CAMEROON - 2005
'It's a remarkable grace to be able to preach, having passed through that traffic congestion...'
At right, the driver maneuvers with seven passengers; pedestrians, vehicles of every size and sort, going in all directions, slalom around the potholes.
The two million citizens in Cameroon’s most populous city, Douala, navigated such treks across moon-scape surfaces of gouges and ruts, forbidding any smooth travel in lieu of horrific traffic congestion and paralyzed chaotic intersections. Katz’s astonishing suggestion in his first speaking appearance boggled the minds of visiting out-of-town pastors and leaders, many who had expected lectures on modern preaching methods, catchy theological technique and attaining ministerial success. He began expounding “a message for Africa” with a quotation from Solomon’s proverbs:
“‘Righteousness exalts a nation’ …There are daily occasions for righteousness or the neglect of it. Even in the small things, and in the every-day things. The issue of righteousness should ever be before us as the church. Because the church is intended as already the leaven of a kingdom to come, a certain presence within society of a moral kind…
“If we will not exert a moral influence in our African society, from where shall it come?
“What is moral is to insist upon the dignity of what is made in God’s image, and not to go along with conditions that degrade men and rob them of their essential humanity. This is the devil’s business – to deform and to assault what is in the image of God. The devil hates God and hates God’s image in men. And we, the church, have an obligation to stand for what God has created in his image.
“So, just in the trip coming here tonight...”
Katz’s French-speaking interpreter stopped suddenly, not expecting what came next.
“…We had to pass through your typical traffic. Of course, you have lived with it for so long that, for you, it’s normal. I want to tell you that I’m not speaking from the perspective of a white man from America. I’m speaking from the perspective of a prophetic man from heaven!
“Your traffic conditions are immoral! They’re degrading! To fight for position, one car edging the other, belching smoke, bumper to bumper. So much time to pass through an intersection for the want of a simple traffic light! And due respect for order that the traffic light represents so that men can move in order, await their time without competing and striving – because otherwise it’s contrary to God’s image in man.
“You may think I’m picking on some absurd issue, and you can find examples much worse than what I’m describing. But such conditions should not be tolerated. They need to be opposed by the church that stands for God, stands for righteousness, stands for what is moral, and for man in God’s image!
“It’s a remarkable grace to be able to preach, having passed through that traffic congestion and just sitting in the back seat. If I had to drive it, I would have become immobilized.
“How does one become spiritual and able to speak the word of the Lord after you have been fighting your way through conditions like that?
“And those conditions can be remedied. Those conditions can be altered – when the church makes it an issue! And expresses its concern, as it ought, to establish a traffic light that obliges men to observe the structures of ‘law and order’ for their benefit.
“Don’t you understand there’s a struggle between darkness and light that’s taking place in the earth, and the powers of darkness, the principalities and powers of the air, want to prevail in the world? And they are unchallenged, and they run the show? And they stand for chaos and destruction. God stands for light and righteousness. And sends his ‘kingdom come in earth as it is in heaven.’
“Order is intrinsic to the nature of God, and we need to respect it, to desire it, to see that it functions, and that men do not circumvent it because they have money, or influence or can bribe their way. All men should stand equal before the law. It is a fundamental, foundational necessity for the integrity appropriate to human life.
“So, somebody needs to go to the legislature, who are indifferent to this condition because they don’t have to face it daily. They are living in very elect suburbs with beautiful palatial residences and chauffer-driven cars. They don’t have to fight these conditions. They’re living in a place of unreality, and they’re not at all affected by what is degrading men in this city every day.
“So, would it be improper for a committee from the church, a committee of concerned Christians, representing a network of churches to have collected tens of thousands of signatures, and to go to the legislature and present them as a moral requirement to establish a traffic light at critical intersections – because it’s righteous?
“Well, I know that you are not accustomed to thinking or acting like this because it’s not ‘spiritual’. And, we’re not concerned with the world, and only with spiritual things.
“You’re doing God disservice not to recognize that this is a spiritual issue because there’s a moral question here that affects the whole character of life in Africa and degrades men rather than exalts them in God’s image.
“If you’re going to have moral concern, you’re going to be required to have political expression. And what begins with a traffic light – needs not end there! This is more than just an improvement. This is the issue of structure and of order that dignifies human life and gives men a better sense of themselves, and the respect and esteem for their own humanity that pleases God.
“The powers of the air will be terrified if the church begins to think like this and acts like this. Because when you begin to install order, the powers of darkness and chaos are set aside. You’re making a statement of a kingdom kind, of a godly kind that breaks their influence, and if you keep it up, they’ll be required to release their captives. So, they prefer that you remain passive and live in these conditions. After all, they have gone on for so long, and we’ve gotten used to it and learned to live with it. That’s not a reason to continue with it – because righteousness exalts a nation!
“God will be blessed by the traffic lights, by the sense of the order. Something will come into the atmosphere of a city that has taken the pains and the expense to establish these elementary conditions appropriate to human beings made in God’s image.”
The message to the nation of Cameroon, at least from Katz in the spring of 2005, was about morality, righteousness, and petitioning government for relief from human degradation – by first installing traffic lights!
The message was unique – and uniquely Katzian.*
'Return' to Ben Israel
(Parable of a Legacy)
Copyright 2010 (unpublished)