(an Apology to my readers)
Necessity compels me to write this, not in defence of God, as might be expected, but to clarify matters which have arisen inevitably, albeit foreseeably, from the posts that I have put up on blogs and social media. Although for the avoidance of doubt it should be understood that this writing is aimed at clarifying those posts about God and sundry matters philosophical and religious, it should not be understood that I have embarked even marginally on an exegesis of spirito-religious matters. This writing, then, is aimed principally at clearing some misunderstandings that I have perceived that some people have about my posts with regard to what I believe about God.
Not of course that what I believe in is of any moment to any soul, nor that I am obliged even morally to explain my beliefs or lack of it. However, I have perceived that most readers find it difficult to separate my writings, or certain aspects of it, from my person. The blame is largely mine, for in choosing to use the first person (stream of consciousness method) in issues of personal and emotional importance, I have often created a fusion difficult to separate if at all separable. The inevitable interpretation in the mind of a rational reader is that such expressions are mine, and the result is that such a reader may not understand why instead of taking responsibility for such writings, I only offer feeble disclaimers after the harm has been done. It is out of respect to such well-meaning reader who misunderstands me through a fault entirely mine that I make this apology.
I will take a moment to explain an aspect of the literary world that readers rarely avert their minds to, but which writers are constantly battling with, and I ask beforehand that you pardon my pedagogic approach as I do not know how else to do it. Characters are the creations of a literary artist, and even the ‘real’, non-fictional characters have had their own mouldings in the hand of the artist. Characters are the mouthpiece through which the writer passes his message or expresses his actions and through which he demonstrates his perception of the society. Proceeding for the most part from within him, the characters should naturally be the writer, but they are not. The characters of even the most incautious writer who sets himself up as a mirror of his creations are not him: they are either the abstraction of his good part, his bad part or just his desires; but most of the time, the characters have nothing to do with him. Otherwise, is one to imagine that those writers who create as divergent personalities as there are characters even in a single book are a concatenation of those characters? On the other hand, can one imagine a writer whose writings are peopled by characters who are a mirror of himself? It does not matter how interesting his person is, his readers would inevitably confine his works to where they belong: in dustbin.
What the writer does in practice is to use his imagination in creating his characters. He is free, but the limits of his freedom are circumscribed by the society in which he lives, or rather, of which he writes. He must hold up his creations to the mirror of nature; anything done otherwise is banished to the genre of fantasy where the readers venture principally to escape from the realities of life. In holding up his characters to the mirror of nature, the writer is bound to reflect differing characters in his creation. These differing characters may be so divergent as to represent an impossibility in any mind that such could be a reflection of any one person. Take for example Milton’s ingenious creation of God and Satan, angels and demons, heaven and hell. His depictions of the characters and events and places, apart from being as widely contrasting and yet pungent as one can imagine, are themselves creations which, even taken singly, a man with the fullest of vision would fail to achieve, much less a man labouring in blindness. No one ever imagined that Milton had to be God to create a God, or the Devil to create a devil, neither is any one less convinced of his depiction of heaven or hell because he knows that Milton was never in either place. No one has ever seriously questioned how Homer as the quite observer of the happenings in the Trojan plains, managed, when the need arose, to transport himself to heaven in order to observe that he might tell, the melodrama of the gods. In their imagination, writers are gods, omniscience their licence – they know what they need to know, they are where they need to be, for the sake of their creation. That is the liberty available to a writer, the liberty from which he derives the immunity from the actions and expressions of his creations.
That is the liberty I ask of you, O reader; and do not imagine that it is any less important to an upstart writer than to an accomplished one. Acknowledge that I have this liberty and you will find it less tasking to understand that I who have never experienced the nearness of death could write about a man dying in his bed and regretting the path he had taken in this life. You will understand, without feeling betrayed, how you can read a passionate article from me about atheism and see me the next day on your doorstep preaching God’s Kingdom. I am not a bundle of conflicts as would appear from such writings, because I am simply not the characters I have created. There is for you, reader, a wide ambit to accept or reject a character and criticise as much as you can conjure up adjectives. There is, alas, no such liberty for me, for I must make my bad character as bad as can be, my bizarre character as bizarre as can be, my good character as saintly as can be; I must attempt to give what I do not have and yet not appear to be at a dearth. It does not follow that, removed from the world of writing, I do not detest these detestable characters as you do, or strive after the good ones equally because they have characters which I do not have, even though I have been instrumental in their creation. For the most intensely constructed character is the sum total of what the creator cannot be: his intense desire or dislike.
I assure you that the writer’s life is an exception to Christ’s proverb that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. I concede the reverse exception: that the character, no matter how far removed from himself the writer creates him to be, will invariably reflect something of the writer. Yet, even where that that is the case, I ask that the creation, not the creator, should bear whatever sentiments you harbour for the character. Pass whatever judgment you wish of the character as he is, or even unjustly if an opinion is capable of being unjust: a writer cannot ask of more. As glorious as Les Miserables turned out as a piece of literary work, if Hugo were to take to heart the criticisms he received of his characterisation, he would have had the book withdrawn from circulation and probably would never have set pen to paper thereafter. But criticism turned out to be good for both him – in his subsequent creations – and his critic-audience who were edified by his improvements. Well, even if I am not improved by your criticism of my creation, I shall still respect your opinion; I have no choice even, for I am duty-bound to accept it as your right, just as it is my right to create without bounds. I have only tried to point out what I think has been responsible for some reader’s misunderstanding.
I may have grossly exaggerated matters! I therefore elect to bear the blame if, instead of your misunderstanding me, I have turned out to be the one misunderstanding you. I ask for your generous pardon in advance. But I will not be just to you or myself if I do not tell you why I have been led into the belief that some of my posts have been misunderstood, namely…
An aggregation of questions sometimes asked and sometimes implied in my posts that have something to do with God. Taken separately, they are nothing serious, but to overlook its aggregate is an injustice. In response to the post, ‘As I Lay Dying’ which in retrospect I concur is strongly worded for any seriously religious mind, a reader who is familiar with me tried to exonerate me by saying that it could not have been my sincere belief. Not so many people have such penetrative minds, or are not quick to judge as to pronounce a man innocent in his absence. Regarding that same post, a friend who knows my religious orientation asked, ‘Does it not contradict your religious beliefs?’ Of course that was just a cautious way of reminding me that my posts are not in consonance with my beliefs. Others have been far more express in their vociferations. What has really broken the camel’s back is my recent post, ‘The Pains of Atheism’. One would think that I would escape harsh criticism by the way I couched the title, but alas, not one reader was deceived! A reader made an emphatic declaration: ‘[God] does exist dear Omenga!’ – as though I was personally determined to prove that He does not exist. The tone of his comment was unmistakably that of disappointment, and on reading that, the Devil himself could have pointed fingers at me and said to God, ‘There goes the man determined to prove that you don’t exist. At least I believe that much.’ Another friend pointed out, quite rightly, that the post was more a vindication of atheism than of theism. Another friend: ‘the lengthy and complicated form of your post keeps many at advantage (whose conviction would have been shaken) as many skip reading…’ Perhaps the most hurtful was a rather jocular interjection of another reader: ‘The atheists have found a friend in Joshua Omenga’. As if in justification, a blog follower commented on the post: ‘I say there is no god, but I am no fool…’ obviously implying that he has found a kindred spirit.
The question is not whether these people are wrong or right; but to me, it is sobering that they should be united in the opinion that I have promoting the things I wrote about. I have, there is no doubt, led them to this belief; perhaps I could have believed the same of another writer whom I have no intimate knowledge of. It is for this reason that I have taken time to write this in clarification of issues; and I can only hope that the reader does not stop somewhere because of the length of this article. That said, let me quickly point out the crux of this matter, namely, God and my beliefs. I need not emphasise again that it is not about God’s existence or His character that I intend to defend, only to establish my belief in Him. If I would attract censure through this, let it be based not on the ground of my belief in God, the rightness or wrongness of such belief, the truism or otherwise of the proof of God etc, but on whether I belief in Him as I claim or not. Having agreed on that, I here present a summary of my credo about God.
1. I believe in the God whose name is Jehovah and hold that he is the creator of all living things.
2. I believe in the existence of other gods but do not bother about their attributes or number or significance.
3. I believe that Jehovah is the Almighty God and that His majesty transcends that of any other being who may be called a god.
4. I believe that Jehovah inspired the Bible for the purpose of guiding mankind.
5. I believe that man is capable of understanding the Bible on his own, so long as he is humbly determined to seek God through it; and although a man may benefit much from another’s explanation, he need not depend on others to understand the Bible.
6. I believe in the perfection of the Bible even though there are passages of it that I do not understand or can reconcile with the remnant gamut.
7. I believe that man’s misunderstanding of God springs not from the Bible’s depiction of God but in man’s interpretation of the Bible.
The above forms my credo about God and the Bible. I believe in them all; but they are not all my beliefs. By them let me be judged.