By Peter Pages
I am slightly perturbed, perhaps for no reason at all.
My current state has something to do with those of us who find it sufficient to merely criticize, who quickly take a stand against without much consideration, whose stern NOs are based on artificial gazes.
It is about a year ago that popular Kenyan secular artistes Sauti Sol, together with Aaron Rimbui, released the song ‘Kuliko Jana’ which was joyously received by many, yet rebuked by a number of diehard Christians, like me. Now, I am too willing to speak out my opinion of the song, whether it fits into what constitutes the Christian idea of good music or not. I am also too willing to listen in, even eavesdrop, on any conversation that might be attempting to shed light or merely discuss on the matters of Christian and non-Christian art. However, the point of my article is to tackle my friends’ most recurrent point against the use of ‘Kuliko Jana’ in the Christian religious sub-culture to which I belong. I will therefore, not say anything about the musicians or anything outside the music text, although I would lack nothing to say in that regard.
On September 8, 2016, Papa Reuben Kigame posted this statement on his Facebook wall:
“Those of you who have a problem with me raising concern about “From a Distance”, calling it a small problem and that we should judge the whole song for what it intended, tell me if it is true what Sauti Sol sings in telling listeners to their song that Jesus loves them today more than He did yesterday? “Ananipenda leo kuliko jana?” Is that true? Where did they get that from? Scripture? No.”
While I agree that God is perfect to the fullest sense of the word, and that there cannot be an increase or a decrease of any virtue that He possesses, allow me to also give my perspective on the common objection.
One of the views I hold onto as a Christian in the arts is that ‘an artist is a secretary’. I don’t mean to say that the artist is ONLY a secretary, yet I am saying that a big part or art is spent representing what the artist sees, feels or experiences in their life. Art is a record of imaginations, experiences and real life. My first observation, therefore, is that Sauti Sol are singing the song from a point of observation. The singer observes that ‘Christ loves him today more than yesterday.’ From the outset, the singer declares that the Lord is his saviour and redeemer. He also acknowledged that God loved him yesterday, and God still loves him today. Now let me bring in a few things here before I go on.
The sun is approximately 152 million kilometers from earth. While this figure slightly varies throughout a year because of the movements of the stars and planets, there remains a margin that we can safely estimate around. The implication of this is that the temperature that is transmitted from the sun to the earth all year is almost constant. But again, some areas are so cold while others are so hot. Some days are without sunshine while others have too much. If you met a stranger on the road who told you, “Today the sun is hotter than yesterday,” it would sound perfectly normal. What you have acknowledged is that there are a variety of other factors that have prevented this stranger from experiencing the full heat of the sun.
The same case can be seen in those of us who experience the love of God on one day, then feel so distant the next day. A variety of factors can cause this. We see this situation all over the books of wisdom (Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes) yet we do not complain of the ‘unscripturalness’ of their statements. When Job says that ‘God destroys both the blameless and the wicked’ (Job 9:22), a statement that, if entirely true would spell doom to the entire human race without exception even if part of it denotes God’s attribute of justice, we do not shrug him off as unscriptural (Because he speaks within scripture) yet we fail to recognize that, much like the psalmists and the preacher, he is simply stating his view. Many factors could have made job say these words, perhaps key among them the fact that he was righteous before God yet he still faced the persecution he did.
Moving on to this scripture in 1 John 4:9, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him,” there’s a strong implication that the cross was the greatest expression of God’s love. This means that one who has not experienced the cross is very much likely to say that God does not love them, and it’s the reason why we keep reminding people that God loves them. Because the day they will encounter the saving power of Christ, they will also say, ‘Now God loves me more that yesterday.’ And once they feel the love of God, they will want more of it everyday, just like Adam and Eve desired more knowledge than they already had back in the garden, feeling as if it is increasing as time goes. It is not God changing, but there’s absolutely no problem with a human being experiencing the change in circumstances and acknowledging that something has changed. Jeremiah remarked that God’s love never ceases and His mercies (Which are a component of His love) are new every morning (Lam 3:22-23). Now if something new of the same comes every morning, it is not completely out of this world to feel like it is increasing.
Secondly, the matter of hyperbole should not go unnoticed here. Hyperbole refers to exaggerated statements or claims that are not meant to be taken literally. It is possible ‘Kuliko Jana’ applies this. The singer could be feeling the love of God as much as they did yesterday, yet they are constantly discovering this love in new ways (God is the master of all creativity, so new things are not un-Him), feel it in stronger expressions and want it more daily. In this sense, they also have license to exaggerate their statements in artistic form. We must note them saying, “Baraka zake hazikwishi, si kama binadamu habadiliki,” which is already an acknowledgement that God is the same yesterday, today and forevermore (Heb 13:8). It works like a disclaimer to those who quip that the song implies an inconsistent God.
Teacher, musician, Christian apologist, social activist, broadcaster and entrepreneur Reuben Kigame has been one of the song’s critics.
The bible itself is full of hyperbole, especially in the books of the Kings and Judges of Israel and Judah, where it is said for instance, ‘the whole community was wiped out’ (1 Samuel 15:8), an exaggeration to show how vast the victory was. Jesus actually said that if your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. (Matt 5:29), and Mark says that ALL the people of Judea and Jerusalem were baptized by John (Mark 1:4-5). There are many other instances in the Holy scriptures in which hyperbole has been freely used, and Christians will approach those scriptures first with reverence and faith, then the questions will come later. Is it impossible to approach the music text of ‘Kuliko Jana’ with faith and acceptance before we move to the next level of engagement with it?
My point here is that it is not sufficient to merely say that the song is unscriptural, because then you will have to rule out, among other things, the possibility of the musician singing/writing from his perspective as many biblical writers did, or the possibility of hyperbole. Of course I am not endorsing this song as Christian or gospel, even though it is at least theoretically Christian, but I appreciate the communication of the constant discovery of the expression of God’s love daily. If I could write it all over again, my thoughts would go like this:
“I know that God loves me. He loved me Yesterday and the day before. He still loves me today. Yet, the way I see it, this love is bigger, stronger, closer, more intimate and more extravagant than it was yesterday. Yes He loves me the same way, but this is more than it was yesterday. Dear Lord, I want more of this.”
Doesn’t change the attributes of God, but it is perfectly human to acknowledge it.
Let me know what you think, below.