Sunday, February 15, 2015

Nigeria Today: Politics, Will, and Love

Nigeria is in the news almost every day now. Some of you have asked me what I think about what is going on. Here are my thoughts today.

On February 2, Punxustawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter for the U.S. and Canada. 

On February 7, for good or for bad, the Nigerian Electoral Commission assured the nation of six more weeks of pre-election debate and tension.

The purpose of this blog post is not to take sides in the election or to comment on whether the postponement of the election was good or bad. I really don't understand all the variables involved. 

What I do know is that this is a great country with many resources, and yet it struggles as a developing nation with extreme poverty, wide-spread corruption, and Islamic terrorism. 

What I do know is that people are dying, especially in the northeast. Women and children are being kidnapped. Boko Haram has captured a large amount of territory throughout the past six years. Thousands have been killed. Millions of people (really...millions) are displaced, eking out an existence in refugee camps in Cameroon or elsewhere. Family members are separated from one another.

What I do know is that we have students at WATS who are intricately connected to the northeast states and cities. One such student, Joshua Ada, started a school for children in the north. Two weeks ago, we received the news that he was killed after his car broke down in the middle of a northeastern town. Grief gripped our campus.

What I do know is that there are no easy answers to the huge challenges that the people of this nation face every day. I have written about these problems in this blog and in my quarterly newsletter. For the purpose of this post, I will distill them down to two main streams: corruption and greed which in turn exacerbates extreme poverty and jihadist terrorism which has led to unfettered brutality, oppression, and factionalism.

It is through brute power that Boko Haram does what it does and gets away with it day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. It is the power of greed that fuels corruption and perpetuates a crippling, halting effect upon a nation that could be great.

To try to understand this kind of power, our doctoral students (in the Doctor of Ministry program) read and discussed Nietzsche's The Will to Power. Nietzsche considered Christianity to be the enemy of humanity because (according to him) it created hindrances to a human being's right to pursue whatever he or she wanted (through envy, lust, greed, etc.). If Christianity were removed, then through the sheer will to power, people could have what they wanted and therefore, feel fulfilled. The main driving force in being human, according to Nietzsche, is to get what one wants, whether position, achievement, materialism, or pleasure. 

Viktor Frankl, though, believed that the main driving force in humanity is to find and make meaning in life. He calls this drive the "will to meaning."

Our students wrestled with questions about what drives Boko Haram? Was it the will to power, the will to meaning or something else?

Surely, the will to power is what drives forces for corruption and greed. 

What force can combat the will to power?

A book written by a social philosopher, bell hooks, was brought to bear on the sociological situation. Here is part of a description of the book from the New York Times:

Her best points are simple ones. Community -- extended family, creative or political collaboration, friendship -- is as important as the couple or the nuclear family; love is an art that involves work, not just the thrill of attraction; desire may depend on illusion, but love comes only through painful truth-telling; work and money have replaced the values of love and community, and this must be reversed.
How do we get there? 

As the students read Forgiveness and Power in an Age of Atrocity: Servant Leadership as a Way of Life by Shann Ray Ferch, we all began to gain new perspectives. This book provides us with a new "will" or a new human drive for fulfillment...the will to forgive, the will to serve, the will to lead in forgiveness and servant-hood.

Where do we get the will to forgive and the will to serve and lead in forgiveness and servant-hood? Where does that come from? It does not seem to come automatically, welling up inside of us all by itself, even after reading such compelling works as these books. 

I propose we receive the will to forgive from the Divine Forgiver. I propose we seek first to be forgiven and then seek the power to forgive as we have been forgiven. 

What is the connection to servant-hood? Once we are truly forgiven, we are satisfied to be a servant. We do not need position, power, or prestige. We are forgiven. We are loved for who we are, not for some status society gives to us. We are free to let go of ourselves and to embrace a selfless approach to forgiving, loving, and leading. It is here I hope we can begin to approach the monumental challenges that face us in Nigeria.

On the night before Jesus was betrayed, He knew his disciples would soon be facing the brutality of both the Romans and the Jews who were about to crucify Him. He knew greed had gripped one of the 12 and that some of his inner circle secretly wished to hold high positions in the Kingdom of God. He knew they would soon be scattered. What did He do? 

"...He got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin, and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him..." and he said..."I have set  you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master." John 13:4-5, 15-16

No matter who wins the election, it will be as we pray for God's power of love and forgiveness to come to this nation, working through none other than our very own lives, that we will be able to begin to approach the daunting challenges of Nigeria.