It is time for us to look beyond the peripheral issues that divide us and concentrate on the problems that face us together. We will never move forward if we keep picking out our differences. What do we hope to achieve by showing our differences? The world has already taken us apart and made us different in that regard. Why do we keep looking for other ways to ignore the potential behind our collective ambition? We cannot undo the past and change the effect of religion by fighting our beliefs. We need to use this opportunity to build a world that will be better for posterity! We are our only source of redemption! It will not come from anywhere else but within!
Christianity; The Seed of Oppression or Liberation?
I was reading a post about religion in Africa and how Africans in diaspora never seem to understand the reason behind the average African’s devotion to one religion or the other. Why are we so attached to a tool which was used to oppress us and enslave our ancestors? Some people (mostly Africans in diaspora) believe that Christianity was a tool used by the slave masters to peacefully infiltrate African societies. This gave them a foothold here and ushered in the slave trade era. They argue that Christianity was a guise used to control African communities and aid slave trade. Well, this fact is evident in many coastal African States such as Ghana, where one of the first churches was literally built over the slave dungeon in the famous Elmina Castle. These same traders and missionaries brought Christianity and Western education with them as they arrived our shores. In Nigeria, the oldest schools are missionary schools. They are Baptist Academy (1855), CMS Grammar school (1859) among others. It is interesting to note that these people who portray Christianity in this light often downplay the position of Western education as a similar tool for slave trade. It is easy to see how Western education has structured African societies, even though we will never know if our system of education would have brought more development. It is therefore shocking that they would encourage the Africans to embrace Western education but would kick against Christianity.
I believe that tools like education and religion cannot be stripped of their benefits solely because some people abused these tools. Seriously, religion has had its problems in society, but so has education, information, the internet, mechanization etc. This does not distort the credibility of the tool but bothers on the specific use (or abuse) by certain individuals. If I decide to use the my blog to propagate racist messages, I am the problem, not the internet. If people decided to use Christianity as a tool of oppression, it does not mean that Christianity is wrong, but it means people used it wrongly. Going back to the origin of Christianity, it is NOT a European or American religion (Ignore the false images of a white Jesus.). It was adopted and used wrongly. Why should we blame the tool for the crimes of its user? Just as the person using the weapon is the killer, not the weapon, Christianity is not wrong, even though it has been used wrongly. Why would we claim that the tool is problem in this case? If we must be fair and decide to blame the tool, then we should be fair enough to apportion equal blame on all the tools used by these people. These include education and technology. We would end up fighting against Western education too!!
Another key issue is that of the background or nature of African societies. I will narrow this down to Nigeria, as I want to talk about a society I understand better. As a kid growing up in Nigeria, you are exposed to the reality of a spiritual realm which most African Americans do not understand. The things they hear as myths, legends and stories are most of the time our reality! For instance, the average African American doesn’t understand the African concept of blood money, ritual killing, Juju and other unhealthy practices! They do not understand the evident manifestations of a spiritual realm because our society is different from theirs. Growing up with these in your environment makes you understand the need to hold on to some sort of liberating truth. You may say it is fear-motivated worship, but it isn’t without due cause. There is also grave poverty which cannot be expressed properly in writing. Christianity promises a better life (and prosperity especially in Nigeria!) and that is what appeals to most of these people. I believe that there are more churches in the impoverished areas of America than in highbrow areas too.
These misconceptions between Africans and African Americans runs through a number of topical issues. It is expressed in the way most Africans believe that racism ended years ago!! But African Americans are experiencing new and uncommon manifestations of racism in their society. Thanks to the Internet, we are now aware of the grave injustice in society that accounts for the agitation, passion and aggression that African Americans exhibit. This information gap is slowly closing up but still makes us to form different opinions about ourselves and has created more segregation between people who are more connected than they show.
On the other hand, it is true that we have taken Christianity to a whole new level. Every street corner has a barber shop, a small kiosk for household items and a church (In Southern Nigeria). These churches have become monster corporate institutions that are exempted from tax but yet raise more money than some commercial banks! People have used the church to control and enslave others. They have used it to propel political ambitions and to amass mind-boggling wealth. No doubt, Christianity has been abused, but is that reason enough to claim that it is something wrong? NO! Christianity in the real sense is NOT a religion. It is a relationship between an individual and a supreme being like any other religion. The unique point being that the way to this Being is through His Son, Jesus Christ. That in itself is not wrong!