African religion and christianity Essay
African religion and christianity
Although Africa was not a plain or bear continent, Africans had their way of life, structure of government, religion, economic activities, education,systems of marriage and development plans for their societies, nevertheless the British brought their systems which conflicted with Africans established way of life, this was because the British, as many other European powers were economically depressed and Africa appeared to be the only way out.The British wanted to pass the three C’s; Commerce, that is to make money through acquisition of free labour form Africans, raw materials for their industries as industrial revolution back in Britain was rapidly taking place, market for their surplus production; Christianity to save Africans as alluded in the Gospel of Saint Mark 16 versus 5 Go ye to the entire world, baptizing all men in the name of Jesus.”Explorers such as David Livingstone, Vasco Da Gama, Portuguese Diego Cam and Arabs with Muslim faith had missionary zeal. The last C is for Civilization, they wanted to civilize Africans in terms of education, culture and many other aspects I will bring out later in this essay.
Black`s Law Definition of religion; This is man`s relation to Divinity, reverence, worship, obedience, and submission to mandates and precepts of supernatural or superior beings. In a broad sense, it includes all forms of belief in the existence of superior beings exercising power over human beings by volition, imposing rules of conduct with future rewards and punishments.
Awolalu defines African religion as “…largely written in the people’s myth and folktales, in their songs and dances, in their liturgies and shrines and in their proverbs and pithy sayings. It is a religion whose historical founder is neither known nor worshipped; it is a religion that has no zeal for the membership drive, yet it offers persistent fascination for Africans, young and old.” The African traditional religion was not homogeneous as the communities had different ethnic background thus the religious practices such rituals varied one community to the other. It is worth noting that it was oral, not scripted or written and was passed from one generation to the other by word of mouth as I earlier alluded in the Awolalu definition of religion. Within their organized societal structures, Africans believed in supernatural beings together with ancestral spirits.The ancestral spirits were believed to link the living societal members to the gods.
We all agree that one cannot talk about African religion without African values as they are intertwined and inseparable. African religion was embedded in moral values or codes or standards which were believed to originate from God through the ancestral spirits, these values when followed or observed one would be rewarded with maybe good harvest from their cultivation of land or increased number of a flock of cattle. When these values have violated the culprits were reprimanded, for instance, adultery was highly condemned therefore in case a member engaged in it he or she could be punished by God through the ancestral spirit. This punishment could be through the infliction of sickness to the culprit or barrenness.
The concept of values is a vital point as one talks of the African religion. African religion is drawn from the African values. The African religion had some institutions which presided over religious functions, these institutions were believed to communicate directly to ancestral spirits (living dead) who in turn would communicate to the gods and grievances of the living societal members would be heard. In the Kenyan context, these institutions include Orkoyot of the Nandi, Oloibon of the Maasai, Seers, Diviners, and Rainmakers depending on the ethnic communities which they came from.
These institutions apart from the veneration of the ancestors, they blessed warrior before going for war, advised the political leaders, offered sacrifice to god and conducted rituals for the culprits who violated moral values in the community. The gods had some specific names for instance, in Kenyan context, we had Enkai for the Maasai, Encore for the Abagusii, Mulungu for Akamba, Asis the Nandi, Ngai for the Agikuyu and Nyasaye for the Luo. There were specific worship places which were regarded as holy, this places included shrines, mountaintops some special trees such as mugumo, hills, and some caves. The diversity of the names given to gods and places of worship, show the lack of uniformity in the African Religion. This concludes that Africans were of different ethnic background and had their own religion, gods, and religion as a community.
This is a religion based on the life, teachings, and practices of the person of Jesus Christ. The origin of Christianity is drawn from a character, believed to be the Son of God. It is a religion more about the relationship between one and Jesus rather religious practices. A Christian, as the name suggests is a follower of Christ. The origin of Jesus of extra-ordinary or Supernatural happening as it is believed He was conceived by the power of Holy Spirit and born of a Virgin. This small description ascertains the definition of religion as I had earlier defined it.
Christianity is practiced through reading the Bible and attendance of services for the Protestants and Mass for the Catholics. The religion is scripted or written in the Bible which is the reference for all who ascribe to Christianity. It contains all the rules guidelines, commands that Christians should observe their entire life. These guidelines govern human relationship to one another and their relationship to their God.there no diverse Christians as all of them draw their beliefs from Jesus Christ through reading and exercising their beliefs from the Bible.Christianity is a homogeneous religion or rather uniform.
There are institutions such Priests, Bishops and Catholic Fathers who lead other Christians in worship. These people undergo theology training for them to undertake their duties. There are specific places of worship where Christians congregate. These places are Churches or Chapels.
THE CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES.
They mainly to spread Christianity and Commerce…Dr. David Livingstone, I go back to Africa to make an open pass for Christianity and Commerce.” The first encounter is dated from the 15th Century. The Portuguese Christianity introduction to Africans in the East African Coast. This, however, had very little success. By 19th Century Christian missionaries arrived in East Africa they included:
1.The Holy Ghost Fathers
2.The Church Missionary Society
3.The Methodist Fathers
4.The Mill Hill Fathers
I) Source/origin of Religion
The Africans believed that their religion was sourced from god, who they believed long before their ancestors’ existence. The British Missionaries conflict with Africans by telling them about the existence of a God who had a son and lived among us many years ago. The religion of British was written (Bible) thus one had to have the ability to read and write in order to understand it, whereas that of African was passed from generation to generation by oral tradition. There is an introduction of a new system of identifying the origin of religion which conflicts with the African system.
II) Places of worship
The Africans revered in special caves, Mountaintops, hills, Forests, Special trees (mugumo) and shrines. The British tell Africans that they should worship God places called Churches. This encounter shows that there is a bit of clashing as the African places were very clearly defined and preserved by the community members. The British also seized African land to construct churches or chapels, Africans, as a result, became very hostile as they had distinct worship places which occurred naturally. They believed that their land was for cultivation and a gift from their gods.
III) The Practices of Religion
The Africans practiced their religion by reverence to their ancestors, offering human and animal sacrifices and invoking the ancestral spirits. They offered sacrifices in order to get favors in terms of harvest. The African worship was communal that is, all community members used to convene to pray for rain and ask for the wellness of the community. The British religion had an aspect of confession of one`s sins before worship, repentance, and forgiveness of sin are granted. This aspect of forgiveness of sins lacks in the traditional African religion, one had to be punished for wrongdoing. British missionary religion brings out an aspect of offerings in terms of money and tithe which is ten percent of one`s total earnings.
IV) Religious leaders
In African religion, worship was led by Diviners, Rainmakers, and Seers who were considered righteous. The work of religious leaders was taught through apprecentiship and was hereditary from specific clans in the community. There were certain clans from whom diviners would descend. They were highly respected in the community. The British Christian religious leaders attend school to be trained mainly on theology. They study formalities of worship and nature of God. Any member of Christian family can become a religious leader although there are some myths which say one has to be ‘called’ by God. The Christian leader has to have the ability to read and write so as to pass the scriptures to his congregation.
V) Uniformity of Religion
As I handled earlier in this essay, the African traditional religion was diverse from one ethnic community to the other due to the linguistic differences, migration patterns and origin. Christianity is introduced as a homogeneous religion as the author of it is Jesus Christ, a common ancestry and reference point for all Christians. The diversity of worship is dismantled by the British introduction of this even religion.
As I have pointed above there are distinct differences between Traditional African Religion and the British Christianity and how both systems fought to outdo the other. The African religion had deep roots in the society as it was passed orally through stories, myths, riddles and proverbs which were very appealing to the audience. These deep roots were however uprooted as change is inevitable in every circumstance. As an old adage, ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison.’ The British struck the Africans struck back but were easily overpowered, and gave in.
The British were gradually using religion as a tool to pass several other systems to the Africans. Education which traditionally was based on oral tradition was easily eliminated as most Africans wanted to quench their thirst for knowledge, for those who resisted religion soon began to embrace this Whiteman’s way of worship.