I’m no fan of country music. But as I sat under a waxing moon last night and listened to Nobel laureate Wangari Muta Maathai describe “Wrong Bus Syndrome,” the soundtrack that seemed best suited to the moment was Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel.”
Maathai, founder of The Green Belt Movement, was in Raleigh to encourage college students to do what they can to make the planet a better, greener place for future generations. What the professor and former Parliament member has done since 1977 is teach people, women in particular, to nourish their land and sustain themselves by planting trees.
She used “Wrong Bus Syndrome” as a metaphor for why people in her native country of Kenya have spent decades trying to free themselves from government corruption and mismanagement that has harmed the environment and stymied their future.
Her fellow Kenyans, she said, long have been riding the wrong political bus. That bus has taken them to a place called “development” and left them hungry, hopeless and at war as their soil has eroded, their crops have failed and their firewood has dwindled.
The “Wrong Bus” metaphor has spiritual implications, too. We sometimes follow spiritual philosophies, religious doctrine and pastoral leadership that take us to places we never intended to go. We know we’re moving in the wrong direction, but we don’t always know how to get back home. Dr. Maathai said it isn’t enough to know that we’re on the wrong bus. We have to know why we’re there if things are ever going to change.
Maathai gave five reasons people get on the wrong bus:
- We’re ignorant: We don’t know any better
- We don’t ask: We don’t ask questions or don’t ask the right ones
- We’re misinformed: We ask but get wrong information
- We’re forced: We’re forced to make a bad choice
- We fear: We know better, but we’re afraid to act
Maybe you’re on the wrong spiritual bus. What are you going to do about it? Maathai’s advice was succinct: Stop being a victim. Make a change. Get to the front of the bus. Throw the driver out. Turn around. The Bible calls this turning or change of mind: repentance. It’s a good place in the road to sincerely ask Jesus to take the wheel.