Colonial Christianity has made Africa(ns) stupid

Ah, let it be said:Colonial Christianity(CC) has made Africans stupid! Before any Christians and Christian fundamentalists get too upset, let me add myself to the group of Africans who have been stupefied by Christianity. I think anybody who has come into contact with Christianity has had their intellectual capacity interfered with. But let us look at some examples. How has CC stupefied Africans?

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Women in Nigeria in a church. Image source: Pulitzer 

1. CC is the greatest force in the weakening of African cultural infrastructure. When missionaries came to Africa, they told Africans that ALL their cultures are primitive, raw, and uncooked. That in order to get civilized, they had to abandon all their cultures completely, otherwise they would not be admitted to heaven. The result? Destruction of cultural systems, philosophies that guided African life, knowledge that helped them navigate their respective environments, and so on. A Christian believes that nothing else matters other than Jesus and the Bible. That book has destroyed Africans’ minds. In her book, ‘The Challenge for Africa’, Wangari Maathai argues that de-culturation is one of the most serious challenges in Africa, but it is not closely examined because it is overtaken by other challenges which take a political or economic angle. If you examine those closely, you will see that they are related to culture.

Media takeout
                          When Ugandan’s hired a white man to play Jesus during Easter.                                          Image source:  Mediatakeout.com

2. Africans are quite happy to buy into the Biblical garden of Eden creation story of origin, and to rubbish all their various stories of origin as primitive. In the garden of Eden story, the woman allegedly fed a ‘forbidden fruit’ (depicted as an apple in CC literature) to a man, who had no self-control, which then set human downfall into motion. Of course, that has been used to entrench patriarchy and subjugation of women, but let me stick with how this has made Africans stupid. How many Africans have ever eaten an apple? How many Africans grow apples? This is just like teaching children the alphabet using A for Apple. This is alienating. Many African stories of origin are packed with teachings, with philosophies that grounded human beings in their respective environments, they featured trees, water bodies, mountains, valleys, etc. So, from a young age, an African child could understand environmental complexity and reverence through these stories. Now we have garden of Eden. Where is this garden? Nobody knows. Even people who live in very arid and semi-arid environments are forced into a paradigm of thinking of lush gardens. Stupefied! I mentioned the other day that Christians in Igboland, Nigeria were destroying trees, which are said to be shrines. The continent is ravaged by climate change. And Africans are cutting trees instead of planting? This is STOOOPPPIID!

Climate change
Image source: UN.org

3. African cultural forms of expression such as song, dance, performance, sayings, and other forms were an integral part of their lives – before the encounter with missionaries/colonisers. When missionaries came, they said all this is sinful and the dances were lascivious. There were songs about planting, harvesting, songs for new-born children, songs for transitioning from adolescence to adulthood, wedding songs, funeral songs, etc. A rich repertoire packed with knowledge and power. Now, Africans only sing about Jesus! When they want to celebrate something, they sing about Jesus. Jesus has captured and brainwashed Africans. He has been made to be the only person worth composing songs about;Jesus and politicians are the only ones who now get songs composed about them. In many African liberation struggles, the use of song was a critical ingredient in resisting oppression. Now the power of the African mind had been diminished by only creating songs about Jesus. I once asked an elder to sing for me some songs, that they would sing at various stages in life. Her response: Oh I forgot my child, our songs were wiped out by the church! Don’t you think CC has reduced the intellectual capacity of Africans? CC makes Africans think of African culture as sinful. Everything is a sin. Singing your songs is a sin, dancing is a sin. Even children are said to have sinned and have to constantly pray for forgiveness of their sins. What sins have children committed? Stupidity galore! Infact, they have to be baptized to remove something known as “the original sin”.

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I took this picture at the Museum in Livingstone, Zambia.  By chance, I met a rastafarian on the streets – we go talking and he told me that some Zambians will not go to the hospital or take medicine when they get sick  – they will go to church instead. Of course, they think he is evil, because he keeps dreadlocks. A few years ago, Zambia held national prayers because there were a lot of power cuts/no electricity.  Whichever way you look at it, that is the opposite of clever. 

4. Every religion is shaped by the environmental context from which it emerges. The Bible makes reference to cedars, palms, olives, and so on. Do olives grow in most of Africa? The first time I saw an Olive tree was in Morocco. So, why should somebody in Lesotho be forced to think about olives and to recite bible verses that make reference to them? That is stupefying!

Olive trees
Olive trees: Image source: Borges

5. Christianity is associated with so much injustice – the slave trade, colonialism, neo-colonial encirclement, extraction of resources, and so on and so forth, but Africans are the greatest defenders of Christianity. How come? Is it because it has made Africans stupid? The most intolerant people you will ever meet are Christians – especially, the ‘born again’ variety. Kenyan Christians massacred other Christians in a church during the post-election violence. During the Rwandese genocide Christians massacred other Christians in Churches. But today, churches in both contexts are packed with Africans. Why? Is it because Christianity hinders critical thought?

Owuor
Image source: Kenya News Alert TV/YouTube

6. According to Christianity, when you commit a sin, you are supposed to confess. If you are a Catholic, you whisper your sins to a priest, always a man (the Catholic church is the epicentre of patriarchy), and if you are a protestant you yell and make noise and ask for God’s forgiveness. So, a politician who has stolen public resources, impoverished the poor, made their lives a living nightmare, caused the death of some, can just ask for forgiveness, and will be forgiven – just like that. Then they will meet in heaven with the poor person he impoverished, and dance forever with the white angels in the streets of gold. I saw someone asking – where is the gold in heaven mined from? It must be from Africa. But, back to the point I wanted to make. I wanted to say that Christianity is a Zero sum game for Africans. Nobody has suffered more because of Christianity than the poor, who have to support the lavish lifestyle of the politician that I have mentioned above, and the lavish lifestyle of the clergy. Both of these two groups of people live off the sweat of the poor – one via taxes, and the other one via sadaka/offerings. It appears that the Christian God does not see the gross injustice meted to the poor and oppressed.

World Vision
Image source: World Vision

7. In Kenya, politicians are very happy to contribute to building more churches. We have more churches than schools and hospitals put together. I wonder if they would be as enthusiastic to contribute to building a library. Politicians are happy to contribute to churches, because the church will keep the flock so mystified and hypnotized and in utopia, that they will not have time to think about where or how their taxes are used. And the church is used as a platform to launder stolen funds. In that way, the church becomes a tool of oppression. But since you are so busy praising Jesus and God, you cannot see it. Our treasures are laid in heaven, this world is not our home, we are just passing by! Stooopid!

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8.Is the Christian God deaf?? I saw somebody ask this on facebook. Missionaries depicted the Christian God as a white old man, with a big long-white-beard. This man must be deaf. Why do Christians have to make so much noise? Rasna Warah, a Kenyan writer tweeted how she could not work because of noise from a church near her home. She is not alone! Churches are everywhere – in residential areas, in the city centre, in the markets, in public transport – everywhere! And because the Christian God is deaf, they have to yell – with loud speakers and loud music systems. They do not care if people are sleeping, if people are sick, if people are working, if people just want peace and quiet – they just do not care. Jesus must be praised-day and night. A person who does not care about others is a stupid person. Again, I ask, why is Christianity associated with so much injustice?

Pastor insecticide the standard
This pastor from South Africa told his congregants that if he sprayed them with this substance, he would heal them of Hiv/Aids and Cancer.  Image source: The Standard

 

9. I think I mentioned that the Bible has destroyed Africans’ minds, right? There is a group of Africans who we should call ‘the Bible says Africans’. Every time they want to make a point, and by point, I mean to justify oppression or to justify timidity, they will invoke some Bible verses. Why can’t Africans read other books? The Bible for Africans should be Franz Fanon’s ‘The Wretched of the Earth‘ or any other book of that stature. I was speaking to an African the other day, and they were telling me that the reason why poor people are so exploited by the church is because, “they are not educated”. I do not think so. Aside: women are severely exploited and abused by the church- there are videos circulating around Facebook and other forums of pastors molesting women (touching their bodies, so that they can get children and other kinds of such-like garbage). I actually think it is the educated & elite that are the problem and not the poor. The educated and elite will walk around bragging how God has blessed them, they will attribute their financial or other success to “God and prayer”, and never mention anything about hard work, what opportunities they had, what networks they could leverage into, and many other factors outside religion. It is they that have stupefied the poor with this empty religiosity. Because, then, a poor person thinks that the only thing they have to do is pray, fast, and go to church every day and night, so that God can bless them like he has blessed the elite. This brings me to my last point.

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10. A poor woman will take eggs from her house and go and give them to the pastor, but will not feed them to her children. She needs blessings, and will be willing to give all she has. Then, her children get malnutrition because of lack of protein. She has no money to take them to hospital. And since the government has bungled the healthcare system, by under-investing in it, because they leave such work to NGO’s and missionaries, and churches, she has nowhere to turn to. She turns to prayer and fasting. She also gets sick and depressed.

Christianity has made Africans stupid.
Christianity has ‘dismembered’ Africa , to borrow Ngugi wa Thiong’os word. It has torn Africa apart into pieces, until Africans do not know who they are any more.

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As you can see from this sticker, the finger of God is white. 

Now, someone will say – why don’t you see all the good things the church has done like creating schools and hospitals? The short answer is this – it is not the job of the church to provide these social services. That is the responsibility of the government. The fact that NGO’s and Churches provide these services is a testament to failure of government, and as I pointed out above, the church gives the corrupt and incompetent politicians a soft landing and warm embrace. If the church was involved in helping citizens to push the government into delivering social services, I would support it. But the church cannot because it is a beneficiary of the poverty,  desperation, and oppression of African peoples. Secondly, thee church has thrived(since the colonial period), through cannibalizing other forms of social organization.

48 thoughts on “Colonial Christianity has made Africa(ns) stupid

    1. Thanks for reading. When did Trump say that and who did he tell it to? Isn’t Africa already colonized? When did it stop being colonized? You cannot recolonize something that is already colonized.

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      1. Great piece. What travelers means is that Africa needs recolonization in order to get rid of this stupidity. But its on a light note!

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  1. I am a Christian theologian and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your piece Kendi and that is why for many of us now in my field, we are focusing on post colonial lenses for reading the sacred text and dealing with all the stupidity we have inherited. unfortunately we seem to continue to swim in it going by the explosion and growth of these stupefying ‘institutions’ where masses are being cheated into fake healings and the little they have is all given to the man or woman of ‘gold’. We need more critical African minds so that our mother continent can experience genuine liberation and live in dignity with one another and the entire creation. However, I think we have such a long way to go

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    1. Japhet, how nice it is to hear that there are theologians like you out there, who understand and appreciate the severity of these issues in relation to liberation of African peoples. Thanks for reading, and unfortunately, I have to agree with you. We have a long way to go.

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      1. Yes. I use Colonial Christianity to distinguish it from the kind of Christianity practiced in places like Ethiopia and Egypt, via the Coptic church. That one is different from the one that was introduced to Africa through colonialism.

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      2. I live in the UK. The Christianity here is not the same as that in Kenya. (I am Kenyan). For one, the churches are not shouty. Meaning, their God isn’t deaf like the Kenyan one that must be screamed at. I am talking about mainstream churches in the UK. The African ones are very shouty. The deaf God follows Africans everywhere.

        The churches here are also not territorial and oppressive as the Kenyan ones. I can wear my tight clothes to church. I can serve wine to church guests when they visit my home. I can miss church without being questioned where I was. The Kenyans one I know, unapimiwa head tu sana.

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      3. Hahah Chebet. The god in Kenya must be deaf. I can never understand why a church with two people only need a public address system.

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  2. This is an interesting article that calls for attention but also for a reflection. Thank you for such a sensitive observation. I came across your article, read it but also compelled to make a few reflected responses to your ten-point opinion.
    1. Christianity is about Christ, on Christ and culture, Christ is not against culture, not for culture, not in paradox with culture, not of culture. He is God incarnated in human flesh. He lived in a cultural context therefore in the culture he reforms it to be in accordance with God whom we as Africans call Supreme being ‘Ngai’, ‘Imana’, ‘Mulungu’, ‘Modimo’ and so on. However, I concur with you that westerners deculturated us in order to divide and rule.
    2. Regarding creation in the garden of Eden. For us to understand the creation narrative we must logically analyse it, considering the context and the language, which is a long process of Exegesis, that I may not dwell into. As a theologian, I note when you consider the Hebrew language, there is a literary balance throughout the narrative. Basically, the narrative is what is called in Greek ‘aetiologia’ which is translated as giving a reason for origin, a close word in Kikuyu if I’m correct ‘gutaariria’ or ‘igataariria’.
    For further analysis, we can closely compare with the African narrative, for example, the ‘Agikuyu’ creation narrative and Creation in the garden of Eden which is an Ancient near East narrative. There are some similarities e.g. involvement of trees in ‘Agikuyu’ the ‘Mukuyu’, the Mugumo and so forth just like in the other the tree of life and so on. It is a very long comparative study but Let’s save it for another time.
    3. It is true that indeed missionaries demonized African culture but its good to understand not Christianity. Again, African culture is not evil, but some elements need to be reformed. Baptism just like African sacrifices is an outward expression with an inward meaning. Baptism does not clean your sin, but it is a symbol of the forgiveness of sin.
    4. Interesting, However, an idea originating from a different context does not explicitly render it irrelevant, and not applicable to another context. in African theology, we emphasize contextualization of the Scripture through African elements and forms for an explanation.
    5. Please, it will be good to separate Christianity and the western missionaries. Christianity is not the problem but the messengers who were influenced by their context and who were ethnocentric and to err. Regarding the packed African church, I agree with Professor John Mbiti who describes ‘Africans as notoriously religious’. However, I agree that some people have taken advantage of those who believe in God and being religious. They have brainwashed Africans for their own prosperity. Which is evil and unacceptable.
    6. There are denominational differences. But the fact is we no longer need an intermediary such as a priest or even ancestors or even shouting for repentance. What Christ did, gave a direct communication to God and therefore we can solely ask for forgiveness.
    7. I concur with you, politicians have compromised the church. The church is obligated to be accountable. When I talk of the church I mean the Christians because they make the church to be an institution, without the people then the church is just a building.
    8. That’s right, that some people are not considerate. Allow me to mention, that the Scripture never explicitly states that people should make loud noises with no meaning. So those Christians must be considerate of their neighbour. They need to have both relationships with God and humanity or else they will be powerful but irrelevant and annoying in the society. Just out of topic, also considerate to the environment, for Christ came for the redemption of humanity and all creation.
    9. There are many people misusing the scripture for their own justification. But this doesn’t render the Bible irrelevant. I agree with you that the elite has manipulated the vulnerable poor people. I will put it this way that when our belief in God becomes too religious then it becomes poisonous. It’s awesome that you are sensitive to observe and speak about this.
    10. Giving is not under compulsion, you give what you decide in your heart. However, we need to free Africans from being enslaved by the prosperity gospel preachers.
    Lastly, Christianity and colonialism have been intertwined. This is for the fact that it was associated with European colonial powers. There is a quest to decolonize African Christians. Therefore, African Christianity is a decolonised colonial Christianity because it contextualizes the scripture using African acceptable forms and language.
    Christian theology was shaped by African church fathers such as Augustine, Tertullian, Origen, Clement and many others. This shaped the development of western Christianity, hence, Christianity is more rooted in African soil than in Europe. When the missionaries arrived in Africa, they communicated in their own biased expression and perspective. But we are called to re-communicate Christianity in its authenticity in our own narrative, speech and expression.

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    1. Gatimu, thanks for reading and for providing such a detailed response. In which church is this African-centred theology taught? When you go to African homes and other public spaces, you still find white Jesus. Kenyans were taking pictures with a white bare-footed mzungu a few years ago, because they thought he was Jesus. I really think those that colonised us look at us and just laugh out loud! Let me respond to no 6: “There are denominational differences. But the fact is we no longer need an intermediary such as a priest or even ancestors or even shouting for repentance. What Christ did, gave a direct communication to God and therefore we can solely ask for forgiveness.” I think this is one of the greatest inherent weakness of Christianity, the fact that your salvation is a solo affair, and that your ask for your own forgiveness directly from God. It is through such doctrine that all manner of crooks have found a soft landing. In Kenya, people go to jail for serious crimes against humanity, emerge out of jail having been “born again” , and proceed to establish churches, which Kenyans flock to. All their sins are wiped away – nobody asks what happens to those that they murdered, and their families, nobody asks where the public resources they plundered are – and the consequence of plunder of public resources leads to the death and misery of millions. In other words, injustice and oppression get entrenched. Everybody is “God fearing”. Question – why does the PCEA church have such a big problem with mburi cia kiama? I am not convinced that Christianity can get Africans very far, for so far (after over 100 years) of Christianity in Africa, Africans are still groping in the darkness. You might be interested in this: https://gloriakendiborona.wordpress.com/2018/01/24/why-colonial-christianity-is-the-no-1-problem-in-africa-an-illustration/

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      1. Gatimu: There is some discussion about slavery and Christianity in this post: https://gloriakendiborona.wordpress.com/2017/04/18/stories-from-ghana/

        Also, forgiveness and recompense in African settings is very different from the Christian version. In many African societies, asking for forgiveness is tied to reparation, sanctions, shaming, there is a cost- in Christianity, all that does not exist. All I have to do is ask God to forgive me and that is it. That is why all the greatest murderers, plunderers, and tormentors of the people are Christians.

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  3. This is a great article… A mind opener to so many brainwashed Africans. I pitty my land how I wish we can all see,understand this and become United.
    Thanks

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  4. Kendi, Many thanks for such a great insight and an honest analysis of the unspoken but open truth. Most of us Africans are simply stupefied to say anything – maybe overwhelmed with fear of the promised eternal gnashing of teeth, fire and brimstone. However since Africans are inherently very religious they have ingeniously created brand new forms of Christianity distinct from the Colonial Christianity. These myriad sects of Christianity are no better since they are just as outrageously exploitative both materially and spiritually just as the CC. Amusingly though, most of them make our ancestors proud by their lascivious song and dance.

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  5. I am a Christian and I have a completely different perspective. The reason why we quote the Bible is because we believe it’s the ultimate authority in wisdom and life and am usually amazed at the way it always has a word for every situation. In your case the response is gotten from 1 Corinthians 2: 1-16; in summary it says the natural man perceives spiritual things as foolishness. History shows that many things people enjoy have been invented mainly by people professing Christianity or Judaism, so I believe the human manufacturer has nothing to do stupidity. Christianity by the way came to Africa before it went to Europe by the Ethiopian Eunuch. Christianity emanated from Israel and Africa and Israel had close interactions from the time of Abraham the father of Israel. Just like you have counterfeit currencies, there are counterfeit Christianity. We don’t rubbish and stop using our currency because someone handed us a counterfeit, we are more careful next time so that we don’t end up again as we need currency to transact. It’s the same with Christianity.

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    1. Janice, I used Colonial Christianity to distinguish it from the Coptic version that is practiced in Ethiopia and Egypt. Christianity is the rest of Africa cannot be divorced from its colonial origins, and perhaps, that is why it still retains colonial, oppressive, racist residues!

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    1. Deflection and gaslighting all rolled into one- Challenge the merit of the arguments made. You remind me of someone who said that those who critique colonialism should stop wearing clothes, because it is the colonisers who brought clothes! Ahistorical to the core!

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    2. Kim, our use of a Colonial language is purely utilitarian. Language has no owners. Even the New Testament was written by Jews in the language of the pagan Greeks. Whatever allows your message to be more widely dispersed should be used instead of toying with limiting atavism.

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  6. The Jews had the choice of Hebrew (or Aramaic, another language they appropriated from the Babylonians), but they chose Greek because it was more widespread. The Roman rulers had conquered Greece but they used the conquered Greeks’ language to administer some provinces for purely utilitarian reasons.
    Even the current Hebrew script is actually from Aramaic, not the palaeo-Hebrew of the commandment tablets.
    Take the best elements of any culture and own them. English is roughly 30% from French, 30% from Latin/Greek, 10% from other languages and 30% native Anglo Saxon.
    The Asian countries appropriated the best from the west but still kept their identity.

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  7. Christianity came to Africans and stole to even demonized our culture, when the colonialists left it became a business one of the untaxed businesses.

    You have shared the truth that many have feared for ages

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  8. People teach the flesh not the Spirit of the Word. Rome introduced race into Africa along time ago. They feed the flesh not the spirit. I left the altars along time ago and walk by myself.

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  9. I was searching for information on what effect Irish Missionaries had on the culture of Africa when I came across your piece. It’s a subject I find fascinating, from the time, years ago, on an Irish chat show when a well respected Irish poet challenged a prominent clergyman as to what right we Irish had to go and “convert” Africans. The clergyman said, that according to the bible, we had to go and spread the news. The poet challenged this forcefully, making the point that everyone’s culture is precious and that to eradicate it by supplanting an imported ideology is the worst possible SIN. Also, given the Irish experience of being the only European country that never colonised anywhere and, our own dreadful experience of the effect of colonisation on us, including a famine which wiped out two million, surely we should know better. My own research is for a play I’m thinking of writing. Very glad I cam upon your writings. Keep it up

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    1. Hi Michael, thank you for reading and your very thoughtful comment. I have other blog posts on Christianity. Not sure if you saw them. Christianity in Africa is a scourge. All the best with your play.

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