Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

Onesimus Online

Thursday 21 January 2010

I have a new favourite blog to follow: Onesimus Online, written by William Black, a lecturer at Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology.

William is originally from North America, but is a strong critic of the arrogance of western theologians in assuming that Europe and North America has all the answers about God. Here’s a great explanation from a recent post about why a western perspective of the Bible isn’t sufficient for Africa

So thorough is the westernization of my African students that they don’t seem to notice that all of their education, all of their theology, all of their assumptions, can be traced to the efforts of well-meaning western missionaries. These missionaries came (and sometimes still come) with an assumed posture of superiority, namely that they are here to ‘help’ these Africans escape their darkness and get saved like us. Salvation too often means getting Africans to accept that our problems are their problems and that our solutions must be their solutions. For example, most Western missionaries assume that Christ has come to save us from our legal problem before a holy God; namely, that our sin makes us guilty before God and deserving of his condemnation and wrath. Christ resolves our problem by becoming our sin on the cross, bearing our punishment and thus freeing us from the penalty of the law. We are no longer under condemnation, but are accepted into fellowship with God, with the end result that we will go to heaven and not to hell.

This is standard fare for Western Evangelicals and their predecessors. And while a solid case may be made from the New Testament that this is indeed an aspect of our salvation, our polemical stance against the perceived ‘works righteousness’ of Roman Catholics has meant that this becomes increasingly, by over-emphasis, the only aspect of our salvation, or certainly the most important, and certainly what is preached from Sunday to Sunday.

The problem is that Africans on their own don’t perceive that their main problem before God is their compromised legal status. So in order to get them to understand ‘the gospel’ – or at least our Western understanding of the gospel – we missionaries must first teach them about God’s law and what sin is and what Christ has done to satisfy God’s law. Once they understand these things, then they are in a position to ‘accept Christ as their personal Savior’ and be forgiven. To this end, evangelists urge congregations to respond to the ‘free’ grace of God in Christ so that their sins may be forgiven and they be reconciled to God.

Again, this sounds so normal to our Western Evangelical ears that we may be immediately suspicious of anyone that seems to have a problem with it. But as mentioned above, most of my African friends don’t first and foremost worry about their legal standing before God. Rather, they are far more concerned about demons which seem to afflict every aspect of their lives, they are concerned about people who manipulate spiritual power for good and ill in other people’s lives, they are concerned about sicknesses and barrenness, for which there seems to be no cure, they are concerned about capricious weather that makes their crops fail and their cattle die and causes them to go hungry, and they are concerned about death. The tremendous irony that I observe is that our Western gospel has come full force into Kenya (and many other African countries) through the ministries of thousands of Western missionaries, resulting in the majority of people here and in a number of other countries professing faith in Christ and testifying to having been born again. And yet this gospel does not touch those aspects of their lives that reflect their deepest needs and most profound concerns. read more

I’m looking forward to keeping up with William’s posts as he critiques western theology and hints at alternative African perspectives.The church in Europe and North America can tend to be extremely mono-cultural in its judgement of what is and isn’t a correct reading of scripture, so it’s good to look outside of our little box occasionally to get a better perspective.

Stealth wars: It’s time we opened our eyes

Tuesday 10 February 2009

Gaza, Iraq, Afghanistan… almost every day we hear about conflict somewhere. But how much do we really know about the wars happening in the world? We may be well aware of the violence that happens in Gaza City, Baghdad and Helmand Province, but do we know about the conflict that takes place every day in the DRC, or the continuing tensions in southern Sudan or northern Nigeria?

Virgil Hawkins at Stealth Conflicts makes some startling observations:

There is a newsroom truism in the USA that “one dead fireman in Brooklyn is worth five English bobbies, who are worth 50 Arabs, who are worth 500 Africans”. Sounds pretty bad. But the reality is much much worse. For a start, from the perspective of the news media in the West, 500 Africans have nowhere near that kind of value. The death toll from conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is literally one thousand times greater than that in Israel-Palestine, yet it is the latter that is the object of far greater media coverage, if that is any indication of the news value of the two conflicts. The numbers of victims from conflict in Israel-Palestine are counted down to the last digit, and the intricacies and nuances of the conflict, political situation and peace process are almost obsessively analysed and presented. Death tolls from most African conflicts (if anyone bothers to count) are usually rounded off to the nearest one hundred thousand (at times the nearest million), and the conflicts are frequently brushed off and dismissed as being chaotic, or worthy of some vague pity or humanitarian concern, but rarely of any in-depth political analysis.

The reality is that the scale of a conflict has very little at all to do with whether a conflict gets the attention of the media or not. Other factors (like the political interest of key policymakers at home, skin colour, simplicity and sensationalism) appear to be the key determinants. Once a conflict is ‘chosen’, it becomes the centre of attention, at the expense of all other conflicts – however destructive they may be. read more

I would add another factor, that the western media is driven largely by fear. In the UK we only care about armed conflict when it makes us feel vulnerable. If it is geographically close to us (Kosovo), or if we feel the conflict has the potential to spill over into our region (the Middle East), or if those suffering are people we perceive to be similar to ourselves (New York Twin Towers). When the conflict is in a far off land, in countries so poor that there is no threat of the conflict spreading outside of the region, between peoples of a different skin colour to us, we are able to give our sympathy but then turn off the TV and simply forget.

5.4 million people have died in the DRC in the last 10 years. It’s time we lifted our eyes up from our own preoccupations and saw the reality of the world we live in:

Marriage: A Rural African Perspective

Sunday 17 August 2008

One of the biggest cultural differences between Africa and Europe/North America is the way that the family in general, and marriage in particular is viewed.

Ben Byerly has just been involved in a leadership conference for Pastors in western Kenya. One of the sessions was on marriage, which he has blogged about, giving a fascinating insight into some of the issues facing Kenyan Christian couples.

From last week’s leadership conference for pastors in rural Western Kenya. For the the session on marriage, we divided the twelve women from the the about thirty-six men and had them discuss these questions:

  1. What problems or challenges do you face in marriage?
  2. How can a husband demonstrate love to his wife (Eph. 5:25; Col. 3:19)? read more

words to inspire

Friday 4 April 2008

Alexander McCall Smith‘s The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency has captured my fancy – and routed my thoughts toward Africa, most delightfully, once again. I have laughed aloud at Smith’s permeable wit and authentic characters in this story set in the African country of Botswana. One line brought very welcome feelings of home, liberty and peace, as it reads,

I am just a tiny person in Africa, but there is a place for me, and for everybody, to sit down on this earth and touch it and call it their own.

It spoke to me also of freedom and space. No constraint, nor barriers. The words inspired my imagination and my creativity – and below resides the byproduct. Because I am not a trained artist, it may not be so pleasing to your eyes as the process of bringing the colours and shapes alive with my fingers was to me. But alas, here it is…

Botswana mama in open bush, in Oil Pastels

An out of context visit

Saturday 29 March 2008

Source: WikipediaYesterday, Mark and I were very happy to have some American friends passing through who we know from Tanzania. It was great to see them in England and it really reminded us of Tanzania… Hot weather, Swahili, other friends from the Uganda-Tanzania SIL Branch. It makes us miss many things about Africa. This morning we woke up thinking about Tanzania and I had Mark teach me a few more words in Swahili.. Mti (tree)… Mguu (leg)… Mkono (arm)… Mji (town)… Mlango (door)… Mfereji (trench)… And if you add m- + refu after any of these, you have a ‘long/tall’ nown. Like Mti mrefu = ‘tall tree.’ It did my heart good to connect with Africa this morning, even if through saying simply ‘Mifereji mitano mirefu’ – ‘five long trenches.’