Old Time Religion
With the passing of Pope John Paul II much attention has been paid to the Catholic Church in the "Third World". I have recieved many e-mails about a supposed "first black pope" and or whether Cardinal Arinze would be chosen. Both points really don't interest me much. On the subject of Black Popes, those of us who recognize the multiplicity of Khemetic (Egyptian) symbolism as well as workign knowledge of how Catholicism is derived from the ancient Khemetic "Mystery System" would recognize that there have been many "Black Popes". On the second issue, I don't particularly care. Putting a black face at the head of an institution that basically wants to make people feel inferior and "damned" for not embrasing "Christ" is not of interest to me. So what does interest me?
The Boston Globe has an article entitled: In Africa a Vibrant Yet Conflicted Faith/
which included a couple of interesting points:
People remember one incident in which a priest slaughtered a goat during Mass -- a traditional cleansing ritual in Africa that some Catholics support, but that left church authorities aghast. It was an extreme example, several church officials said, of many incidents in which local customs have crept into liturgy...
This was apparent three years ago when a priest in the Pretoria area sacrificed the goat during services. It spurred a review by the Pretoria-based Bishop's Conference on local culture spilling into the church's liturgy. One result was the outlawing of goat slaughters.
''That was liturgical abuse," said Sister Jordana Maher, the conference's national liturgical coordinator. ''The blood of goats would be useless" as a symbol during Mass. Not everyone in the church agreed with the handling of the matter...
But the most pressing problem for the church in some areas is that evangelical and Pentecostal churches have been attracting Catholics into their ranks in large numbers with promises that preachers can heal their illnesses and with emotional services featuring born-again testimonies.
Nevertheless a Catholic service in a black African church is no staid affair, bearing almost no resemblance to those held in white parishes in the United States or Europe. At the Church of Saint Martin de Porres service yesterday, the 500 members' voices floated down the streets of Pretoria. Parishioners danced in the line to receive Communion. Mass lasted nearly two hours.
This particular instance cannot be justified by any type of scriptural reading. What we have here is African religion with European dress-up. This is very important because there is a good reason for this. It's not the spiritual upliftment that these churches bring. That is clear by the parishoners and leaders doing the same things that their "Heathen" bretheren are doing. No what is most important here is:
Every night in the Mokhali house, the Payi house, and hundreds of other homes in the sprawling shantytowns south of Johannesburg, people give thanks in their prayers for the Roman Catholic Church.
Some may belong to other churches, but no matter: The Catholics have given them new life in the fight against AIDS, distributing free antiretroviral drugs, visiting their homes to take care of the sick, and giving food to orphans.
''If it wasn't for the church, we wouldn't have treatment," said Matumelo Mokhali, 34, who along with her 11-year-old daughter, Relebohile, started receiving the AIDS medication three months ago. ''I thank God that I am living."
This is the money factor. This is no different than the early colonizers. Clearly if people are in a distressed state they will respond to people who appear to have miracle cures. Thus if becoming a catholic gets one access to mediicine, who in their right mind would not convert? I'm willing to wager that if all "missions" ceased and desisted from doing anything other than simple preaching, that many of them would find converts disappearing. How do we know this? We look at Europe. in the areas of Europe with very high living standards and ready access to medical treatment divorced from religious institutions, Church attendance has plummetted. Similarly, in Islamic Countries with relatively high levels of material wealth provided by other Muslims have very low number of Christian converts. I'm sure there are some other factors involved but the pattern is pretty clear.
Yet there is something else that is amiss, Why is it that people in Africa are abandoning their native religions? While there is no doubt the lingering affects of colonialism, I believe the freezing of native religions in time is largely responsible for this. Why Arinze leave his native religion (called "animism" by the paper and probably by Arinze himself) and pick up a European one? I'm not as familiar with Ibo theology as I am Yoruba, but I cannot for the life of me see adopting Christianity while having a clear understanding of my native religion. But lacking that knowledge and seeing that the Catholics (read: white people) have everything I don't and seem to have "progress" I could easily see the lure.
Of course one of the largest pluses that Christianity, as well as Islam, has is it's "non-tribal" affilitaion. The appeal of an Uma or Body of Christ is a very powerful tool of these religions. Ifa, the religion of the Yoruba will simply never be able to expand so long as it appears to be "tribal".