The secret of Ethiopia’s greatness (day 2 – Dean in Ethiopia)

“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there . . . in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there . . . in her rich mines – and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius.”

Alex de Tocqueville

This famous quote about America in 1835 could be written about Ethiopia in 2018. 

For the next several days, we will be visiting those churches. 

French scholar Alex de Tocqueville’s words about America pinpoints pulpits, and while many Ethiopian leaders speak out for righteousness, it is the 2000 year traditional practices of the church that so inflames the populace of Ethiopia with righteousness.

Their churches are everywhere and they are large, and they are filled with enthusiastic young people. In a day when the West has lost it’s way, not knowing what a man is, what a woman is, what marriage should look like, that a young child in the womb should be protected, that families and nations should grow as people fruitfully multiply, or that God the Father should be honored while evil and demons and witchcraft be condemned—Ethiopia shines as a light in it’s historic vibrant church and in the laws of its land which reflect those moral beliefs.

Night parade of the tabot (replica of the Ark of the Covenant) around the city; Axum, Tigray region, Ethiopia

One might admire Ethiopia for her vast wild lands, exotic animals, her rich resources. One may be particularly enamored by her unmatched religious tradition—both Jewish and Christian—on the continent of Africa. One may love the rich narratives about Eden in Ethiopia or Noah, Sheba and Solomon, and the Ark of the Covenant housed in its ancient religious city of Axum. Many adore the country’s ancient monarchy, only recently ended. Today Ethiopia is the permanent headquarters of the African Union, this continent’s base for the United Nations, and this too is admirable.

But one will not understand the greatness of Ethiopia until he and she visits her churches. This culture is deep and powerful. The word itself derives from “cult,” a people’s religious rituals, traditions, and beliefs. And while the West’s cult has slowly drifted toward things masonic and pagan and even occult, Ethiopia’s cult remains strongly Christian, vibrantly so, with prayers and fasting and festivals and dancing, art and music. Every aspect of the heart, mind, soul, and spirit is employed in the worship and love of Jesus Christ. That is the secret to her “greatness and genius,” as de Tocqueville might have said about Ethiopia were he alive today. 

In 1835, America was a few decades away from her emergence as a leader of the nations. So, too, Ethiopia is poised to shine a light for the rest of us in the near future. 

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