Monday, November 7, 2011


Over the last weekend I’ve been reminded of three truths of infinite importance. One, all humanity is by nature full of dignity. Two, our human dig­nity is displayed through the beauty of marriage. Three, children flourish into their full measure of dignity in a family’s love.

I’ve twice had the privilege to meet President Kagame. The second time was during the early days of Christ’s Church in Rwanda (CCR). I asked him what role he foresaw our church could play in Rwanda’s development. He responded to promote human dignity. His suggestion is one of the oldest and most enduring of all time. Our community may have many different interpretations of the Bible. Yet all honest minds must conclude it is a very old document that reflects humanity’s deepest longings. The first description of humanity declared, “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27, New Living Translation.)” Promoting human dignity is one of our oldest tasks.

At this past Saturday’s Umuganda we finished the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion’s (MI­GEPROF) Month of the Family. Our Imidugudu is a delightful community. Umuganda is one of my monthly highlights. I will miss friends who enjoy a morning of shared labor and refining discussion.
MIGEPROF’s theme for the month was “Building a family with dignity for sustainable development.” Campaigns have a tendency to speak about an idea and gather enthusiasm. Then when the campaign is over we move on with life. We look for the newest competing campaign to occupy our minds. Only the great ideas endure. This campaign is destined to be one of great­ness. It may only be a whisper in volume, but the substance is transformational.

Moses brings a new revelation of human dignity
Thousands of years ago as nomadic Hebrews wrote their first descriptions of man they chose to argue with the powerful king­doms of the day. Those kingdoms saw humanity as a resource to be exploited. Slavery abounded. Power was what mattered. Through the faith of nomads trapped in slavery a new vision of humanity stirred. Man would never be God, but man’s dignity reflected the nature of God. No one dare exploit a fellow man. As the powerful looked at the beauty of a woman or the strength of a man as another means of economic exploitation or selfish pleasure, the nomads stated this God given dignity and beauty could never be possessed by a fellow man. Freedom is the ex­pression of the belief in human dignity.

It is the reason those of us with gray hair find ourselves smil­ing as we notice the wonder of a young man infatuated by the beauty of a young woman. It is the reason we sacrifice for wed­dings and keep telling the young to wait to open their treasures when our community can give them our full blessing. We know the dignity and beauty of love is best expressed through life long covenants. The old Hebrew nomads would today not un­derstand our culture of our contemporary weddings. Cultures change. Yet, they would instinctively know the dignity of cov­enants.

There were several expected results from MIGEPROF’s such as good inter-household relationships, time for dialogue among family members, good relationships with neighbors, and de­nouncing gender-based violence.

Religion and philosophy have sought these results for all time. MIGEPROF made it a policy goal. Today’s best research concludes the same. Our community is stronger when couples are married. In the dignity of these covenants gentleness and forgiveness overcome violence. Communication is best when we decide we will be together for life. Children are healthiest when they are raised in a family. (For more reading check out­mitment-or-lack-thereof-the-trouble-with-shacking-up.html, or­ence-of-cohabitating.html.)

Some of us think this pursuit of dignity in the institution of a marriage is outdated. Surely, we can discover our soul mate through contempo­rary techniques without the trappings of faith, tradition, and culture. Stanley Hauerwas, an eth­icist at Duke, says, “We always marry the wrong person. The sooner young couples can under­stand that, the better off they’ll be. I hear young couples say, “You mean you don’t want us to be soul mates?” But nobody marries his or her soul mate. You become soul mates by living life together through those years. So often co-habiters are looking, in the first year, for what comes only after years—decades!—of life togeth­er. You are setting yourself up for dramatic disappointment if you think life works that way.”

Minister Inyumba in press conferences stated that building the family is the foundation of the nation. She saw failing fami­lies as the reasons children are on the street or in orphanages. She has taken unfair criticism for a decision to find ways to place children in institutions back to in the foundational institution of humanity – the family. MIGEPROF has pursued the path of dig­nity. Children do not thrive in the care of any institution other than a family. In a family we come back to the oldest truths of humanity. Love is our expression of dignity.

A pastor thousands of years ago wrote about the beauty of this love. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, New Living Translation).”

There are three truths of infinite importance. One, all human­ity is by nature full of dignity. Two, our human dignity is dis­played through the beauty of marriage. Three, children flourish into their full measure of dignity in a family’s love. Thank you many in our Rwandan community who spent a month remind­ing us of these old truths.

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