“Getting ready for the next one!” a Kenyan friend of mine told me this weekend. He sells billboard space.
The weekend’s successful end threw into stark contrast the saner religious leaders in Africa and their woealmostbegone American counterparts. Most modern religious Africans – and there are many, Muslim and Christian and may other denominations – despise hocus pocus. Americans thrive on it.
It’s such a switch from the stereotype of not too long ago where yes the American tourist was anxious to see lions but really wanted pictures of a “village” because all the primitiveness and … well, hocus pocus, of Africa was so thrilling.
Maybe one day it was, but ain’t no more.
Now in all fairness, if you really head into the boondocks, somewhere akin to Backwater, Appalachia, you might certainly find some old woman who knows exactly what part of her dead frog will relieve you of an undesired suitor.
But modern, mostly young African churchgoers have no time for American hocus pocus, (even though with pleasure they take their money).
Harold Camping, the now famous Prophet of Doom, founded and headed Family Radio, an impressive network of 68 radio stations with hundreds of thousands of duped American followers. But what is less known is the many radio stations and other services he funded in Africa.
According to London’s Guardian newspaper Camping spent more than $100 million worldwide of his followers’ money on radio stations, billboards and posters, financed by the sale and swap of radio stations in the U.S.
I snapped a photo of a billboard in Nairobi and an even bigger one in Dar, placed at the most expensive place in all of Dar, the matutu and bus terminal.
Kenyan religious leaders and radio station owners, funded by Camping, distanced themselves from the doomsday prediction long ago. They placed displays ads in newspapers around Kenya starting a year ago when the billboards first appeared. The most common one read:
“We wish to inform our viewers, listeners, partners and well wishers that we are not in any way or form affiliated to the US evangelical Christian broadcaster Harold Camping or family radio.com.”
(Of course that isn’t true. They got their money from Camping. But then obtuseness is a religious art.)
Kenyan religious leaders then went on to say certainly there would be a Judgment Day, but don’t alter your schedule for the first week of June.
There is, of course, a serious side to this so far jocular story. While most Africans like most Americans recognized the ruse for what it was, some didn’t. And those like Camping who were to be the saved ended up the lost. But to be lost in Kenya or other parts of the impoverished world desperate for hope is a much worse situation than Harold Camping likely finds himself in this morning.
And that leads to another less jocular aspect of this story. WHY do Americans surrounded by the best tools in the world to discover truth believe in such incredible nonsense? Why is an American so incredibly gullible?
It’s Monday. A week before vacation stretches before us. We’ll leave that to another day.