Tag Archives: Africa

African children are not your pawns: World Vision and Evangelical Imperialism

Can World Vision save Starvin Marvin?

(image provided by South Park Studios)

Post-Evangelicalism, White Saviorism, and PA$$ING FOR WHITE [EVANGELICAL]

I’ve noticed somewhat of a trend that’s pretty problematic that I wanted to draw out. You can call this my official response to the World Vision / White Evangelicalism drama that went on last week.  At the center of the storm, there lied a Christian charity organization that decided to, then reversed on the decision, to hire Christians from denominations that affirmed same sex marriages.  The narrative goes: on one side, there’s the conservative evangelical wing and their Calvinist Popes who farewelled WV and on the other side, there’s the evangelicals who were lead to believe that evangelicalism was a Big Tent camp filled with Progressives, Emergents, and Missional folks. Both sides (in their blog posts), were more than eager to press this story as one where we had to “save the children.”  At no one point were the problematic practices of World Vision, its advancement of White Saviorism  through its advertisements or its questionable method of “child-sponsorships” (but not really child-sponsorships) ever put under scrutiny.  In fact, White conservative evangelical bloggers and post-evangelical bloggers did not hesitate to add numerous images of brown-skinned children (probably with disabilities as well) in their blog posts.  BECAUSE YOU KNOW, THIS DEBATE WAS ALL ABOUT THEM. UM HUMMM!

If I may wax Propaganda in “Precious Puritans,” it reeks of privilege, wouldn’t you agree? In reality, the money for the sponsorships do not go to the child directly, but to the community where they live (indirectly). The promise of these sponsorships not only promise meeting the material needs of children overseas, but also to ensure that these kids get to learn American Standard English.  Isn’t that just wonderful? We can do charity so that we can shape you in our own image! Nope. Not imperialist at all.

African and other nations populated by darker skinned people are represented time and again as the passive recipients of white benevolence.  This “help” however, is just a re-hashing of old Western-style colonialism brought to those countries by missionaries. Instead of Soviet and capitalist governments directly influencing the futures of these places, what is happening instead is that corporations such as SHELL, which will work as “monitors” for these “developing” communities, to aid in things like guiding “the communities is setting priorities” [robbing agency and human dignity from people of Color a national past-time!].  The problem with representing wholesale countries as “Needy Others” by discussing poverty outside of history (that is, remaining silent on the various political histories, economics, and regional trends) objectifies these children as Things. This is one of the primary reasons why White Evangelicals as well White Emergent / Postevangelical/ Nuanced Missional Christians were able to make flesh and blood children pawns for their White National culture wars.

After all the declarations of “I’m done with Evangelicalism” and aspiring hopes for renewal  and quotes about following Jesus and not the Church of the Pharisees [oh, that bit is problematic too, taking the Pharisees out of history, and yeah, that anti-Semitism thing]. Honestly, I always get a little squeamish when even the most progressive and high-minded Christians compare their opponents to the Pharisees because of the history of CHRISTIAN anti-Semitism we believers are guilty of. And you know what Fanon said, behind anti-Semitism, there’s anti-Black racism right around the corner.

It’s interesting how cabals of White Evangelical and Post-evangelical bloggers can arrogantly think that they have the future of Christianity in their hands.  And let’s not kid ourselves with Emergent/Emergence Christianity,etc.; the same people who appropriate the language of “liberation” from Christians of color are the same exact folks who talk about “civility” and “objectivity” as means of silencing most notably Women of Color. Evangelicalism has a bad history when it comes to race relations. Heck, all of Christianity does.  Social Justice critiques from within contemporary Evangelicalism did not start with Brian McLaren and Rob Bell; it started with the work of people like John Perkins and Tom Skinner. Unfortunately in White Evangelical institutions, John Perkins and the Christian Community Development Association were denounced as “liberals” because they dare suggest that White ministers could not properly do urban ministry unless they were discipled by persons who came from urban populations. THE NERVE! THE AUDACITY!

So here we are, rather than exploring and listening the ACTUAL over-looked party of Evangelicalism (Evangelicals who are racial minorities), we have a group of now (I guess?) former evangelicals who use their privilege to rejecting the label of Evangelical.  While there are others who can articulate this idea better than I (I got this idea from a book club meeting this week), Evangelicalism comes not only as a theology but also a history and a culture.  The history of evangelicalism in the North American context is a tale of both the social justice minded-abolitionists and the slave-holding Confederates.  Not wanting to be implicated in the social sins of the latter, many Emergent / Post-Evangelical Christians tend to focus on the former, while well, for the most part, many Conservative Evangelicals continue to glorify the problematic history uncritically.  Evangelical culture in general comes with an accomodationist approach to laizze-faire economics where every brand and marketing trend just needs a little Jesus sprinkled on it.  This is also leads to evangelical culture making charity the norm rather than solidarity

 It seems a little suspicious to me that on one hand, a number Post-Evangelicals want to keep the evangelical label, to retain the brand, the capitalist success, and access to higher social positions that it comes with, but on the other, now want to simply leave it when its convenient. In the United States of America context, in which a watered-down Protestantism turned deism has basically been the civil religion, White Evangelicalism means that a Protestantism that’s above other Protestantisms (this includes mainline churches, historically black churches, Chinese, Korean and other Protestant bodies worldwide).  These other communities are only found acceptable if they believe like, worship like, and vote like White Evangelicals.  Rather than take responsibility for their own history, the blogging bishophoric is now leading the way into a new kind of evangelical hegemony.  Indeed it would seem that the label of post-evangelical / emergent was nothing more than a way for Generation X’ers and Millenials to pa$$ as white [evangelicals], profiting while persuading others to join them on their journey into mainline Protestantism.

So what do you think? Are African, Indian, South American children being used as pawns in the White Culture Wars?

 

Atheists And Christians Promoting Empire; What A Novel Concept!

“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.This rural-traditional mindset feeds into the “big man” and gangster politics of the African city: the exaggerated respect for a swaggering leader, and the (literal) inability to understand the whole idea of loyal opposition.”- Matthew Parris, Atheist

“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”- Matthew Parris, Atheist

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

2 disclaimers before I get saddled by some orthodox Gatekeeper:

1st, Yes I am a Christian and I believe the Good News of Jesus Christ raised again should be shared with everyone,

2nd, I am a postcolonial because of Jesus and his life, his ministry, and the Old Testament prophetic tradition. If you haven’t read this blog before, now you know.

This is my response to The Gospel Coalition’s latest post on Africa which is basically affirming an Atheist who is promoting empire. If there is one thing that Western Christians and atheists have in common it is a shared legacy of colonizing bodies of color. In the above quotes, I cited atheist Matthew Parris’ GODLY (according to the Gospel Coalition) article, As An atheist, I truly believe Africa Needs God, I just wanted to point to the problematic approach that Parris is taking. It’s not the good news of Jesus rising from the dead he wants Christian missionaries to share. Missionaries are Parris’ preferred vehicles for Western values, capitalism, and rugged individualism. Notice that his conclusion is all about the material possessions that Africans could have if they only accept white Jesus as dey lawd and saviah, ahem!

Matthew Parris’ article is a prime example in the long line of racist secularists who teamed up with racist “Christians” to promote empire. For every Jonathan Edwards, there’s a David Hume. For every John Piper, there’s a Deepak Chopra. Imperialist Christians and so-called humanists alike look at Africa through Colonizing Gazes, as AFRICA is always the childish, immature backwoods, rustic country always in need of depending on the good-hearted Western nation-states.

Facts do not matter when it comes to racist myths, always remember this. Africa has a great number of Christians. Any simple research on African Christianity will lead you to see that African Christianity is not about Eurocentric religions or theology. I have also talked about the obvious long history of Christianity in Africa, but more importantly, there is no such thing as a united Africa, first and foremost. The reason why Africa is organized the way it is now, struggling nation-states (code: imitating European colonizers) was because of the British, German, Italian, Dutch, and American empires imposing themselves through violence on Africans. Yes, Matthew Parris stepped into Africa (but did he tour the entire country, ooops I MEANT CONTINENT!!!!), but he brought his racist, essentialist, imperialist gaze with him. Africans are not people to him, they are objects to receive the West’s goodness (grace?).

Now, in the TGC article,*

“He [Parris] effectively illustrates how a Christian worldview may be the only thing weighty enough to crush traditional pagan worldviews that stifle and stunt.”

Later in a conversation on Twitter, a member of the TGC defended the comments:

tgc pagan

Paganism, if it is just “the rustic way of life in the country side,” Jesus needs to save country folks and what? Deliver them into the city? No, that’s not how pagan is being used here. It’s about African Traditional Religions, with their beliefs in the spirits and ancestors. Do you know what a pagan looks like? Here is a picture of a pagan:

Adam Smith was a pagan. The Gospel Coalition keeps defending Adam Smith, therefore, they are pagan. Why is Adam Smith pagan? Because he based his economic system off of Greek philosophy and polytheism, that’s where the idea of the Invisible Hand comes from. It took a good free-will believing Christian named John Wesley to confront Adam Smith’s paganism. And Africa needs to be saved from witchCraft? What about the Warlocks of Deception at the TGC and their stance on race: singing the praises of holy hip hop one day, but praising neo-confederate Douglas Wilson the next. In the Bible (remember King Saul), witches called upon dead souls who were resting in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. I don’t see any difference between that Witchcraft and the TGC Calling upon dead white guys to promote an oppressive theology!

In undergrad, I had a Ghanian who told me about his experience in the school system there, how Christian holidays are recognized by everyone, and even non-Christians have to recognize them (it’s a holiday, yo!), and I remember how this story just really bothered me and made me question the way I saw Africa, not as the eternal essential oriental other I was taught, but as unique, with cultures as equally valid and made in the Imago Dei as all others. Parris is promoting the exact opposite, Africa’s cultural inequality (something the Gossip Kkkoalition’s homeboy, Douglas Wilson also affirms). NeoColonialism/Empire, regardless of the defender’s creed (atheist or calvinist), is an equal opportunity racist.

*Editor’s note: This post has been corrected to reflect the articles linked.

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Raising Awareness: Korah, Ethiopia

Let bronze be brought from Egypt; let Ethiopia hasten to stretch out its hands to God. Psalm 68:31

This from Polycarp and Michael Halcomb:

75 years ago the village was established because of leprosy. The people came from the countryside to seek treatment for their illness. They came to ALERT Hospital, which was established by Dr. Ross, from the U.S. and a Dutch doctor named Chris Dorman. When they heard of the spread of leprosy, these two men approached King Hale Selase to request land to establish a hospital specifically for the treatment of leprosy. King Hale Selase was willing to give land, but only land that was far from the town and in the forest so as to keep the people with leprosy separate from everyone else. The two doctors started the hospital and began treating these patients who had immigrated from the countryside.

These infected people came to the city because their family members believed they were cursed when they contracted leprosy. Some of these individuals were put into a separate hut when their disease was discovered and later their family tried to light their hut on fire. The family members were so convinced that the leprosy was a curse that they were willing to kill their own children. Some escaped from these hostile family members and came to Addis for treatment.

After King Hale Selase lost power to the Communist Dirge Regime who took power over the lives of the people of Korah, matters only worsened. The regime wanted those with leprosy to be eliminated. Therefore, the military base close to the colony would often send out soldiers to beat and even slaughter residents of Korah. They thought it was better if these “lepers” were dead.

Years ago, the impoverished people of Korah began sending their children to the nearby landfill (the king also put this far away from the city just like these people) to collect anything that seemed edible. To survive, these families consumed food that others had thrown away. This became their lives – waking every morning, no, running to the trash yard and fighting to salvage the best that could be found there for food, which was usually rotten. This is still happening today! After the communists had power for 17 years the revolutionaries took back control. With this change there came a new, yet disgraceful opportunity – this new government would actually let the “lepers” beg in the city.

The statistics now show that there are approximately 75,000 people living in the Korah area. This community is made up of people with different backgrounds but one thing in common: poverty. The area is becoming a breeding ground for HIV as prostitution has become rampant in the community – a popular response to the poverty trap. Small moonshine houses are also a common business here as many men choose to drink as an escape from the realities of their lives.

The name Korah came from the idea that the people in the community were cursed. For years people referred to the leprosy colony and those in it as the “Sons of Korah” who were swallowed up by the earth in the Old Testament because of their cursedness or sinfulness. Eventually this became the official name of the community, only exasperating their shame and rejection.

The history of Korah is hard for many to hear or read of because of the many injustices that the community has faced. Today, these injustices have resulted in a community that needs the understanding, guidance and help of the church. There is much potential for this community of “rejects” and that is why this website and the ministries described herein exists.

From Michael Halcomb and his friend Xavier Pacheco, come these two videos. The first from Michael, the second from Xavier.

We all apparently have heard the stories of Jesus’ life; liberationists remind us that time and again, Jesus seems to side with those on the margins, those outcasts, the lepers, the widows. Let us not turn a blind eye to the Korah Community.

To become support Ethiopia’s outcasts, visit this link. Help Korah

Truth and Peace,

Rod