You may or may not have noticed but we are going through somewhat of a black people revolution. The revolution isn't been fought with guns and bombs but it is fought with self-love, self-appreciation and self-knowledge. The Ancient Greek aphorism 'know thyself' has always been the maxim for Africans in the diaspora and never more so than today. From the natural hair movement to the rise of African fashions and African music to the revelations of previously buried Black history, black people are no longer willing to believe the impression of ourselves put forward by those who do not know us and do not wish to know us. We will discover our own history, we will know it and we will grow from it.
In the mix of all of this comes the question of religion. A friend of mine said something very important to me the other day, she said: 'they came to our nation and they took away our culture and gave us a bad one; they took away our education and gave us a bad one; they took away our religion, what's to say they didn't give us a bad one?'
Full disclosure, I am a Christian so my bias is towards Christianity but I think that any person of any religion or non-religion should regularly be questioning what they believe and why they believe it to learn more and to grow. Europeans came to Africa and imposed their Eurocentric ideals to diminish African culture and, by effect, the African peoples. Was one of these Eurocentric ideals religion? Yes and no.
By the time Europeans 'conquered' Africa it was officially a Christian continent. Education was church based, laws were church based, societal morals and ideals were church based. Those in the church or associated with the church had the highest education and power and the idea was that by introducing the Christian religion to Africa, Europeans could import their biases there and therefore have an easier rule of the continent. However, although Europe has been a Christian nation since the 7th century it is important to remember that Christianity did not originate in Europe.
Christianity, Judaism and Islam all have similar routes. We share the first five books of our holy books and all have Abraham as our founding father. Where Islam split off from Judaism is the rightful heir to the Abrahamic lineage. Where Christianity splits off from Judaism is Jesus. Christians believe that Jesus is the son of God become man and that he died on a cross in Jerusalem and rose again three days later. Jesus is the foundation of Christianity. Without Jesus there is no Christianity.
Here are a few facts about Jesus:
- He was an Israeli man born in modern day Palestine.
- He never went 'overseas'. He whole life was conducted in modern day Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Israel and Lebanon. He never went to Europe.
- His ministry was for the Jewish people first
There is a passage in Matthew 15:21-28 where a women comes to Jesus seeking a miracle and he lets her know that he came first for the Jewish people. He heals her, but he lets her know this. So if anyone were to have dibs on Christianity then it would the Jews but they don't want dibs and that's not how it works anyway. Although he came first to the Jews, he came for everyone. As he ascends to heaven in Matthew 28 he commissions his disciples to make disciples of all nations. Then later in Acts we see more examples of how Christianity is not just for the Jewish people but for everyone, if they want it.
Because it is such an old religion, Christianity is steeped in a long and complicated history, not all of it positive. The religion, the church and the bible have all been used to justify evil acts such as slavery, and this is one of the biggest problems black people and Africans - especially displaced Africans - have with the religion. This isn't a problem with Christianity the faith but with certain Christians who profess to follow the faith. You can twist any words to justify any means if you take them out of context and misinterpret them. I am not just a Christian who believes without thinking, I have read the bible cover-to-cover several times and studied both the bible and the history of my faith. The more you read the bible the more you realise it cannot be taken apart and each section used as you please; that is when it begins to sound contradictory. However, when you take the whole book as a whole and read what has come before in relation to what is coming next, then it makes sense.
Christianity is the religion of the oppressed. It's a religion that both humbles and uplifts you because it isn't about you but about God. It's a religion that lifts up the oppressed because it says all people are equal and a religion that humbles the oppressors because it says we are all equally sinners. It's a religion that says love you neighbours and also a religion that proclaims God's justice and vengeance and that evil people will be repaid for their evil acts. It's a religion that says you will suffer in this life but that you won't suffer alone. It is not an either/or but an and, which you will never see unless you take the bible as a whole.
Christianity is about Jesus. Without Jesus there is no Christianity. He is the beginning and the end of our faith. And he did not come from Europe.
So the Europeans may have been how Christianity came to Africa but they didn't bring it because it wasn't their religion to bring. With Christianity they brought the bible, the first book to be translated into indigenous languages so that all peoples of all tongues can explore the written word and get to know God themselves. Maybe the Europeans brought a warped version of Christianity but with the gift of the bible they gave Africans the chance to discover true Christianity and I personally do not think that was a bad gift at all.