By David G Maillu
It appears that Africans are not yet out of cultural enslavement by the western colonial storm. Colonial enslavement recruited its missionary intellectuals to pick up and finish the job of cultural distortion and destruction from where departing masters left it.
Nothing else can express that claim better than the mood of Prof Christ Wanjala’s article published in this forum on June 5. Through the article called Can Intellectual be men and women of God, the self-made evangelistoutrageously abused African Religion. Sample his intellectual output, “From our perspective in the 21 Century, are African traditional societies not largely pagan and superstitious? The rituals we went through our birth, naming initiation, courtship, marriage, death and burial rites, are they not backward and primitive?… We seem to be either stuck in the darkness and superstition of Traditional Religion.”
According to this professor of literature, the panacea to African primitiveness is, “Modern education must promote its Christian ethos. It has to continue evangelizing the learner. Its method of teaching must be drawn from scripture and the spread of amalgam of western civilization.”
When I read the article I couldn’t believe that this scholar meant to paint the African homestead with so much of western mud. For confirmation I phoned him and asked him. “How dare you throw such abuse to African Religion?” He told me, “DrMaillu, I meant it from the bottom of my heart that African Religion is primitive.” Oh yeah?
Religion is people’s spiritual mother. All civilizations of the world are generally founded on people’s beliefs and Religions. The Egyptian civilization that profoundly influenced European civilization was founded on African Religion. It is emerging from scientific investigation based on the study of genes that human life started in Africa. The African, therefore, is the genesis of mankind and he is not a crossbreed of any human race.. From this standpoint, the African has the longest and invaluable cultural history on which African Religion is founded. That is the culture Prof Wanjala dismisses as primitive, superstitious and animism; terms which were commonly used by the Whiteman trying to kill African values. For that reason, he is their officious puppet.
Is African Religion, by any chance, really primitive? Only ignorance of African Religion can subscribe to referring it as primitive. There is one glaring example of the concept of African Religion as was expressed by King Akhenaton alias Pharaoh Akhenaton (1372 – 1754 BC). This man goes in history books as the first spiritually inspired king to introduce worship of monotheism when many Europeans lived in caves and worshipped idols. Akhenaton’s religion was based on the recognition that the Sun is the prime arm of the Supreme Force behind creation, which we call God. Later religious western critics interpreted Akhenaton’s concept as a pagan religion that merely worshipped idolatry instead of worshiping the right Almighty God. Yet, today, if any force removed the Sun from out there, virtually, every living thing on earth dies including the Christian concept of the Almighty God.
This is the stage at which I must emphasize the difference between African Religion, Christianity and Islam. African spirituality perceives God as the Supreme Force or Overall Energy behind all creations embracing the Universe. That Force has no physical features. It is neither female nor male. It is the God of humans, animals, insects and plants. The scripture of that Supreme Force doesn’t claim that, to God, man is bigger or more precious than any other living thing. In modern scientific terms, that Force is the Electromagnetic Energy governing the universe, otherwise Albert Stein’s Relativity. It is the Force that keeps the Sun where it is, burning.
That Energy responds to the survival needs of all living things. It is the God that the chameleon prayed to be given protective adoptive colours. It is the power behind the dynamics of what we call mutations. Even when we have got medicine to kill certain germs, in give time, those germs also pray e to be accorded immunity by that Force. Man can also pray to hat Force and the Force answers his prayers.
The African God is the air and sea in which we live. The African is brought up to abide religiously by natural laws. Physics and metaphysics are the two sides of the God coin. Spirits and spiritualism have a profound foundation in Blackman’s life, unlike in Whiteman’s world. God or Nature is not stupid to make the female and male for each other. Any move of social consummation outside that arrangement is both aberrational and irreligious. That is why, in African Religion, homosexuality is hated. It is simply an abuse to natural law and it is against the intention of the Supreme Force. In natural law life is strictly a matter of sexual union between male and female. Sex is God and is God is sex. Any expression of sex, like expression of music, is not evil. In African Religion there are no religious or secular songs.
In other words, African God is synonymous with Nature. That God is timeless and lives within unlimited space. That God is as scientific as anyone might one to imagine. God is science and science is God. This is why there are absolutely no atheists in traditional Africa. I am because God is and God is because I am. God is and cannot be personal. God is for us – our God, not my God. African Religion is timeless and boundless.
Unlike the African concept of God, in Christianity in which Prof Wanjala’s soul wallows, concepts of God are, to say the least, materialistic, with limited space and time. He is a personalized God. Christian’s imagery of God is broadly presented with male attributes; as a supernatural old man who, perhaps, holding a ruling stick like Pope, has always been sitting in a throne somewhere out there, in a universal location called Heaven or Paradise. The believers of that God confirm God is male when they pray saying, “Our Father who art in Heaven…” That male gender of God leaves many unanswered questions regarding why, at the same time, we cannot address him, “Our mother.” If he’s male, what is his gender for if he hasn’t got a wife?
Only that Almighty God alone knows what he does in Paradise, how long he will sit in the throne tirelessly, away from his suffering human creations. During the Slave Trade times when millions of Africans were sold as slaves and others butchered by Europeans and Arabs, and subsequently when Europeans used the might of their superior arms to brutalize and colonized the world, that all-loving Almighty God watched at the destruction helplessly. Equally too, he watched unconcerned during the Second World War when Hitler regime massacred 6 million Jews, adults and children. That God created a spiritual creature called Satan as the biggest enemy of human beings. And God sits on his throne heartlessly while Satan destroys his creation. Yet he takes a move to blame human being for disobeying God.
That God has promised human beings many materials gains including everlasting happy life in Paradise. With regard to prosperity, the Bible advices its believers to pray to God for everything and God will grant them accordingly. On one hand that God is absolutely loving, but on the other hand he is absolutely unforgiving. Prof Wanjala warns of God’s wrath on humanity, “Christians say we are free to enjoy our vices and break all the bones while we still have all the teeth in the mouth, but the time of adornment will come. Let the people choose.” Those who will choose the right path will go to Paradise but those who will make wrong choice by default of ignorance or intention will be not be forgiven and will be hurled into hell by God.
Christianity has that original sin or curse borne by God’s first human creation, Adam and Eve. Generations after generations believers must seek forgiveness from God for the mistake of that first human couple. The couple stepped on a trap that God had deliberately laid before them in a forbidden fruit, although the omnipotent God knew too well that his creatures would fall into the trap; hence, God prepared them for his curse that he will never forgive.
In African Religion there is no original sin. Human beings, like all living things, are born absolutely innocent. Furthermore, there was never a time when God left his human beings to engage in evil matters that, eventually, forced God to send a messiah to save them from those sins and earn everlasting life in Paradise. For if God Almighty God didn’t want them to sin, God, being omnipotent, would have created human beings without shortcomings. And if he failed to do so, human beings should not be blamed for the mistake of their Creator. African Religion does not have any Last Day of judgment and punishment in Hell. You are brought up to live your own life within the laws of God and you leave the rest of what happens to you after death to God.
In African Religion if you commit a crime, you get judged and punished for the crime. Unlike the Christian God who would forgive anybody for any crime because of sheer confession of the sin, the African God does not forgive you. You should be punished for the crime. It was not long ago when, as a Catholic believer, after you have committed a crime, all that you needed for cleansing yourself, was to go to the priest and confess your sin. On your behalf the priest would pray to God and God would instantly forgive you. Thereafter you would walk out of the church and back home absolutely forgiven. The arrival of that imported God from Europe, who is absolutely forgiving, attracted many Africans with criminal propensity to abandon their unforgiving God for that material God who promised them everlasting happy life after death in his kingdom in Heaven.
The other day I was talking to a young Kalenjiin man married to an English wife, living in England where is a pastor. I asked him. “What are your experiences in preaching to white people?” He was quick to tell me that it is not easy. Not because of racism but because of something else. He told me categorically, “I am confronted by a community that tells it straight to your face that science has failed to prove to them the existence of God. So, if I want them to believe in God, you should lay bare scientific facts before them regarding God’s existence in the universe however far it may be.”
That is because they have been brought up to believe in an empirical God. They are justified to abandon that God after their scientific equipment has not spotted him somewhere. They believe in facts and metaphysical arguments take a secondary stage. It is not surprising that belief in a material God is heading to extinction in Europe and America and elsewhere. You walk into giant church which, once-upon a time, used to accommodate thousands of worshippers only to find a handful of worshippers. Thousands of church buildings are being turned into nightclubs or other social amenities outside spiritualism. They live in the world where you hear claims that Science negates existence of God. Furthermore, if you worship a material God and he makes you wealthy why should you need him anymore?
The founder of Christianity was the so-called son of God, Jesus Christ. He is claimed to be the messiah of the world so that whoever accepts him as personal saviour should gain by having everlasting happy life in Paradise. But the same Bible carries an extraordinary contradictory statement regarding the universality of Jesus. He used the following statements to deny the world exclusively:
Matthew 15:24, 26: “I have been sent only to those lost sheep, the people of Israel… It is not right to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs…” “Do not go to any Gentile territory or any Samaritan towns. Instead, you are to go to those lost sheep of the people of Israel.” John 4:22,: “You Samaritans do not really know whom you worship; but we Jews know whom we worship, because it is from the Jews that salvation comes.”
If these statements were truly delivered by Jesus, what have Africans got to do with Jewish salvation? The statements are the most avoided ones by preachers and, obviously by Prof Wanjala, who wants to believe that Jesus Christ is his personal saviour and he is on his way to Paradise where he will, nevermore, experience pains and will live on the right hand of God eternally.
It is over two thousand years since Jesus promised his followers that he was going to Heaven to build homed for them and would return to earth soon. The powerful telescopes of astronomers, which can span the universe and reach distances which would take the speed of life even thousands of years to reach, have not yet spotted that God’s home. Besides, the homes Jesus went to build leave you with many unanswered questions regarding what kind of homes they are. On earth we build homes against harsh weathers, best expressed by cold, rain, heat of the sun and so on. Is the promised Paradise subjected to weathers which would demand housing too?
The African civilization founded on the Cosmic Force may be blamed for lack of technological advancement. However, it should be given credit for never producing arms of mass destruction like the western’s civilization. On the other hand, the western civilization based on capitalism and material God should be given credit for its technological advancement. But that civilization should not get away with murder because the worst human atrocities and shams in the name Slave trade, the two World Wars, Colonialism and now the World Climate catastrophe – all have been manufactured by that civilization in presence of its material God.