African Religion vs Christianity?

Or is it something else?

A friend brought to my attention this tweet

We are not interested in that for the time being, but the debate that ensued on her facebook page is of interest to us and is the basis of this post and it’s title.

She set the ball rolling when she wrote, in response to the tweet,

folly of culture without consciousness: the dead are reminding us to get off the land; not bribe them with rituals.

which in my view, if the newspaper article is believable, makes a lot of sense. So when she is told by Eva

the dead are quiet dead. Any interaction with them is with dark forces

I am quite shocked at how unaware Africans can be. There is a lot of interaction between the dead and the living in our cultures. Take for example, the naming process. Most people are given names of the remembered dead and this has never been said by anyone to be an interaction with dark forces. My friend, Wandia, is right in her assertion. In most African traditions, desecration of graveyards is believed to have potential of disturbing the unity of the community and thus, the dead would have to be appeased if such a thing were to happen.

When Eva writes, in part,

It’s folly also if as Christians we do not highlight the in-congruence of these “cultural” (scare quotes in the original)  practices with out faith.

is actually laughable. For one, Christians are always praying at ground-breaking of new construction sites. The only difference between what the elders would be doing and the Christians is in the utterances, but the practice is similar. Two, I sympathize with Eva. She has eschewed her African traditional religion without taking a moment to investigate it. She has been told Christianity is right and she is willing to go with it.

Wandia, says it better than I, when she writes

[..]if you can apply such intellectual skills every Sunday listening to sermons bout Jews in Israel 2000 years ago who have nothing to do with your own history, you can do it for your own culture.

In response, without even taking a pause to reflect on Wandia’s response, Eva writes

Of course, Africa cultures are laden with metaphors. The practice of necromancy is however not a metaphor, and even if ignorantly presumed to be one, is odious and an abomination to God. But as the bible also indicates in Deut 27, cursed also is the man who moves his neighbors boundaries (land theft) as is the case here. Also, and I can speak authoritatively for myself if for no one else, what came out of the land of the Jews 2000 years ago has much to do with my own history and present and future than whatever “culture” I was born into. Period.

And with this, I can say without fear of contradiction, the colonialist project succeeded fully. Necromancy or the process of divination, to refer to it differently, was and has been the African way of knowing. Diviners were important members of the society. The community; the living dead, the living and the yet to be born- have to live in harmony. This is the African way. And she is right, though, not the way she means it but the colonial/ slavery project has succeeded in making her believe whatever is African is dark. She can’t even bring herself to write culture without scare quotes.

Again Wandia is right when she writes in response

[..]It is [possible to refute such stupidity using African culture, and that is what I was trying to do.

There has been talk a lot of finding African solutions to African problems. If we cannot bring our cultural histories to address some of the challenges facing us today, we really are lost. We have become a people without a history.

Eva writes, in attempt to backpedal

Indeed, our cultures are capable of condemning witchcraft, but can they do so about necromancy, what with pouring libations to dead spirits, consulting them on burial spots, etc..? I don’t think so… I was raising a flag about what you probably wrote in light touch regarding the dead reminding us to get off the land because I have seen Christians ensnared in these practices without realizing their in-congruence with their professed faith.

my irony meter went burst. I will have to order another. First, she displays her ignorance of African Religion. Two she conveniently ignores the similarity of christian practice with the cultural practices. As a bible believing christian, she must be committed to accepting, as Mathew wrote, that graves opened and the dead walked into town. She is here busy condemning African traditions she knows nothing about.

I agree with Wandia’s closing remark,

The problem is with taking libations literally as feeding the dead. Every society needs to remember those who left before the living, and while Europeans did it through sculptures and monuments, we did it by acknowledging our ancestors and telling our oral histories. We can still maintain the act of remembering while condemning those who want to endorse injustice and greed using African culture. We can still use Christianity for those who believe, but for those who don’t, we must insist the justice, public spaces and environmental conservation are also African concepts.

and add, without fear of contradiction, that Eva is blind to the prayers said to saints(sic) who, to the best of my knowledge, are all dead. I don’t think she condemns that practice. Eva/ Eve is not an African name. She has been made to believe she needs a Christian name. She has forgotten her roots. She has swallowed Christianity is the one true™ religion. Everything African then is dark, primitive and need to be forgotten quickly and erased from history. How misguided can we be?

A god who can flood the whole earth, or send earthquakes to destroy cities cannot be appealed to for conservation. I would argue, the African’s relationship to his environment and the community is more dynamic, more pragmatic and earthbound than the Christian ethic.

Let the African be a Christian, but while at it, let them educate themselves on the content of African Religion. Let the investigate the methodology that was used by the missionary to spread his religion and only then, should they pass judgement on African practices. Doing so while ignorant of the level and extent of brainwashing the missionary used is not only irresponsible but reckless.

Reflection time

As an undergraduate architecture student, we had a unit in philosophy 101. One of the lecturers was a very interesting fellow. I still recall him asking us something about why we think we owe our parents anything. It’s a question that no one wants to think about or answer. Most of the answers would have something to do with their begetting us, educating us, loving us which sometimes is not the case for many children.

In the Robbers by Schiller, this question is brought to the fore by Charles, while talking about Francis, his vagabond brother. He asks

A common source of being is to produce community of sentiment; identity of matter, identity of impulse! Then again,—he is thy father! He gave thee life, thou art his flesh and blood—and therefore he must be sacred to thee! Again a most inconsequential deduction! I should like to know why he begot me; certainly not out of love for me—for I must first have existed!
Could he know me before I had being, or did he think of me during my begetting? or did he wish for me at the moment? Did he know what I should be? If so I would not advise him to acknowledge it or I should pay him off for his feat. Am I to be thankful to him that I am a man? As little as I should have had a right to blame him if he had made me a woman. Can I acknowledge an affection which is not based on any personal regard? Could personal regard be present before the existence of its object? In what, then, consists the sacredness of paternity? Is it in the act itself out of which existence arose? as though this were aught else than an animal process to appease animal desires. Or does it lie, perhaps, in the result of this act, which is nothing more after all than one of iron necessity, and which men would gladly dispense with, were it not at the cost of flesh and blood? Do I then owe him thanks for his affection? Why, what is it but a piece of vanity, the besetting sin of the artist who admires his own works, however hideous they may be? Look you, this is the whole juggle, wrapped up in a mystic veil to work on our fears. And shall I, too, be fooled like an infant? Up then! and to thy work manfully. I will root up from my path whatever obstructs my progress towards becoming the master. Master I must be, that I may extort by force what I cannot win by affection.

So I ask, where lies the sacredness of paternity?

Books and more books

I recently read To Kill a Mockingbird. It talks of racist Alabama where a man is found guilty of a crime he didn’t commit, against common sense and also about a white man who is determined to do the right thing even if it costs him his reputation.

And of Scout and Jem and their neighbours and friends and of the Ewells; poor, dirty and morally bankrupt. Aunt Alex, those nosy aunts you are better off without.

And Atticus, the lawyer, father and friend of his children. He is adorable. He is firm. And he is principled.

If you haven’t read this book and you have time to spare, you should add it to your list.

House of Death by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

It is a story about prison life in Siberia. If you have bee to prison, I need not tell you how prison life is. If you haven’t been to prison, you may want to hear it from Alexander, that is, if you don’t have friends in prison 🙂

Dostoyevsky writes, about the nature of punishment, that

if it were desired to reduce a man to nothing- to punish him atrociously, to crush him in such a manner that the most hardened murderer would tremble before such a punishment, and take fright beforehand- it would be necessary to give to his a work a character of complete uselessness, even to absurdity.

It should be noted, he thinks work, as long as it has an aim, is tolerable. This is similar to the argument by Nietzsche among others, that work is expiation and that without it, life becomes intolerable.

He writes

No man lives, can live, without having some object in view and making efforts to attain that object.

He was definitely opposed to corporal punishment. About this he writes

the right granted to a man to inflict corporal punishment on his fellow-men is one of the plague-spots of our society. It is the means of annihilating all civic spirit.

And writing about reality, he says

Reality is a thing of infinite diversity and defies the most ingenious deductions and definition of abstract thought, nay, abhors the clear and precise classifications we so delight in.

And talking about men and their hearts,

you’ll never know what’s at the bottom of the man’s mind or heart

and finally, when some convicts who attempted t escape were rearrested and brought back to the convict prison, he wrote

success is everything in this world.

This last statement says a lot about humans.