I was raised Seventh Day Adventist. Part of my Saturdays was listening to and reading stories "from the field." The basic story was about the courageous missionary who went somewhere (usually a place where there was colored people) where the locals (usually natives) "need to know Christ." These locals usually also have some medical emergency that only the missionary can provide. After a while one gets the idea that the entire world outside the states, and Europe was just infested with Sinners in need of salvation. It was pretty good psych therapy. I mean you were a part of this organization saving people world wide. I didn't really notice the racial implications of this because at the time I had no clue. Then I went away to college and read something other than the Bible and science books. When I got back, those missionary stories didn't quite sit with me. I started to see the pattern. By the time I had graduated, I was done with Christianity. Not only had I finally understood that Blacks here gotten it due to the slave trade. I saw it as a tool of mental oppression. I also had found out that Christianity was derived from the Khemtic "Mystery System." So I though why should black folks be trading on a hand me down, deformed version of Egyptian scrolls. I decided to be out. It was later that I "discovered" Ifa and returned to my roots.
Why the trip down memory lane? Well today in the NY Times Magazine there's an article entitled: The Call discuses the antics of a white missionary family in Africa. So we know I object to missionising let me give a few examples why:
But few around Kurungu seemed much interested in their religion. The Samburu faith is monotheistic. It holds its own sacred history in which, I was told, humankind had once been linked to Ngai by a ladder made of leather. Ages ago, a Samburu man, enraged by the death of his herd, cut the ladder, and ever since the people have been disconnected from their deity. Yet when the Samburu spoke to me about Ngai, they evoked not a divinity that is abstract and removed but one that is, though invisible, close at hand, especially on the steep mountains that bound the valley, and most especially on a particular set of ridges and rocky peaks known collectively as Mount Nyiru. This, the tribe's most hallowed mountain, about 9,000 feet high, rises immediately to the west of Kurungu. It looms over the family's backyard. Ngai is up there, taking care of his people. He had granted the Samburu the knowledge of how to survive on cow's blood, Andrea and his crew said. And he was forgiving when the people did wrong. He had placed a spring at the spot where the leather ladder had been cut. The Samburu told me that their religion makes no prediction of a messiah. They didn't seem to feel the need for one.
"Lord," Carrie said, offering grace over lunch one afternoon, before the family set out for a manyatta, where they would deliver jerrycans of water and hold church in the open air, "we pray that the people today thirst not only for water but for your word, Lord."
Let's not discuss the validity of leather ladders. in Ifa we got Chickens spreading earth. Every culture has their mythos. The important point is that the Samburu don't have any concept original sin, as we know it. Nor do the Samburu feel a need for or are looking for a savior. Yet these missionaries want to make the Samburu feel guilty about some "Original Sin" and after that convince them that they need saving. I mean talk about mind jobs. These missionaries feel that since they cannot imagine a world where there is no original sin and no need for a savior, so must the Samburu. And even though the Samburu didn't ask to have them there, and even though the Samburu have shown them great hospitality, these people insist on inferiorizing them.
The next issue brought up and needs discussing is FGM, Female Gential Mutilation, commonly referred to as Female circumcision.
He and Carrie expect the truth to bring more than religious conversion. Once the people have accepted Jesus, they said, they hope to coax them to judge their traditions by the standards of the Gospel. In this way, they plan to inspire - not impose, they stressed - crucial elements of transformation in the culture. They want to elevate the lot of women, to end the ways women are treated as property. And they want to stop the rite of female circumcision, which Carrie and Meghan witnessed for the first time a few months before I arrived, the razoring out of the clitoris that is almost universally practiced among the Samburu. The Mapleses are in Kurungu, Rick said, because "there is unbelievable need."
The Ghost is opposed to FGM, though not the practice of female circumcision. Now that may sound contradictory but it's not. See I view circumcision in males and females in certain African Societies (and elsewhere) as cultural practices that need not be stopped. What needs to happen is a change in what is considered female circumcision. It need not be the mutilating practice that it is. There are indigenous groups who are working to change the practice where it is found in Kenya (and elsewhere) and that is what needs to happen. If the Samburu religion is the source of the practice then it would be best that the change come from within' the religion itself. Just as African slavery was justified using the slavery justified in the Old Testament Bible,the same religion was allowed to change it's position. Similarly the religion of the Samburu , being just as valid a belief system as any other, should be allowed to change as well. But then, that is the point: Valuing the Samburu religion.
It is also wrong to suggest that opposition to FGM is uniquely a Western, Christian idea. For example the Assante of Ghana do not believe it is proper to cut the body. non-Muslim Yoruba of Nigeria also do not practice FGM. Thus as a Pan-Africanist, I would argue to other Africans that the defense of such mutilization is simply not a hallmark of Africanness (Although to be honest we have a long way to go before the Samburu see themselves as a part of an African Community they way I mean it). So yes I agree that there is "unbelievable need" in Africa and among the Samburu, just not the a need for what they are selling.
This is perhaps the most alarming to me:
Her parents did. Rick and Carrie, whose Baptist church in California is deeply evangelical, spoke of receiving signs, affirmations that they were doing the right thing. Over the past century or more, Kenya has been a highly proselytized country; to go by the broad estimates of the U.S. State Department, 70 percent of Kenya's people now avow themselves Christian, with most of the rest divided between Islam and indigenous faiths. The Samburu, a tribe of about 150,000, worship their God, Ngai. Dispatched by a range of Christian agencies and representing a range of denominations, the missionaries strewn among the Samburu have made little progress. Religious statistics about the tribe are scarce; perhaps 2 to 9 percent are Christian. (Almost none are Muslim.)
The Samburu are one of the last to reject foreign religious ideology. But I believe they will fall as the rest did before them. Why?
Who can resist hospitals and other "Western" goodies when Africa's best and brightest go to Europe with their talents and the ones who stay often fall to corruption? Believe me when I say that the real draw to these religions are the material benefits and eventual social benefits of being seen as a member of the dominant belief group (see Assessing dialog post).
Ultimately, if Pan-Africanists were doing there job, they would expose Christianity for what it is and missionaries would have no grounds.
Jesus you say> You must be speaking of Horus!
Ten Commandments you say? You must be speaking of the Negative Confessions!
Virgin Birth? Oh you must have seen that inscription on the Temple of Amen?
Anyway. here's hoping the Samburu keep the faith against these missionaries, whether they be from overseas or duped locals. Let these foreign missionaries go home and get their governments to stop killing people in Iraq. Let them preach to the Haliburtons about the ungodliness of exploiting African labour. Let them, "Pluck the beam out of their own eye."