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.
But I always find these two hilarious.
Ark has a post on getting them while young and then creationists keep them dumb.
By Laurenti Magesa
The premise of this book is that African religion can only be spoken of in the singular. While acknowledging the diversities of the African people, he says, these are just varieties of expression as we find in other world religions- Islam: Sunnis, Shiites- than basic belief.
In treating of world religions, he argues African Religion has not been treated as a world religion as a result of prejudice of 19th C scholarship, tainted by Darwinism, slave trading and a colonial mentality. He gives an example of Henry M. Stanley’s description of the African person as
Barbarous, materialist, childish and inarticulate creature, almost stupefied with brutish ignorance, with the instincts of man in him, but yet living the life of a beast.
Those who do not recognize African Religion as a world religion argue it has no written scripture. While this is true, it must be noted that all other world religions were orally based before they were codified in writing. The second objection is that it is not a revealed religion. In response to this, the African conceives of his religion as continuing and ever present. It is in this sense more morally based than ethically based. The third objection cited is lack of interest in aggressive proselytizing. This he says cannot hold because Hinduism or Confucianism do not actively proselytize.
In his introduction, the author tells us morality- normative ordering in terms of perceived meanings, values, purposes and goals of human existence- and ethics- the scientific study of such normative order- is of the very nature of religion. Here, religion is described as
A believing view of life, approach to life, way of life, and therefore, a fundamental pattern embracing the individual and society, man and the world, through which a person sees and experiences, thinks and feels, acts and suffers, everything. In short, a system of coordinates by which man orients himself intellectually, emotionally and existentially.
If the above definition is true for other religions, then African Religion must be recognized as one. This recognition is not a concession but a reversal of long held prejudice. African Religion is conceived as a way of life where distinction is not made between religion and other areas of human existence. One can conclude only prejudice and ignorance were the criteria used by early travelers to Africa to conclude the people have no religion.
Different African societies have their cosmogenic myths that we won’t care to enumerate. It is important to note however that they all begin with god as the great ancestor or progenitor of life. God is conceived as father or mother, accentuating the positive qualities of fatherhood or motherhood.
It is important at this point to note that African religious behavior is centered mainly on man’s life in this world, with the consequence that religion is chiefly functional.
African Religion underlines the fact that the earth is our home, and the prolongation of humankind is ultimately bound to the earth’s fecundity. The implications of this include the view the earth is a gratuitous gift to humanity who possess an equal claim to it. To callously disturb created order by abusing it disrespectfully means nothing else, ultimately, than to tamper dangerously with human life.
What constitutes misuse of the universe? Greed.
In the African Religion, the purpose of life is to produce and perpetuate more life. Therefore, to fail to perpetuate life in every way possible intentionally is worst moral wrong against self, community and society in general. In this view, a marriage that does not lead to procreation, should not have been entered in the first place. This also explains why different communities allow the brother in law to marry the brother’s widow to sire children if they didn’t have any and to bring them up. These children belong to the deceased and inherit his property. A widow in some societies is considered a ‘man’ and any children she has with any man belong to her dead husband and become members of his clan.
For the African, existence is communal. The implication of this is that without community one no longer has the means of existence. This unity is seen fully in the unity of the living, living dead (remembered dead) and yet to be born.
Morality, as defined above, is presupposed to be life-centered.
When the believes talks of sanctity of nature, they should be understood not to mean nature worship but treating it with respect. There should be no cruelty to animals. One should not destroy forests, pollute the earth, since there is no telling what calamity will befall the community.
Taboos, as they exist in African communities, is to make sure that the moral structure of the universe remains undisturbed for the good of community.
In matters to do with family life, conception is the assurance for parents of their possibility of living after death, of becoming ancestors. That is, in their children, there is the possibility of their being named and thus joining the group of the remembered dead. The communal unity referred to above, is expressed again in conception. Every individual is the outcome of human act, god’s creation and ancestral blessing. When the birth is uncomplicated, then there is tranquility in the universe, the ancestors are pleased, the parents are of good moral standing and finally it is a sign of defeat of bad people. Where the birth is complicated, it is believed the rights of deities have been contravened, there is illegitimacy, a crime has been concealed or some moral wrong among many others.
Death, to the believer is not to be feared. The beginning of life already carries the end. The dead are to be treated with respect. The pregnant woman is sacred. She carries in her future life. And as I pointed out earlier, perpetuation of life is the chief purpose of life, so to treat a pregnant woman badly threatens future life.
The author notes that whereas Africans are monogamous, it is not by choice, but rather is a result of certain constraints. It is a moral requirement that apart from showing material capacity to take care of an extra wife, one should be convinced he is able to treat them equitably. The social/ religious ideal is polygamy. The author notes that active homosexuality is morally intolerable as it frustrates baby making. Paradoxically, homosexuals sometimes do play unique social and religious roles.
While discussing incest, the author gives the range covered by incest to include sex with a parent or child, grandparents or grandchild, sister, half-sister, brother, half-brother, aunt/ uncle, sister or brother in law (while either couple is alive), sister, brother, half-sister/ brother of a man or woman with whom one has had sexual relations and any woman whose milk a man has suckled.
Regarding sin and evil, the author notes these do not exist in human experience except as perceived in people. He notes, regarding morality, that pursuance of right behavior rather than avoidance of wrong is what distinguishes the authentically good person and one who is not truly so. He reminds us everyone is capable not only of harbouring wrong and destructive thoughts but of acting them out as well. This view has, in my opinion, a big part in how we deal with wrongdoers.
It is noted that divination, in African Religion, is a way of knowing. The diviner is sought to explain why things are the way they are and this is done through divination.
Finally, as mentioned earlier, regarding community, entertaining people is both a social and moral duty that affirms and enhances life.
Whilst this review is not comprehensive, it does highlight the major areas of community life that the author addresses. I have not addressed the political life, which the author argues must be seen as not being separate from religion but as interlinked for the end of political organization is to promote life. The author argues, and I think I agree, the African convert to Muslim or Christianity, is only so on the surface. His/ her thinking and action is deeply African.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in comparative religion or who is curious about African Religion as I am.
There is an interesting discussion over at the Stone god’s site addressing the who Jesus was.
There is a comment that we need to address. The author’s words will be indented.
We are inclined to agree with him when he writes
“Prove” is a big word. People who like “proof” should probably avoid ancient history altogether and stick to the hard sciences or to mathematics. Historians don’t “prove” things – they make careful and structured assessments of likelihood, based on analysis of relevant material.
But that as far as our agreement is likely to take us. What Tim write next
It is most likely that a man called Yeshua who came from Nazareth and was executed in Jerusalem by crucifixion is the point of origin of the later stories. This is the most parsimonious reading of the evidence and the one that requires the least number of suppositions.
is in my view not so much a historical position but a faith position. In my village, there is a story of Lwanda Magere whose strength lay in his shadow. To kill him, the enemy tribe gave him a bride who revealed his secret and so one day in the battle field, a spear was aimed at his shadow which killed him and we have stones as proof. That this story is not widespread is not reason enough to dismiss it.
Tim is stretching facts when he writes
The idea that there was no such person when so much of our material points directly to him existing, on the other hand, doesn’t stand up to Occam’s Razor.
The miracles claimed for Jesus are incredible. The material Tim claims must be the bible stories. But these unless he can demonstrate their supernatural nature are inadmissible. The bible is claimed to by others to be in every way the very word of god. Unless this is demonstrated, we can’t take it into evidence. But if for arguments sake we do, then any conflict in matter of fact that we are unable to arbitrate renders the whole record useless.
He continues to say
It requires a convoluted series of suppositions, perhapses, what ifs and maybes, none of which are sustained by any evidence. For example, most versions of the Jesus Myth hypothesis requires that there was an earlier form of proto-Christianity which didn’t believe in a historical Jesus at all but believed in a purely mythic, allegorical or celestial one. It is claimed this earlier form Christianity gave rise to the form that taught about a historical Jesus (even though one didn’t exist) and then vanished from history. Where is the evidence that indicates all this?
It could be the case that such versions exist. I am not aware. But Paul, the foremost character in this narrative doesn’t mention a physical Jesus. And there is no Christianity to speak of before Paul. The gospels if anything are biographies of the supposed Jesus. If Tim has contrary evidence, I am willing to consider it.
The historical Jesus idea just fits the evidence better and makes more sense. It’s simply more logical.
Which evidence? The bible? The writings by the church fathers or what evidence?