Shortly after September 11th, 2001, I was visiting Ghana in West Africa.
I remember being stuck in a traffic jam with a fellow minister, observing all that was going on around us. The streets in African countries are always full of people. At the side of the road, there are stalls selling everything you can imagine.
At one stall on this particular visit was a rather large painting of Osama bin Laden. It must have been 4 feet tall. I turned to my friend and asked him why it was for sale.
Ghana’s Muslim population is about 14% of its total. Most Muslims live in the north and we were on the south coast.
He explained to me that people feel America is trying to take over the world and that Osama bin Laden will stop them. I was rather taken aback by this remark.
I was shocked on future visits to see many pictures of OBL in Christian homes.
He had clearly made a positive impression on many people. I also remember seeing a popular calendar on peoples’ walls showing people jumping out of the twin towers. Why would anybody want to be reminded? They were, in fact, celebrating a humiliating defeat for the most powerful country in the world.
My friend’s explanation interested me. Why do people think America is trying to take over the world?
The answer lies in America’s cultural pervasiveness, from the style of clothes to the type of movies and television programs we produce, the music, the attitudes and the language.
I also remember an incident on another visit. We had stopped for refreshments halfway from Kumasi to Accra, a five-hour journey. A vehicle pulled up next to us. A number of people got out. They all seemed to be Ghanaians. Then we heard the most awful language. Every sentence included at least one four-letter word. A Ghanaian minister leaned over and said they had all been in America. Ghanaians frown on the use of the “F” word – any Ghanaian using it is likely to have spent some time in America. That’s the perception, at least, and perception is reality.
In another memorable incident, I was asked why Americans allow their children to talk back to them. I asked the individual what made him think this was the case. He replied that he had seen it many times on American TV shows.
American television shows are shown all over the world. I should elaborate and say that the worst American TV shows are shown everywhere. Jerry Springer fills the airwaves. Violence (“Action!”) is preferred over sex. And we certainly have a lot of violent shows for export. Is there any wonder that we are seen as a violent country? America’s wars seem like an extension of that violence.
Thinking about the events of the last ten days, the terrorist attacks in Paris and subsequent events, we need to ask ourselves: How much have we in the West contributed to the present situation? Nothing could possibly condone acts of terrorism but we may be inadvertently contributing to it.
Second generation Muslim immigrants are, in far too many cases, turning to extremism. Could this be their way of dealing with the daily contradiction that is their lives – trying to reconcile a strict religious upbringing with the degeneration they see around them?
President Erdogan of Turkey warned today of a “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West. Many Muslims already see themselves as being in a war against “Christianity,” not realizing how unchristian the West has become.
Islam has very different values to those of the secular West. Muslims are deeply offended by the content of entertainment emanating from the West. Yes, they could turn their television sets off, just as they can refuse to buy copies of Charlie Hebdo with a cartoon of Mohammed on the cover.
But we could also stop producing trash! Sadly, in the world of entertainment, there’s little money to be made by adhering to the words of the Apostle Paul. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Phil 4:8)
There was a time when America was highly respected around the world. At that time, the country was more Christian with a population living more in accordance with the scriptures, though not perfect by any means. Today, the US flaunts its immorality, especially in its entertainment.
The US and, indeed, the whole western world, would be wise to remember the words found in Proverbs 14:34: “Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people.”