Does long hair and a beard make me Jesus? No.
Does getting awarded the Jesus Award in our group’s #GhanaAwards make me Jesus? Not quite. (But I did beat Him for the win.)
What makes me question my holiness is the constant name-calling I get walking the streets of Accra. “Are you Jesus?” “Hey Jesus!” This first started with some haircutters near my work, but they were just trying to sell me on cutting it all off. Later, I joked with a seller in the market when he told me I looked familiar. “Jesus?” I asked. He laughed, but I was nervous he wouldn’t. One night, a kid shook my hand while greeting me as Jesus. Although, he also said I looked like Merlin.
I’m not going to say I’m not used to it, my dad teases me when I let my hairs grow too long, but it’s strange coming from a country as religious as Ghana. I would think it sacrilege. Other students have already touched on their experiences with coworkers and the topic, and while mine wasn’t so damning as theirs, I too had a coworker concerned for my afterlife.
The topic came up because she asked about my beard and said I looked like Jesus (surprise). I thanked her and said that I hadn’t been shaving for awhile. Then she dropped the big ole R: “Are you religious?” I wasn’t sure how to respond. Sure, I could make it easy and lie, but I’m not here long, what would it matter? No, I told her. “Christian?” No. “Not even Muslim?” No. “You’ve never been to church?” Well, actually, I used to. “Why did you stop?” I just figured it wasn’t for me. “Oh….Well, I’ll talk to you later.” And then she left. She’s talked to me since, but I think she was a little taken aback by our talk.
Ghana is very religious. So much so that storefronts have names like “His Grace Beauty Salon,” and tro tro’s have stickers on them with sayings like “Thank ‘U’ Jesus” or “Pray for Life” (I was wary of getting on that one). It’s seems to me that they’re using these phrases as adjectives for whatever business they have, just to show that they’re practicing Christians. It’s just the thing to name your business and add a few religious words in there.
It’s a different culture and I won’t judge. I think that’s the Big Man’s job.
I’m still not going to shave.