In Ghana, the choir kids are adrenaline junkies.

Your friend’s roommate practices for months for this choir concert. He leaves the dorm at around 8:00 every night and comes back home in the early morning- sometimes at 2:00, sometimes at 6:00. It’s not a drug habit, it’s a singing addiction, sponsored by the Methodist-Presbyterian Union here at the university.

The concert is Sunday at 4pm, at the National Theater! Buses leave from campus at 2:15. No, 3:15. No, 2:30. You arrive early. There’s time to wander around the outside of the theatre, buy Fanice, and try to tan the sickly pale underside of your arms. The doors open at 4:00.

You and your friends rush inside. The theater itself feels cramped and crowded, but maybe the streamers and flashing Christmas lights make it seem smaller than it really is. Slowly, the seats fill up. Everyone is your age! College students laughing, shouting, texting.

The lights go out! It’s time!

An MC walks onstage and chats about the program. He’s trying too hard, you think, and it seems like the rest of the audience agrees. But then the curtain’s raised and WHOA!

The theater explodes with noise, and instantly you’re lost in a storm of enthusiasm.  Onstage, there’s a choir swaying from side to side, led by a charismatic soloist at the front. He leans back, he jumps, he falls on his knees. The crowd goes wild. The seats aren’t enough! They might as well get rid of them, because everyone flows into the aisles and dances and sings. Arms raised, feet moving, hips swaying. They know all of the hymns. Vuvuzelas blare. The noise of the lyrics and piano drowns out your timidity.

You’re watching. You don’t know the words, you don’t know the motions. But why not join in? Why not raise your arms in praise of a God you don’t believe in?

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2 responses to “In Ghana, the choir kids are adrenaline junkies.

  1. I’m sure this is very insulting to the choir, but your narrative caused me to recall the Two Minutes Hate in Orwell’s 1984, where everyone gathers to yell and curse at the Party’s political enemies without knowing their crimes or really who they are (so I guess the concert is more like a Four Hours Love?). So why not raise your arms? Well, I don’t know what God’s actual status is, but it seems morally wrong to me to let yourself be convinced by majority opinion or a desire to fit in versus being persuaded by reason. And if you raise your arms in praise you’re projecting that you do feel that way even if you don’t in your mind; if I recall an argument in your kitchen you thought it was wrong for Theo to talk down to people he thought were morons because it projected an acceptance of their ignorance.

    But if so many people do believe in God, how can they be wrong? If you don’t believe the majority can be right, how can you live in a democracy? Thinking of these questions reminded me of a story I heard on Radiolab about how the average of crowds is often right. The story was that individuals in a crowd were guessing how many beans were in a jar. Individual guesses were almost never close to being correct, but when the results were averaged the mean guess was only decimals of a bean off. So maybe if you somehow asked questions that quantified the existence of God (for example: on a scale of one to ten, how vengeful is God? how present is He in your life?) and sent a survey throughout the whole world, you’d have a close approximation to what God’s really like.

  2. Hiya!
    I agree with the first half of your comment. It’s true that there’s a difference between believing something and just acting like you believe, but it makes no difference to observers and can inspire all sorts of wrong conclusions. Still, in this case, I question the value of expressing my true beliefs. I think that the fact that I am a cultural outsider would outweigh my true motivation, since my behavior will always be judged to result from my status as an outsider.
    I meant the last sentence of the post to be ambiguous and maybe even chilling, and that’s how I felt writing it. But obviously my skills as an author don’t let me express myself that subtly :/
    That’s such an interesting idea about the average of crowds! Haha it would be really fun to do that study about quantifying the existence of God, but it would mean that God is just a human invention. If a close approximation of what God is really like can be estimated from surveys of humans, then God doesn’t exist outside of humans or without humans. Right?

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