§251 My Kumbaya warning lamp, and why it doesn’t go off on “UBUNTU”

October 18, 2008

Whenever I hear words like “Zen”, or “Karma” or “Good energy” or “Dalai Lama”, or “reincarnation” or “yoga” my “Kumbaya warning lamp” start blinking in my head. I start to think “ooookey, here’s another crazy hippie”.

Why is that? Because they’re all connected to religions that I believe are false? Then why doesn’t it go off regarding Ubuntu? Why do I embrace Ubuntu but reject zen and karma? Is there anything that connects all above but are not connected to Ubuntu?

Well, the first striking thing is that they are all eastern religions. But this isn’t enough. Is there a significant difference between the eastern religions and the african? Aren’t they all about humanity?

I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m sick and tired of the Eastern religion’s influence on the Western world. They’ve tried to start with yoga in my son’s kindergarten, and I’m one of the parents who have been able to stop it. To me it’s idol worshipping, and I don’t want my son there.

Maybe it’s because of that quote I heard from Shirley MacLaine about the holocaust “That wasn’t so bad. Only their bodies died. And in any case, the jews had very bad national Karma” (Quote taken from swedish website http://gluefox.com/orel/nage.shtm and his reference is an article about New Age in “Svenska Journalen” nr 8, 1991).

Maybe it’s because the entire Eastern thinking about reincarnation and karma (in hinduism) and nirvana (in buddhism) is too much… erasing the individualism. Too much denying yourself. The hindu idea of the atma that needs to be unified with the brahma and the buddhist idea of the extinction of the individualism in nirvana. Yes, it’s humanity, and we are all one. But it’s erasing the individual. Me not like. Maybe I’m too simplific, and I’m sure there are many who would argue with me over this point. But anyway…

Maybe I haven’t studied the eastern philosophies enough. Maybe I should? No. I don’t want to. I feel a shiver whenever I hear one of those words. I’m not sure I could take it. Is it because of years and years of convincing myself that this is bad because it’s a foreign religion? Probably. So what?

I think the main reason is the vagueness. It’s all too blurry, the eastern philosophies. Yes, I can be spiritual. But I can’t believe that two contradicting ideas are both true to different persons. I can’t believe that God is an energy that goes through everything and all. I can’t believe that the world is an illusion and we are actually all one. I can’t believe that there’s no such thing as good and bad, or right and wrong. I can’t believe that ideas like “moral” and “sin” is man made.

I believe in a God who Is. He is an individual. He has created a world for us. He expect things from us. He watches every move we make. He is by definition good. He has tied himself to promises voluntarily out of love to us, despite his omnipotence and omniscience. There is such a thing as sin and righteousness. There is such a thing as moral. There is such a thing as right or wrong. My God is righteous and just and cannot compromise with sin (God cannot – now there’s a thought). He is loving and forgiving and does forgive sin – without compromising with it. By sending us his son to die on the cross so we could have eternal life. He is above us. We can never understand him fully. We might never understand why he needed to punish the incarnation of himself so that he could forgive us for following the instincts he gave us instead of the moral compass he gave us. We might never understand why he allows the suffering of the righteous. We might never understand why he created mosquitoes. But he is real. He has touched me. He is not an undefinable blur. Yes there are many strange and mystical things in the spiritual realm. But should we seek that? Really? Shouldn’t we focus on here and now, and what God expects from us now?

“The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
(Deut. 29:29) KJV

Does God change his mind or doesn’t he change his mind? One of the biblical authors was deliberately condradictional about that to show us that we cannot understand Him
” Then came the word of the LORD unto Samuel, saying,
‘It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king’ ”
(1Sam15:10-11) KJV
“And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent”
(verse 29, same chapter) KJV

Ubuntu is not about any of this. Ubuntu is about humanity. The concept is in the Bible, it’s in almost every religion, including the eastern ones. Why? Because we are all created by the same God, and this is something that he has put in everyone’s mind.

“Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them”
(Romans 2:14-15)

The original ubuntu philosophy of Africa do have a few flaws of course. According to Wikipedia LOuw (1998) says that “the person one is to become by behaving with humanity is an ancestor worthy of respect or veneration. Those who uphold the principle of ubuntu throughout their lives will, in death, achieve a unity with those still living”. This is of course ancestor worshipping, which I of course am against. I also read that it can also lead to destruction of individualism if taken too far. Wiki quotes someone who says that “it is taboo to call elderly people by their given names; instead they are called by their surnames. This has the effect of banishing individualism and replacing it with a representative role, in which the individual effectively stands for the people among whom he comes from at all times”.

However, the concept of Ubuntu is the unviersal divine one. Or, at least I believe it to be divine. If taken to the political level one might see it as socialism. It’s not completely true. Socialism is to believe that the government should forcefully impose Ubuntu on society by taking from the rich and give to the poor. A capitalistic believer in ubuntu would rather say that it is the individual’s responsibility to live in accordance with Ubuntu, which would involve caring for others, giving to the needy, etc.

I will not quote the thousands of verses there are in the Bible that embrace the concept of Ubuntu. I will quote Jeremiah 22. The judgement of God upon the non-ubuntu kings of Judah.

“This is what the LORD says: “Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and proclaim this message there: ‘Hear the word of the LORD to you, king of Judah, you who sit on David’s throne—you, your officials and your people who come through these gates. This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hands of their oppressors those who have been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. For if you are careful to carry out these commands, then kings who sit on David’s throne will come through the gates of this palace, riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by their officials and their people. But if you do not obey these commands, declares the LORD, I swear by myself that this palace will become a ruin”
(verses 1-5)

Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness,
       his upper rooms by injustice,
       making his subjects work for nothing,
       not paying them for their labor.

    He says, ‘I will build myself a great palace
       with spacious upper rooms.’
       So he makes large windows in it,
       panels it with cedar
       and decorates it in red.

    “Does it make you a king
       to have more and more cedar?
       Did not your father have food and drink?
       He did what was right and just,
       so all went well with him.

    He defended the cause of the poor and needy,
       and so all went well.
       Is that not what it means to know me?”
       declares the LORD.

    “But your eyes and your heart
       are set only on dishonest gain,
       on shedding innocent blood
       and on oppression and extortion.”
(verses 13-17)



  1. Dude, beautiful post.

    But let me correct you on a couple of things here ok? Yoga has zero and I do mean zero to do with idol worship. tsk tsk. All it is, is gentle exercise which opens up breathing pathways, and pressure points in the body to create calm and peace.

    Why teach it to a kindergarden? Well, because it helps them learn to focus better, and to channel their excess energy. There is no idol in any yoga class I have ever been to. Its like Tha Chi – Slow movement with meditation for the mind body and soul. Sheesh. If you would like me to show you how these things can be applied to ADHD – I would be more than happy and also to show you test scores of children who learned basic meditation/yoga vs kids who don’t. It helps relieve test anxiety and all kinds of things.

    Ubuntu is about humanity. I like how you described the capitalist Ubuntu – thats sort of how I see it working. But hey, thats me. Wants the best of all worlds.

    You once said to me that many biblical scholars spend their lives meditating and praying over the contents of that single book. Do they worship the book? No. Don’t get things confused. The idea is that Ubuntu be passed down from generation to generation. Not worshipping elderly relatives. Its the translation that is …well… dodgy. Kinda like passed father to son type of deal.

    Its of the heart and soul. Its that connection to all of our brothers and sisters on this planet… because we cannot be without them in it too.

  2. P.S. That picture is hilarious!!!!

  3. Regarding Ubuntu and ancestor worship, I accept what you say. I don’t really know that much about it, that was just what wikipedia said. In any case, since Ubuntu is something divine that we all have, it would surprise me if the Africans did NOT make it part of their religion. As a follower of another belief I must therefore isolate the Ubuntu principle as the divine concept itself, without the local religious context.

    Regarding yoga, it stems from eastern philosophies/religions, and it’s spiritual. I don’t believe that we can let the Holy Spirit share room with other spirits within us. Our God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5). The philosophy that lies behind the yoga is colliding with our beliefs on spirituality.

    When I was in the IDF, they once did a yoga class to the department where I worked (yes, I did office work in the army, just like now) and we were all required to participate. I thought I’d just sit in the corner. But the spiritual feeling from the yoga and the vibes I got made it impossible for me to be nonchalant. I ended up sitting there praying in tounges. I felt like there was a huge spiritual “field” in the air that was colliding with my own, and only my prayers held it back. My wife has had similar experiences, so it’s not just me.

    The spirit of these things is definitelly colliding with the spirit within us. No question about it. That’s why we don’t want our kids involved.

  4. I love the picture.. and the post!! Hey – you are getting better both on writing more interesting posts – and putting illustrations!!

  5. This is an awesome post Dude, I will follow on with what Amber said. The main difference between Ubuntu and everything else is the fact that it is NOT a religion. That is the true beauty of it, people can link it to any which religion as you say but ultimately it is more a philosophy of being, of living. Sure you can say that that is what religion is but Ubuntu just is. I am because you are. I can not live without each single person for the fact that we each have our part to play right from the garbage collector through to the CEO of a company. Simple over all respect for each person and each thing.

    Ancestors – for westerners I suppose that para can be read as “idol worship” or taking the individualistic character away. In Africa, and from my understanding of the culture which would lead to the writing of that paragraph is that it goes back to the core “I am because you are”. We must not forget our forefathers/ancestors for what they did for we would be nothing without them.

    In African tradition it is the family name that is respected. It all goes back to respect. Here it is seen as disrespectful to call an elder by their first name even while living. So in that sense it is showing respect to those who have gone before us for we are nothing without them.

    I am because they were, I am because you are.

    Ultimately Ubuntu is not a religion nor is it a cult but rather something that a person embodies in the way that they are no matter who, what or where they come from.

    Great post hun, beautiful not great, incredible!

  6. That was a slightly scattered response sorry – brain is on hyper-drive this week!

  7. It’s okay, hon. Whatever you say about african traditions I’ll believe you. Because I know squat. But I can definitelly recognize the same mentality in the Bible. The way we were all divided into tribes and families and subfamilies etc. Just read the first few chapters in 1st Chronicles… And of course there’s reverence of ancestors. Where would we be today hadn’t it been for Abraham, Isac and Jacob?
    Following the scattering all over the world, the progroms and all that, there was really no posibility to continue to keep track… and today we have more of a european sentiment. Today we move around so much it’s no longer possible nor practical to keep track.
    I guess the ideal is a mix. Reverring and accepting your ancestors and embrace the family you belong to, but still not give up the individualism. Western culture has embraced individualism so much it has been done on the expense of the collective.
    This answer had less to do with Ubuntu than I thought… 😉

  8. Yoga = väldigt effektiv avslappning som höjer koncentrationsförmåga genom fokusering på andning mm. Du blir lika mycket drabbad av onda andar av själva metoden som du blir neger av att praktisera ubuntu.

  9. Fast om du med onda andar menar rädsla och osäkerhet kring det okända har du väl rätt.
    Det som gör yoga så speciellt är att det är så flexibelt, det finns lika många olika slags tekniker som det finns typ människor. Med andra ord, det är en väldigt subjektiv aktivitet som gör att man når andligheten inom sig (beroende på hur man definierar det kan ditt sätt att be eller tala i tungor kallas för en slags yoga). SÄRSKILT när det har tagits till väst har det frigjorts ifrån specifika religiösa inriktningar — so what om det sitter några gubbar i Indien och mediterar för att tillbe Krishna eller whatever, DU kan använda det för att nå den helige ande och det är precis vad jag tror skulle hända om du skulle ge det ett genuint försök.
    För att dra en annan parallell — ifall du händelsevis skulle befinna dig i en moské och det var bönestund, skulle muslimernas böner runt omkring dig göra att Gud inte hör dina böner lika tydligt? Skulle du komma i kontakt med fel Gud bara för att du satt och bad på en muslimsk bönematta? För det är precis vad meditation är, en religionsneutral bönematta, det är vad du gör med den som spelar roll. Och jag tycker väl det är lite synd att du ska beröva dina barn ett andligt verktyg som jag och så många andra har funnit hälsosamt och effektivt.
    Jaja, simma lugnt

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