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An Atheist and God in Africa

Originally posted at Smorgasblurb.

Matthew Parris, an award-winning columnist with a prominent British newspaper, wrote this in a recent column:

Travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: One I’ve been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I’ve been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God. Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good. (emphasis mine)

What a powerful proposition Parris suggests. I agree with him strongly, as does my organization, HOPE International. We believe his comments are the reason Christ-centered organizations are so important in Africa.

Still, it is confounding to read this from an atheist. Essentially, what Parris says compares to Mitt Romney making a comment like this in a primary debate: “You know, I believe I’m a great candidate, but I just think Rick Perry is better prepared and will be more effective than me at bringing about the type of change we need in America.” It’s laughable to think about. Yet this is what Parris says. Despite that he whole-heartedly believes there is no God, he supports and believes in the work of Christian organizations in Africa because of the transformation which only God can bring.

We have seen this clearly demonstrated around the globe. The transformative message of Christ coupled with an effective and empowering method of helping is a dynamic combination. As a decidedly Christian organization, we are actually able to add tremendous value to the lives of our clients because of our Christian-ness. And Parris, an atheist, seems to agree. In other words, HOPE is not just a Christianized knock-off version of bigger secular organizations. HOPE’s faith-based approach is much more than that—it’s ultimately the singularly most important characteristic of our work.