Tag Archives: African Christianity

Will “Socialism” Save Nigeria?

POLITICS Editor Nathan Lewis Lawrence is a biracial graduate student, world traveler, and jujitsu enthusiast from Lancaster, Ohio. He received his bachelor’s degree in Security studies from Tiffin University in Tiffin, Ohio and received a M.A. in Peace and Conflict studies at the Department of International Relations at Hacettepe University. Currently, he attends the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. Check out his personal blog Taming Cynicism.

 

Earlier this year was a landmark event for Nigeria. The Nigerian presidential election was held on March 29th and was an opportunity for violence in an already unstable political environment. Incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) ran against the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) (a consultative member of the Socialist International) and former military head of state Muhammadu Buhari, but lost and ceded defeat on March 31st. Buhari’s letter to the New York Times immediatelyafter the election charges former President Goodluck Jonathan with inaction and suggeststhat this is “why the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan was swept aside last month”. He promises to deploy more troops to north-eastern Nigeria to fight Boko Haram and advocates increased education services for the country’s population, quoting Nelson Mandela:“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” This bears the question, can socialism and progressivism as articulated by Buhari save Nigeria?

 

The new president has a lot ahead of him.The colossal growth of the Nigerian economy due to oil speculation has lifted millions out of poverty while leaving others in what can only be called poverty. The Christian majority, residing in the southernmost part of the country, has disproportionately benefited from this economic growth as compared to their Muslim and northern brethren. This causes resentment not just based on religion but also based on socioeconomic status. Although Nigeria has great oil wealth, 70 percent of Nigerian citizens are unemployed and living on less than $1.25 per day. The north suffers greatly, with 72 percent of the people living in poverty, compared to 27 percent in the south and 35 percent in the Niger Delta.[1]This is the origin of Boko Haram’s anti-capitalist stance and its stance against western education. The organization makes the analytical mistake of lumping the state, large oil corporations, and Christianity into one entity. Can Buhari turn the country around with what he calls “true federalism” or is this just another left-ward sham like the Democratic Party in the United States or the Labour Party in the United Kingdom? Wide spread corruption in many case can easily be correlated to poverty, but this is especially true in Nigeria.

 

The election was the first of six in the region; therefore, it sets a precedence for the rest of the western Africa and it was not without deep controversy. The election was already postponed once before by six weeks and the International Crisis Group believedthis postponement of the election “seems to have been motivated by politics rather than security. Over the previous few months, public backing for Jonathan and his ruling PDP had shrunk.”This contrasts with the recent offensive against Boko Haram by the Nigerian Government. It could be argued that the postponement was largely motivated by the political ambitions of the election rather than concerns about the health and wellbeing of Nigerian citizens. As expected, violence did in fact surround the elections, especially in the light of over 800 people losing their lives in the 2011 elections. There have been reports of Boko Haram attacking polling stations. According to Al-Jazeera, at least 39 people were gunned down in north-eastern Nigeria the day before the elections, including Gombe state legislator Umaru Ali, as well as other attacks around the country. For example, there was also “two car bombs exploded at two polling stations in south-central Enugu state but did not hurt voters. Two other car bombs were detonated at a primary school in Enugu, state police Commissioner Dan Bature said.” In contrast, the African Union issued a statement declaring that the:

 

“The polling process was generally peaceful during the accreditation as well as voting       and counting processes, despite isolated incidence of violence reported in Bayelsa and    Enugu. Whilst crowd control was a challenge in a number of polling units observed, the AUEOM commends the security agencies for their professional conduct in upholding a peaceful atmosphere throughout the Election Day.”

 

In order to understand how significant the election truly was, there must be a deeper understanding of Nigeria’s political system. The ruling People’s Democratic Party is considered to be center-right and is in favor of economic liberalism. They have won every presidential election since 1999 and is the party of the current former President Goodluck Jonathan. In contrast, the opposition and the victors of the 2015 election, All Progressives Congress (APC) promote a more leftward economic platform that includes a push for free education. In fact, it is consultative member of the Socialist International, but any progressive worth his or her salt should be concerned. General Muhammadu Buhari, the new president of Nigeria, was briefly the head of state in the mid-1980s following a military coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Shehu Shagari; therefore, making his new presidency a highly controversial one. President Buhari is well entrenched into the Nigerian upper-class and is a career politician. Buhari’s commitment to anti-colonial efforts and economic reform should remain under our scrutiny.

 

Though Boko Haram’s analysis of the situation is fundamentally flawed, in that western corporations and Christianity are one in the same, there is a point to be made. The former president and many power structures in Nigeria are decidedly Christian. In order to fix the current conflict in Nigeria, underlining structural issues must be addressed but these structures are most accessible to traditionally Christian peoples; therefore, it is the responsibility of Christians to address the issue of poverty and economic disparity in the country.  For Christians in the United States, our response must not only include a focus on exposing the atrocities of Boko Haram and remembering those who died for Christ, but also remember His call to feed the poor and nurture the sick.

[1]Agbiboa, D. (2013). The Ongoing Campaign of Terror in Nigeria: Boko Haram versus the State. Stability: International Journal Of Security & Development, 2(3), 1-17.

Photo  Image: Photo was found on Flickr and is a picture of Nigeria’s green and white flag flying on a flag pole and over a black car.

prophecy and deliverance.

Cornel West in his groundbreaking text work, Prophesy and Deliverance: A Afro-American Revolutionary Christianity,  attempts to outline a methodology by which we can understand African American political theology. Accordingly, those who study African American political theology must acknowledge the strong influence of evangelical and pietistic Christianity on it.  African American Christian traditions were begotten the moment the African slaves landed in the United States and were dominated by their slave masters who used the bible to justify it. White American Christians used the bible as tool to create servitude. However, the slaves took Christianity and used the biblical text, Protestant hymns, and Christian testimonies to interpret their lives. Ultimately, this engagement led to how West conceives of the black church. For West,  the black church is not limited to a particular denomination interpretation of church. Rather the black church is unified under by the shared experience of slaves to follow Jesus over the dogmatic and coercive Christianity that was presented to them by their slave owners. It was the black church that helped the slaves to not only understand themselves but their communities as well. West admits that the black church tradition took various forms to create what is now the rich diversity that is contemporary black theological reflection.

Most poignantly for West is the prophetic tradition originated from the black church, and its influence on the scope of African American political theology. He writes the prophetic Christianity’s greatest contribution is, “individuals regardless of class, country, caste, race, or sex should have the opportunity to fulfill his or her potentiality.” This serves as the core of prophetic Christian gospel for him. The God of this text is a transcendental God who has created all people equally and subsequently has provided divine salvation to the same extent. In other words, prophetic Christianity has provided African American political theology with the notion of radical egalitarianism. West describes this notion as “the Christian principle of the self-realization of individuality within the community.” While I agree with West for the most part on his view of the role of the prophetic in shaping the African American political theology I do believe that his view is limited. I strongly believe that Christianity is not the only religion that was used by slaves in developing African American political theology. Although the black church had arguably the loudest voice in this development it certainly was not the only voice. West monopolizes Christianity as the sole religious factor in the development of the political theology for the African slaves. It has been estimated that between 10-20 percent of the African slaves who came to America were actually Muslims. Many of these slaves fought fervently to maintain their Muslim identity. Some of succeed beyond the first generation but many were coerced into converting into Christianity.

There were also various theistic slave religions that came to America as well, through the transatlantic slave trade. Many of them shared similarities such as a belief in a Supreme Creator. African religious traditions were deeply rooted in balancing the spiritual realm and the natural world. Remnants of this are still seen today in how African Americans balance theology or religious modes of thinking with the realities that they experience in the natural world. My point here is this, Cornel West in his description of the black church and the influence of the prophetic nature of Christianity on the scope of African American political theology neglects the multifarious religious nature of the African slaves. Enslaved Africans did not learn American Christianity on a blank slate or without prior religious foundations. There were many different religious ideologies that influenced the development of African American political theology. To develop a more robust understanding of the political theology of African Americans it is important to recognize the polyreligious origins of the religion of the African American slaves.

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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