I am an African and I am deeply insulted by this.

While reading the Unbelievable? by Justin, there was a reference to an article by Matthew Parris that appeared in the London Times of 27th December, 2008 titled as As_an_atheist_I_truly_believe_Africa_needs_God–Matthew_Parris(pdf). The colonisers when they first came to Africa felt the African needed to be civilized. They called it the white man’s burden. The first anthropologists wrote back home to say the African has no religion. Reason was made to belong to the whites and the African was a creature of emotion and it is this same source that this piece by Matthew grows.

He tells us

Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

yeah. Africa does not need fair trade. It needs more religion. The same Christianity that smoothed the way for colonialism. If you needed the goodies, you became a Christian. In many African countries, the children of the chiefs were the first to join the missionaries. These became, with independence, the rulers. That Africa is where it is can be traced to these leaders who were first taught only basic education, again because the African was not a person of reason.

In Europe, the state is being pushed to provide healthcare because people are paying taxes. In Africa, we pay taxes and instead we should welcome more missionaries. So to Matthew, government action should not be demanded because the missionaries are already healing people. I am reminded that every time I see a place with more churches per capita than schools, there you will find dysfunction.

He says of his friends and missionaries he met

It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work were unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man’s place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.

which would imply that had they not been Christian, they would be dishonest, lazy and pessimistic. What does this say of him? Or of other secularists and Muslims and Hindoos, heck and voo dooists?

To him, the African is tribal. He writes

I observe that tribal belief is no more peaceable than ours; and that it suppresses individuality. People think collectively; first in terms of the community, extended family and tribe.

but the European is just a member of the white race or a tribeless individual. The white man is just that. White! But the African he is tribal.

He tells us

Anxiety – fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things – strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought.

because the Christian does not have hell anxieties? Or temptation by the devil and evil spirit. Only the rural African is daunted by such thoughts. I am amazed at how many disciples Hegel has even without knowing it. To Matthew, the rural African lacks initiative. He just exists. He is not curious. And only the Christian missionary can arouse this curiosity. How novel!

He wrote

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and insubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosophical/spiritual framework I’ve just described. It offers something to hold on to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

In short, the rural African without Christianity is enslaved. He is only subject to group-think. There is no individuality. This, according to Matthew, is only possible for the white man and his Christian religion.

He concludes

Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the know how that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.

and adds

And I’m afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.

Which implies that Africa does not fair trade, fair intellectual property agreements, technology transfer. Nothing. Just good old Christianity.

First, I wonder, with Okot p’Bitek

How could a religion that has little practical value and also seems in some ways to encourage asceticism provide a philosophy of life for living in the African world?

And secondly, Christianity & Islam already violently supplanted traditional African systems of belief and practice that had served the continent for hundreds of years before the christian missionary dreamed of African travel leaving the African confused and lost; not white, not black. He has a Sunday religion but nothing else. To Matthew, he needs no religion but with a condescending attitude things this what Africa needs. I am tired of these Hegelian disciples who can always find news ways to show their racism.

I am African and I am pissed off!