Navigating Christianity-Africanism divide

‘What’s Wrong with Being Black’ author Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo

‘What’s Wrong with Being Black’ author Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo

Review correspondent

Christianity is revolutionary or oppressive depending on who is teaching it. Like any tool, in the hands of the slave master or the missionary, it will justify Africa’s oppression. An African centred reading of Christianity, however, produces radically different paradigms. In any multi-faith continent, knowledge of self must include knowledge of our neighbours. Ignorance of each other has been the tool which others use to create friction. Anyone who doesn’t know this will become a victim of the oppressor’s biggest weapon: “divide and rule”. In seeking a Pan-African future, a constructive dialogue is necessary, which deals with Africa today and not a mythical romantic historical Africa.

Culture has never been static, and certainly no static culture has survived history. A culture which is inflexible in a globalised world is a culture on the verge of extinction. African culture is not monolithic and while the foundations remain fundamentally unaltered, the interpretation and expression of culture continues to be a forever blossoming flower.

At the beginning of the colonial era, less than 5 percent people were Christian, after colonialism just less than 50 percent of Africa was Christian. This rapid transformation created a high degree of cultural displacement, unlike Islam which was steadily Africanised for over 1 000 years.

Christianity has been plagued by the history of European conquest and today it is yet to escape that legacy and become an agent of true liberation. With the exception of Ethiopia, the intention of Christianity in Africa was never to create development, in any capacity, in the African mind.

Today Christianity in Africa shares almost equal space with Islam. Both expand at the expense of the native African belief systems. That has always been the way of the world, life and death, and we must accept that reality but also learn from those histories and ancient traditions.

Christianity has been a traditional part of the dynamic African landscape for over 2 000 years. And beyond argument remains fundamental African cultures in Sudan and Ethiopia. The majority of Christianising in Africa is unfortunately linked to the enslavement and colonisation.

In the making of the slave you realise it was not the Bible or Jesus that was ever the problem, it was the slave masters. “Two readings of Christianity” – one reading secured his desires of exploitation and the other reading secured passive obedience from the enslaved — a slave master friendly version. We can take a third reading and that is our revolution. So it is necessary to deal with traditional African Christianity, which is a beautiful example of African agency within Christian theology.

With all the devotion to God, it is strange how most cannot explain one Biblical story or even understand the history of Christianity, or the life of Jesus. They cannot even have an intelligent objective conversation about the religion they hold so dear. As much as they claim to love God and the church, they never ever want to actually discuss anything about the real Bible beyond “what the pastor said”.

So extreme is this brainwashed mindset is they see Muslims, Jews, and even other Christians (who might even be identical to them) as heretics and beyond salvation.

Yet they do not know the difference between Psalms and Timothy. And then there is that wonderful mechanism of closing down when challenged about their knowledge of the scripture. That defence mechanism for preventing the pre-programmed pastor message from being eroded by truth.

How is this possible? Because despite the 2 percent good in these new churches it implants concepts “Have faith”, “Praise the Lord” but in almost every instance it attaches no hard ethics to this rhetoric. So these statements of “belief” are left abstract and floating.

It also explains why we see (esp in Southern Africa) people living such contradictory lives, pastors who sleep with 1/2 the choir, alcohol abuse followed by church at 8am, vulgarly dishonest people, stealing and wickedness – just after mass.

Because the religion is not actually attached to any true morals or practicality of living in the real world, and while everyone has these issues, at least there should be some sense of right and wrong — even when engaged in a “sin”. It distracts the mind from seeking development and consciousness of self.

It does not inform people about their history, their culture. It does not stimulate the mind to learn more about anything other than their narrow teaching of a very dynamic and rich Bible. Divorced from reality and in a spiritual/intellectual vacuum, people are better exploited, and content to be passive in the development of their country and continent.

And while there is a debate on Jesus was a prophet of a “god”, very few realise is that Jesus was a revolutionary, he was a socialist and he was an enemy of imperialism. He was also anti-corruption, and anti-capitalist. Yet very few Christians have that conversation when discussing “No one gets to the father but through me (my way of life).”

The harsh question for Christians today is: “What would Jesus be doing if he was alive today?” and that one question alone will show the serious spiritual and political detour of many so-called Christians. Would Jesus be driving the latest Lexus? Would Jesus be pro-War in the Middle East?

Would Jesus support the invasion of Libya and the exploitation in the Congo by the super powers? Would Jesus be okay with the suffering of the Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli forces? Would Jesus support the designs of the oligarchy? Would he marry two gay men in a ceremony? And would Jesus support the exploitation and race-based privileges Europeans continue to enjoy?

By looking at his ancient message, we find all the answers to this basic question.

Some Africanist take issue with Jesus, but Jesus owned no slaves, he did not run a state, like David, Muhammad, Askia, Menelik, or Moses. He was not a military general (like Shaka Zulu or Hannibal), he carried no sword, he debauched no women, he had no debts.

He was a poor Jewish man with few possessions who had a small following – not even a religion – but an intellectual social circle of revolutionaries.

What did he ever do to anyone that would “spoil” his name today? And we must paradigm shift and re-think how we arrive at our twisted conclusions. The intellectual question is Who Was Jesus?

Someone 1 000’s of years later decided to enslave Africans – in his name. Did Jesus sanction this in the gospels?

Did Jesus give them permission to name the ship “Good ship Jesus”? So why take issue with Jesus? – Source: African Christian

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