Sunday, July 24, 2011

Africa, home of authentic religion

The standard, Sunday, 24 July 2011

It seems as if everyone is going to church these days. Driving along Harare streets early in the morning on every worship day (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) many sisters and brothers are going to churches of different persuasions in many parts of the city. Worship places vary from the most posh to bare ground where, in spite of the cold weather, the numbers do not seem to diminish. This is also the case when it is very hot in summer.

Indeed the centre of Christianity has shifted. It started in the Middle East and then shifted to the West. Now it has found home in the so-called Third World. The people in these parts of the world seem to have accepted Christianity hook, line and sinker. One hopes good will come out of the Christian experience that is sweeping across the continent of Africa and other lands of similar disposition.

But looking across these lands it seems little of good is coming out of the faith that has been accepted in our lands.

The West has moved on. Some in the West would even claim that they now live in a post-Christian era. Individualism has taken over to the extent that the Christian teaching of communality is frowned upon. Religion has become a private/individual affair. The fear is: if the new centre of Christianity just copies the faith they get from yonder lands, we stand the chance of following suit. We will soon drift into individualism and forfeit the opportunity to spread true Christianity, even back to the lands it came from.

Coming to the point I want to share today, Africa has been the place of authentic religion. The primary religion of Africa, which academics want to call African Traditional Religion, has never faltered on its veneration of the creator, God, who is given different names in different communities across the continent. When Christianity came it was like a homecoming.

Yes, there were problems here and there but Africans did not find the teachings of Christianity strange. What was strange was the people who brought the faith, their actions and not the faith itself. After all, Christ was here before missionaries came over. It was indeed Christ who brought missionaries to Africa and other places, not the other way round.

The challenge for Africa is to dig into authentic Christianity which Christ lived while he was in Africa. This is where ubuntu comes in. Christ lived true ubuntu and demonstrated that everyone mattered. Anyone created in the image of God is your relative.

Rev Dr Levee Kadenge

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