Monday, September 28, 2009

A Missionary Kid Returns Home, part 7 - by James Hargrave

James (center) and two friends discussing the finer points of Kierkegaardian metaphysics...or maybe it was just girls...



Part Seven: Postcolonial Africa

While college was certainly tough, it was also great. I had good friends and good professors, and thoroughly enjoyed my English major. One of my areas of focus was in postcolonial literature and postcolonial studies. It was interesting to read literature set in the geographical and cultural context that was home to me. And reading about Africa as experienced by Africans was enlightening.

Much of postcolonial theory and literature is profoundly anti-Christian. Christianity is seen—and sometimes rightly so!—as an agent of colonial domination. Western missionaries told Africans to suffer for the sake of Christ, and so when European Christian empires told African Christians to give up their families, cultures, homelands and lives in service to Western settlers, the Christian thing to do was submit.

Ngugi wa Thiong'o, James' favorite African novelist...
now, say his name ten times fast!


Reality is more complicated than this, and even in the worst circumstances the truth of the Gospel can shine. But there are a great deal of profoundly negative things to be said about the role of European and American Christian missions in subjugating the peoples of Africa to terrible and brutal oppression by European empires. And today, although most African states have been nominally independent for more than a generation, the master-servant relationship between Western and indigenous cultures still exists and still bears bitter fruit.

In postcolonial studies I saw the worst of that bitter fruit, and was blinded to the good fruit that has been borne by the spread of the Gospel throughout Africa. I was no longer merely indifferent to Christianity, I was now outright opposed. Christianity, as I understood it, was still at work in Africa to destroy Africa and to turn healthy indigenous culture into a broken collection of third-class humans whose only choice was to make do with the trash left behind by indifferent superpowers

None of what I believed was strictly false, but it was far less than true. And I did recall that not all Christendom was guilty of the things I blamed it for. I remembered my childhood experiences with Orthodox Ethiopia and the Orthodox Church of Kenya, which was born of indigenous Christian resistance to the worst of colonial terror. The one crack in my hardened heart had been made by Orthodox Christianity...


And I did recall that not all Christendom was guilty of the things I blamed it for. I remembered my childhood experiences with Orthodox Ethiopia and the Orthodox Church of Kenya, which was born of indigenous Christian resistance to the worst of colonial terror. The one crack in my hardened heart had been made by Orthodox Christianity...


3 comments:

elizabeth said...

This is really helpful. Thank you.

Clint said...

As always, I am enjoying reading the story. My heart hurts for your "lost time." However, you mention the cracks that are appearing and I look forward to reading how they break open wide...

Isabel said...

very interesting and well said. How often we think we are doing the right thing for someone else, and have not stopped to think if our motives are selfish. Thank God for Orthodoxy and all the hope it brings.