Christians these days need thick skins and good debating skills. I say this because their religion is so often picked on and picked apart. Take the figure of Jesus, for example.
Critics have long complained that he is depicted as European in features in most religious paintings and icons. They argue that since the faith had its origins in the Middle East, then surely he would have looked quasi-Arabian – dark hair, swarthy complexion and facial features in keeping with those of the region. His European-ness, say the detractors stems from mediaeval and Renaissance painters who painted in their own image – long cloak and tunic, bearded and paler in complexion than the other side of the Mediterranean.
Curiously, those same detractors have so far declined to point the same accusatory finger at the Virgin Mary, ever seen equally white-faced and dressed somewhat nun-like in long, blue shift, hair demurely covered with a wimple, yet presumably the same argument would hold water.
There is, perhaps, a stronger argument for depicting Mary and husband Joseph as middle-eastern in appearance since we know from the bible that they were residents of Galilee who travelled to the city of Bethlehem for the purposes of a census and would therefore have undeniably been Arabian in ethnicity; Jesus, on the other hand, if we accept the biblical writings of the virgin birth, would therefore not necessarily have to be genetically related to either his mother or father, but might have had whatever racial and other features his heavenly father chose to bestow on him…….but wait, stop right there. Did I say ‘father’?
Another week, another controversy but this time the theological argument comes from the highest priest in the Anglican Church, none other than the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who has stated that God is neither man nor woman but gender-neutral. The Archbishop told an audience at St Martin-in-the-Fields church in London’s Trafalgar Square that God should not be referred to using a gender because 'our father' was not male or female.
According to the Most Rev Justin Welby human language is inadequate to describe the Christian deity and that despite the use of words such as 'king' and 'lord' – he is not male in the human sense. “God is not a father in exactly the same way as a human being is a father. God is not male or female. God is not definable. It is extraordinarily important as Christians that we remember that the definitive revelation of who God is was not in words, but in the word of God who we call Jesus Christ. We can't pin God down.”
He may, of course, have a point. In the Anglican hymn ‘Immortal, Invisible’, the verses tell us that God is ‘ in light inaccessible, hid from our eyes’, which rather suggests that He has a form unrecognisable to us mere mortals, by implication nothing like the human shape s that we inhabit.
There is however a counter-argument in that almost every Christian pamphlet, scripture, treatise or papyrus scroll he is referred to in the male gender. The Catechism addresses ‘God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost’, the Holy Trinity which even the Catholic Church can’t quite define. The Lord’s Prayer begins ‘Our Father which art in Heaven’ and everywhere in the Common Prayer Book God is referenced as ‘Father’ and ‘He’. Also, if not a he or a she, that only leaves an ‘it’ which even the devoutest of atheists would surely consider a bit impertinent. So, what’s the Archbishop on about?
Well, he’s not the first church leader to make this assertion. The Catholic Church catechism of 1993 stated ‘God transcends the human distinction between the sexes, “He is neither man nor woman: He is God.’ Ah, but when God sent his only son down to earth to help us mortal sinners, he certainly had human form, even if it’s rather Italian in all the pictures?
So what does the Bible, the Christian manual, so to speak, have to say on the subject? Well, even there it is not cut and dried. Mostly God is referred to as a man, but there are feminine reference, too – “like a woman in labour” in the book of Isaiah, “like a mother hen” (Matthew), “like a mother eagle” (Deuteronomy). Scholars suggest patriarchal Judaism was building on the foundation of earlier matriarchal religions but that argument doesn’t hold much water since those few references are greatly outweighed by the preponderance of those to ‘He’ and ‘Father’.
And with apologies to the Archbishop, the Bible is fairly clear that God created man in his own image. I give you some of the many references
Genesis 1:26 Verse Concepts Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."
Genesis 1:26-27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Genesis 5:1-2 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.
1 Corinthians 11:7 Verse Concepts For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.
Genesis 9:6 Verse Concepts "Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man.
James 3:9 Verse Concepts With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God;
Well, that’s fairly consistent, then. And now, as we find ourselves in the run up to Christmas, the birthday of the Son of God, this is as good a time as any to debate such issues but, wait! There’s another controversial statement. Apparently there are many clues in the scriptures indicating that Jesus wasn’t born at this time of the year at all, cold, wet and wintry in the Levantine, but in much balmier conditions, warm enough for shepherds to watch their flocks all night, living out under the stars, so almost certainly not December then. And of course, it would also be a fair question to ask why God gave Mary a boy child, not a little girl, but perhaps we shouldn’t go down that particular path today!
Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.
The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.
Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.
At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.
Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.
Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).
This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.
In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.
Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?
Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.
POSITIVITY Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.
“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)
We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”
Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.
Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be. You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”
Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.
When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.
Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.
However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.” “Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)
COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT
Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.
It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.
Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.
Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.
The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.
It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.