There is an annoying conversation that I have regularly with Mozambican Christians. It has to do with American evangelists. For example, my roommate and I were talking the other day to the man in the telephone company who organized our internet set-up. He wanted to know if I liked Joel Osteen. I started laughing. I explained that Joel Osteen’s church is very near where I used to live in America but that I didn’t like him. “But why?” he wanted to know. I asked Marina, “How do I explain ‘cheesy’ in Portuguese?” I ended up saying something about how I didn’t think he was that deep. Then this man went on to ask me what I thought about Joyce Meyers, Creflo Dollar, TD Jakes, etc. Each time I kind of laughed and said I don’t listen to them; I know their names, but I don’t know them very well. He was shocked (as all Mozambicans are when I tell them this): “But they are American! Why don’t you listen to your own preachers? Why do I know your preachers better than you do? Who do you listen to?” My roommate and I explained that there are many different kinds of preachers in America. The ones he knows happen to be popular in Africa, but there are others who are popular in America who Africans have not heard of.
Last weekend we had some Mozambican colleagues and their spouses over for lunch. One of them asked me if I like TD Jakes. I laughed and said ironically, “Oh yes. And Creflo Dollar and Joyce Meyers and Joel Osteen?” He didn’t get my tone and was excited that I seemed to know all these people.
So my question is, do I continue to laugh and become annoyed with everyone’s enthusiasm about these evangelists, and learn how to explain ‘cheesy’ in Portuguese? Do I lie and pretend I really like them? Or do I fully engage in the local culture and begin watching the God Channel?