decent or not. The overriding point is – what powers your intention to dress in a certain way to church! Is it to jump-start your self-esteem or draw attention or just to feel good when congregants eye bath your upper legs and boobs? And to you who sag in church giving us unwarranted glance at your inner wears and if unlucky, your bare bum please cut the slack – For heaven’s sake, it’s 2018 man!

Phone Chatting

I once sat next to a couple who seemed like they were in a situationship or some sort of speed dating never mind they were in church. Why am I saying so? See, for the entire sermon, they spent it on phone chatting and in social media and clinging on one another like one of them would just evaporate before the sermon got concluded. It’s sad that we can’t shut off social media even for 2 damn hours just to listen to a sermon. But who chats on Sunday at 9:01 am surely? And can we stop side-shows in church? Is it much to ask?

Ringing Phones

Many church sermons have been rudely interrupted by horrible and loud phone ring tones many a time. Followers are alive to the fact that, it’s unethical not to have their phones on silent mode, airplane mode or off but they will still defy. Some even pretend that it’s not their phones buzzing and only happen to react when the congregation appears disturbed and starts wagging necks.

Sitting Arrangement

Is it just my church where congregates jostle for the few available seats. It’s not like they are really few, no. The number of fellow-shippers is exceedingly high. Taking that into account, some parents will defy taking their children to Sunday school or catechism classes and have them occupy places meant for grown-ups. It’s even worse when one tries to find a space when toddlers occupy the same seats fidgeting with their parents’ phones, while the parents seem unperturbed.

Rich Kirkpatrick a writer who specializes in spiritual content best summarizes this topic: “There is no one single answer to church ethics. This takes humility and heart to make it about values and principles, rather than rules and laws. We should hold ourselves to be righteous Christ-followers, not legalistic rule followers.”

Photo credit – catholicsun.org

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