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How Christianity Destroys the Gospel
Christian Exploitation of the Indigenous
A powerful presentation by Timothy Njoya on how Christianity has taken ownership of the teachings of Jesus, of who Jesus is, to damn the Gospel, in a means that curses the indigenous, the blacks, that has allowed the abuse of millions by the owners of Christianity, justifying anything they wanted to do to anyone.
Prophetic response to political challenges in the context of existing Christianity 2002
I am grateful to God for the invitation by WARC to address this topic. I understand the topic as challenging us to break the dominance of actually existing Christianity as a politically biased religion. Existing Christianity is racially and ideologically biased against the poor and weak in favour of the rich and powerful. In this discussion the gospel provides a definition of politics opposed to the one that has been propagated by Christianity since Constantine in the fourth century and that the Reformation failed to change.
The gospel is intrinsically intertwined with politics as the science and art of caring for one another. Politics without the gospel is too small a facilitator to express exhaustively the total concern of Jesus Christ for the well-being of the whole creation.
Had the Reformation followed the gospel, Christianity would not have allowed the politics of the African slave trade, holocaust, colonialism and market democracy to trample upon the rights of most of humanity. Christianity lacked the gospel's understanding of humanity as one and equal, yet in diversity, and of politics as the science and art of everyone's accountability to everyone, as the stewardship and responsibility of all for all: caring for everything that God cares for. The biased manner in which Christianity evangelized the world was mainly shaped by the political dominance of some over others and failed to meet the standard of caring of the sacrifice in which Christ died for all. The church needs re-evangelization in order to rid itself of the politics of dominance.
In the political arena the church does not bear evangelization by immaculate conception. It distorts and disfigures evangelization by its own politics of schisms, sectarianism, and gender, racial, economic and cultural biases. We cannot isolate ethnic and class conflicts in our African societies from the negative politics of western domination and its Christian strategy of divide and rule. Humbled by the awareness that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom 3.23), we must start by repentance and the need to reclaim the gospel from the church and Christianity for the sake of good governance. For indeed, Christ is Lord, even outside the jurisdiction of Christianity and the church. If not, then the essence of the gospel as God's own self-revelation in Christ is false, entirely fake, and evangelization is a mere exercise in converting the people from one religion to another. This limits the gospel to being just another religion.
We have to disconnect the gospel from the fragmented evangelization that wrenched the soul apart from the body, making the church a processing zone for souls destined for the heavenly supermarket and bodies for earthly slavery. Evangelization swindled converts of their stewardship and responsibility for politics. They abdicated their destiny into the hands of the occupation forces. They thoughtlessly dashed into embracing the bondage of soul-salvation as a relief from the brute and harsh economic conditions that disposed of them as low-cost capital in the slave and colonial markets.
Conflicts in Africa start as conflicts of soul alienation between mind and soul, heart and spirit and body with the rest. The soul-saving enterprise destroys the personality of the victim, in the same way as the extraction of gold leaves the holes gaping and empty, causing environmental dereliction. There is no salvation at all in wrenching the soul apart from the body. The soul-salvation enterprise was a tragedy and a heresy, a travesty of the great commission that saw Africans not as people created in God's image, but as soul-containers. Rather than presenting the Holy Spirit as the giver of life, the Holy Spirit was a tool for excavating precious souls from animist "Negroes".1
The myth was a lucrative business. Christianity harvested African souls as merchandise for the heavenly supermarket. The missionaries poached for African souls as hunters poach elephants for their tusks and rhinos for their horns. The most ridiculous component of missionary soul-salvation was that God remained unreal to Africa, and a real captive of western Christianity, until Europeans discovered enough African forest, slaves, ivory, rubber and gold to satisfy the demands of the capitalist market and enough black souls to satisfy the deficit of white souls required in heaven. While there are so many advocates of animal rights to protect elephants and rhinos from losing their lives, there were no advocates of human rights to protect Africans from losing their dignity.
It will take a miracle for re-evangelization to undo centuries of indoctrination where Christianity conducted evangelism as a religion parallel, rival and antithetical to the gospel. Salvation became spiritual in contradiction to the "Word made flesh". "Immortality of the soul" rejected the "resurrection of the body". Salvation and immortality of the soul moralized obedience to the slave, colonial and apartheid masters. These distortions inoculated the victims of slavery and colonialism with credulity. I say "inoculated", because credulity is resistance to faith, freedom, truth and democracy. This spiritual immunization confines Christ to a spiritual command over saved souls without any jurisdiction over the unsaved ones or the world outside the church.
This dichotomy of Christ's lordship in the church and no lordship of Christ in the world was designed to exonerate Christ from the havoc wreaked by western capitalism in the world. This is bound to backfire, sooner or later, when Christ comes with judgment against those who have denied him clothes and food. Now some western Christians in search of the good news are enthusiastically turning to other lords outside the church in Islamic and Hindu revivals.
This evangelism suffers from the historical mistake of serving the military and economic interests of the powerful, ever since the conversion of Constantine. Today's evangelism serves US military interests in the Middle East by using Old Testament prophesies to justify the occupation of Israel in Palestine as God's plan, while at the same time telling Africans to give up their struggle for economic emancipation because the end of the world is nigh. Why can't Africa have economic liberation and wait for the Lord's return, all at once?
Revivalism has declared African fields ready for harvest based on bad news, not on good news. This is possible because of five intrinsic defects of evangelism. Firstly, evangelism as revivalism fails to reflect the humanity of Christ in the church but capitalizes for its gains on the laxity, defects and failures of the churches as historical institutions. Secondly, revivalism capitalizes on western guilt about the Jewish holocaust to shift the focus from the life of Jesus as the prototype of God's reign in the world to the earthly state of Israel. This bestows earthly legitimacy on western domination while at the same time pointing to God's reign in Africa as something to come after the final rapture. Thirdly, the attitude of revivalism towards Africa is adversarial, military and mediaeval. Good news is made to suffer from schizophrenia, where Africans have to become like a Christ who became like other people of the world (other, that is, than African pagans and heathens). Fourthly, revivalism presents the Holy Spirit not as God, within the Trinity, but as donor assets in the monopoly of certain self-appointed distributors of charismatic gifts. Fifthly, revivalism seeks to revive the glory and dominance of the west over the Islamic and communist spheres of influence, with all the historical and racial overtones against which Islamic revivalism is resisting. These five conflicts between the gospel and revivalism have their origins in the pretence of evangelism to be apolitical.
Evangelism, by means of revivalism, therefore revitalizes the mediaeval and colonial doctrine of the "divine rights of kings", instead of human rights. The new "divine rights" are the divine rights of dictators and market forces. Evangelism sacrifices the poor on the altar of the new globalization of western capitalism assisted by the World Bank and tribalization of the poor African countries assisted by kleptocratic governments. This leaves Africa at the mercy of the almighty dollar and its junior imperial partner, the euro.
The record shows that Christianity is a liability to the re-evangelization of the poor. Africa cries for the gospel as life for those whom Christianity and the church have committed to an otherworldly salvation. The gospel is a self-mediated life giving life to the dead; it is the involvement of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in the creation and sustenance of the world. God could not be the God who created the universe ex nihilo and at the same time be unable to recreate the world anew, again and again.
Re-evangelization as the science and art of caring for what God cares for and Christ died for True evangelization is God's own self-revelation in politics. God is the source and fulfilment of the destination of evangelization. God is the giver and receiver of care. He is the one who is hungry, naked, in prison and dead and at the same time the one who is fed, clothed, freed and raised from the dead. In other words, divine rights and human rights are one and the same thing.
This good news is completely absent form the warfare of crusaders who, coming from certain civilized, richer and industrialized societies, see the so-called primitive and poor societies as their ideological and religious enemies. Instead of seeing evangelism as the execution of both the divine and human rights as one right, evangelism denied both. Christian evangelism divorced itself from the gospel by divorcing care for the hungry, thirsty and dying from its mission.
The notion of evangelization as the preserve of the higher-up in relation to the lower, inferior and uncultured violates the essence of the gospel as God's example of involvement in human affairs, where the Creator became the politician (representative) of the poor and needy. Re-evangelization is therefore necessary for levelling the playing ground between those who will deliver God's invitation for people to participate in God's politics of service delivery in health and education. This will heal the wounds of heathens abused and lynched by Christian Crusades, being forced to become civilized, western and Christian. Either the gospel protects people from all racial, cultural and religious superiority, or it is not real at all. Jesus did not send his disciples into "battle fields" to conquer savages but to represent Christ as God who "came to his own people" (Jn 1.11). The gospel is the Holy Spirit "in labour pains" (Rom 8.22) that all may be born anew, not civilized, commercialized and Christianized. The gospel has its own ways of presenting itself, as Paul explained to the Gentiles, telling them that they were not inferior to the Jews. They had to have the same mind - not the mind of Paul, Peter or Jerusalem, but the mind of Christ "who, though he was in the form of God, ...emptied himself... Therefore God has highly exalted him..." (Phil 2.6-9).
Contrary to the gospel most of the world has experienced the initial evangelization as the politics of domination. Christianity is haunted by the spectre of its own dichotomy of dividing its religious identity into the dominant donor and rich mother churches and the poor, receiving clients. The North-South spiritual imbalance is an offence to the balanced identity of God the Son, the Father and the Holy Spirit as one and the same ousia (substance, being).
Centuries of western evangelization have not only fostered a fragmented humanity but have further fragmented salvation into various components where salvation can take place in a soul without affecting the body, mind, business or employment. This is the diametrical opposite of the politics of the church in the Acts of Apostles, where the Holy Spirit creates the church as a community not of saved souls but of complete human beings. Christ could not rise again as soul because souls do not die, but only in flesh. To talk of soul salvation denies the need for politics and negates the prophetic call for people to care for one another. The good news is that God became flesh in the world in accordance with the testimony of Jesus' enemies who said, "Truly this was the Son of God" (Mt 27.54b; Mk 15.39; Lk 23.47). The missionary use of human suffering for access to the soul, or as a stepping stone to reach the heart, contradicts the totality of Christ's self-sacrifice. Today's structures of evangelism, namely the churches, seminaries and missionary committees, and including WARC, must imitate Christ as "God" who "emptied" Godself of any advantage, omnipotence or infallibility in order to become subject to the same standards, conditions and rules as humanity.
Jesus corrected his disciples' mistake of confusing evangelization with dominance, privilege, superiority and advantage. When they reported to Jesus that they stopped people who were not disciples from healing in his name, Jesus warned them against such arrogance. Evangelists have no title deeds to the gospel or its delivery process. Christianity destroyed the context in which God's incarnation would have taken place with attitudes such as that reflected in the following quote:
...conditions that prevail in the midst of savage barbarism. Amongst these tribes, it is humanly speaking impossible to move to the Lord's side. In their midst is Satan's throne. For long ages he has reigned there supreme. The people are bound hand and foot by the devil. The unwritten law of the tribal custom enslaves them. The first man of the pagan tribe who proclaims himself a Christian has an urgent need of a mighty power behind him - the power of the spirit of the living God. Nothing short of that could enable the savage warrior to take a stand, singly and alone, against the fiendish and soul-enslaving environment of his clan... It is utterly impossible for the savage to burst the bonds of his encasement and emancipate himself from the shackles of his degrading surroundings.2
The gospel does not license one race, nation or culture to step on the toes of another. If you live in some estates in Nairobi, Accra or Lagos, you are forced to listen to evangelists at a time most inconvenient to you, when you are sick or in the night. Some obnoxious evangelists, exuding missionary dominance and lacking any respect for human rights, pitch their tents in the middle of the estates and preach throughout the night, depriving school children of sleep at peak examination periods. What manner of prophetic Christianity is this that denies children life-giving sleep and the sick life-healing rest? The deafening noise of loudspeakers turns the gospel into annoying noise pollution. What is the difference between evangelism and police brutality, child abuse and spouse battering? Evangelism needs to be exorcised of its missionary legacy of looking at heathens as less human. Even heathens have both human and divine rights.
During the colonial period the heathen meant everybody not born in European culture. Today the heathen are the churches that have been there before others, the mission field from which newly arrived churches poach members. Revivalism adopts the same strategies the colonial missionaries devised for converting heathens to Christianity in order to convert Catholics and Protestants to fundamentalist, evangelical, Pentecostal and charismatic religions. The ruthless methods of ridicule and condemnation devised by missionaries during the colonial and Cold War periods to attack "animists" are used by the fundamentalist Christians to convert the Christians and churches that they deem unholy.
This is the prevalent mode of evangelism amongst certain American brands of revivalism. Revivalism finds easy prey in young people tired of reasoning with authoritarian churches, disenchanted with conventions, frustrated by schooling and in need of spiritual sedatives to cure boredom. It is very fashionable these days for spiritual fads to move on, seeking relief in reggae, hiphop, spiritual muscularity, crusade or jihad. In Africa where this type of evangelism is prevalent, Christianity does not have any sense of political stewardship or responsibility. The young feel excused from their responsibility to family, church, and caring for the poor. They lack ethical standards to stop them from being armed by some politicians to kill people of different ethnic groups. The result is showing Christ as a caricature of the credulous, socially neglected, mentally backward, morally decadent society. With a Kenyan population of 80% Christian and 80% poor, the preferred revival culture is "everybody for himself/herself and God for us all".
The response of the mainline churches to the rise of combative fundamentalism is driven by a survival instinct rather than by theological education. Since 1972, evangelical Christians in the world have risen by 126% relative to population growth. The Catholic Church has at the same period experienced zero growth, and mainstream Protestantism negative growth, relative to population growth. The Christian Science Monitor described the First World as a "spiritual ice belt" where today in Europe, Japan, Canada and USA Christians are fewer than in 1974.
The American post-War revivals by such great evangelists as Oral Roberts and Billy Graham helped the church to ignore the looming racial crises by preaching that the gospel is "colour-blind". In its decline, the revival left cities burning and President Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr gunned down. There is ample evidence that the "ethnic cleansing" is due to lack of a prophetic gospel in both missionary and revival Christianities. Just imagine the joy and comfort slave masters enjoyed by discarding God's incarnation in order to promote a salvation that made the slave industry profitable, colonialism beneficial and the holocaust justified. More Africans died in Atlantic transit than Jews in Nazi concentration camps. This Christianity set the pattern of attitude by which Kenyan churches do not create room for human rights "in the inn" (Lk 2.7) of their salvation.
These days nothing bigger is done by American capitalist fundamentalism than to compete with Islamic fundamentalism, with Iraq and the Middle East as the battlefield. Whether it is communism or Islamic fundamentalism that stands in the way of capitalist fundamentalism, this is a human fault that is arising from defective theology. Capitalist fundamentalism thrives on democracy for the insiders of the market and dominance over the outsiders.
Neither the religious status quo nor revivalism takes the gospel of accountability seriously. At the peak of the colonial era, Africa had about 140,000 missionaries from Europe and North America, about 90,000 of whom worked in British colonies, and hardly any from the African stakeholders. We are appendages of the European and American philosophy of enjoying market democracy at home and market dominance abroad - no human democracy for all at all for the majority of women and the poor.
According to David B Barrett's now outdated projections, Africa should have had 32,000 missionaries by the year 2,000.3 Africa is at the dead end of evangelization, waterlogged with spiritualism, hanging there loose between not-going and not-coming, between existence and non-existence, threatened by non-being, threatened by the possibility of no reprieve or hope.
The world is suffering the effects of Livingstone's definition of evangelism as commerce, Christianity and civilization, which liberalism has changed into the new jargon of contextualization, indigenization and partnership. African universities, churches and seminaries went into the junkyard of African traditional religion to salvage some junk for use to whitewash the harm done by Livingstone to the African image. John Mbiti's African Religion and Philosophy became a text for whitewashing the mistakes of past evangelism. This Africanization did not change the unequal power relations established by colonial evangelization. Every form of religious study in Africa is given shape by reaction to colonial models of evangelism, but not by the euangelion as the anointing of the Holy Spirit (Is 61.1-3; Lk 4.18-21). According to the Holy Spirit, the gospel makes the ground beneath the cross level for all, for the creator and creature alike. God becomes embodied by God's creation with all its sins. The gospel meets the criterion of governance as consensus between the governing and the governed. God made God's sovereignty the sovereignty of the people by submitting to die in sinners' hands and without calling fire from heaven to burn them. Unlike the first exodus, where God led the people from the clouds, today God travels with and at the same level as humanity. The gospel says, "In the desert prepare the way for the Lord" (Is 40.3a; Mk 1.3). In the defence of gospel and Gentile against any privileges claimed by Judaism, Paul argued that Christ and not religion is the only way to the right relationship with God. In Romans 2 to 4, Paul vehemently argued that "God judges everyone by the same standard... And according to the good news I preach, this is how it will be on that day when God through Jesus Christ will judge the secret thoughts of all... Have the Jews any advantage over the Gentiles [or Christians over non-Christians]? ...Certainly not!" (Rom 2.11, 16, 3.1-4). I accept Paul's equation of the law of nature with the law of Moses in which Paul concluded, "Everyone has sinned and is far away from God's saving presence. But by the free gift of God's grace, all are put right with God through Christ who sets them free."
The Holy Spirit is the power by which the gospel transforms history to respond to God's loving care. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary became the mother of the gospel, and the first New Testament prophet and apostle to wear the mantle of history from Old Testament to New Testament prophesy. As the first New Testament theologian Mary proclaimed the gospel and said, "My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour... for generations shall call me blessed, for the Almighty One has done great things...God has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble" (Lk 1.47, 49, 52; Ps 34.2f; Ps 71.19). What Mary and Jesus had in common was a dynamic of threatening and being threatened by the status quo because of fulfilling their vocation as agents of the Holy Spirit: Mary anointed to proclaim the meaning of Jesus' birth for the oppressed and Jesus anointed "to preach good news to the poor" (Lk 4.18). Mary's song was about God's involvement in history from Adam to Christ, and not about her pregnancy. Mary's role was as God's handmaid to recreate history, but not to revive the religion of Israel.
The need to re-evangelize the world is called for by the same difficulty as Mary had in proclaiming Jesus as Lord. Mary had to defy her difficulty of having a pregnancy too hard to hide, despite the possibility of being found out, accused of adultery and stoned to death according to Jewish law. She wrestled with how to explain the intervention of the Holy Spirit to the self-righteous Joseph who threatened to abandon her. I find myself in the same dilemma as Mary as to how I can interpret the gospel to the church. Mary fulfilled her vocation not as a maternity case, but as a messianic context in which the prophetic tradition was fulfilled through her and through the cross. Just as the church feels threatened by the gospel's self-actualization, Joseph felt threatened by the gospel's use of maternity as its own context. We must expect confidence in the status quo to feel shaken by the independence of the gospel.
The prophetic response to political challenges cannot happen unless the church imitates the God who holds Godself accountable for what is going wrong in creating the world. If God were an African dictator, God would manipulate the creation process so that the creature turns out the way God wants, but God refuses to rig or tilt God's work in God's favour by taking away freedom from creation. Current evangelization contradicts God by taking away the freedom of the evangelized to determine whether they want to be saved or not. Faith is a political decision to do what one wants or what God wants. Faith is God-given responsibility to participate in God's sovereignty. Prayer is a participatory relationship where even the Holy Spirit, Christ and the Father pray. Prayer is political debate, the environment where God and people argue, reason together, as in Is 1.18. If God were to abdicate responsibility for dialogue with creatures, nobody and nothing would sin because God would cause things to always happen the way God wants.
This is the gospel Christianity denies the oppressed. The more the poor become religious, the more religion helps them to abdicate their political responsibility to the market where politicians and military dictators have a final say. God does not enjoy such a say. God prefers that all should go to hell by choice rather than a single one go to heaven by manipulation, rigging or force. This is the God who "when the fullness of time was come... sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law" (Gal 4.4). The gospel is that the "God so loved the world" (Jn 3.16), that God emptied Godself of omnipotence and made Christ "to be sin" (2 Cor 5.21) for us.
The effect of defective theologies The world is suffering from the defective theologies of men like John Calvin and Martin Luther. These two did not find incarnation as God's method of changing absolute power and ending infallible dictatorship like that of Hitler and Emperor Bokassa. They talked about God's infallibility and human fallibility. Wishing that human beings were not absolute or infallible does not prevent them from making things catastrophic, genocidal or beyond question. What was needed was the cure for papal infallibility, which was accountability to God and people. Luther and Calvin died thinking that only God's sovereignty was absolute and human sovereignty relative, but they were wrong. On the cross God's sovereignty became relative and subject to human scrutiny, which is the gospel key for questioning lack of accountability in governments.
Luther and Calvin did not make any theological breakthrough. As a result they told the papacy to stop claiming infallibility because that was God's realm and to stick to fallibility on the human realm. This dualism was politically dangerous. If God who is holy exercised absolute domination, why was it wrong for the Holy Father to exercise the same right? What went wrong with Lutheran and Calvinist theologies was that they did not tell the Pope that the very God who is infallible became fallible and accountable to creation. He accepted responsibility for sin and paid the penalty on the cross. Similarly, the Pope and all worldly rulers should imitate God by becoming subject to the same laws by which they govern others. Calvin and Luther should have told the Pope to emulate God's example of emptying Godself of all omnipotence and becoming omni-weakness. God's omnipotence stooped low to the human level by crucifying itself on Noah's rainbow. Had the Reformation told this to the Pope, European countries would not have initiated the slave trade, colonization, and the Gestapo, instead they would have become accountable to all. They would have humbled themselves toward the Aborigines, Africans and Jews as Christ humbled himself before sinners. Pope John Paul II, in 1998, discovered a bit of this truth on his own, without help from Luther and Calvin, and apologized to the Jews for the Holocaust. Though I do not take these belated apologies as genuine, President Clinton also apologized for the slave trade on behalf of America during his visit to Uganda. Ironically, Clinton forgot that he could not apologise for America because America consists also of former slaves, Asian-Americans and others.
The gospel brings the way the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit relate to each other into human life. God and humanity, the infallible and fallible, are equal players on a level playing field. This makes the gospel the foundation of democracy, although not the western market democracy that trades with human beings. The cross is God's referendum for creation to reject or accept salvation, to choose whether it wants to spend eternity with God or elsewhere.
In the gospel, prophetic ministry transcends circumstance and environment. The agreement of God and Israel that Israel would be "a great and powerful nation" (Gen 18.18) called for Israel to become a transmitter of God's blessings to all nations. The covenant was the occasion for launching a shared divine-human vocation and not the private property of Israel. God's redemptive plan did not rise and fall with the rise and fall of Israel as a nation. Israel became "a light to the nations", a community of faith, and the stage for God's drama of God's self-revelation as long as, and insofar as, Israel remained faithful to its calling. God became flesh not to take over the vocation of Israel or to transfer that vocation to the church but to make Israel, the church and every human being part of God's own vocation for the salvation of the whole universe. The gospel is a qualitative, different and creative presence of God in every context that links all contexts in the world. Any environment in which the gospel takes shape is "a new heaven and a new earth" (Rev 21). God's covenant with Israel was the context for God to renew the cosmic order.
According to the gospel, human beings are not objects or consumers of other's religious products, but subjects made in God's image.
Even today, people deceive themselves that religion can make them human without being accountable to each other or for the rights of the other. Rights are what God owes to humanity (daily bread), and humans owe one another. People who flock into Sunday services to listen to the Bible safely read and preached at them like State House memos should re-read the Bible as a manual for human rights. Does God ordain oppressors for saving African souls?
Failure to evolve into a global village With independence came the indigenization of imperialism, contextualization of colonialism and Africanization of sin. The interest of the church in souls and of the government in money dominated the religious and political landscape. People owed their salvation of souls to the church and their lives to the state. Even today, churches and governments constantly preside over your birthday, wedding and funeral parties to remind you that the only essential item in your life is your soul. What matters is not your relationship with God but the marketability of your soul in heaven and cheap labour on earth. The result is endemic dehumanization, corruption, political disorder, coups, insecurity, leaders banking their ill-gotten wealth abroad, ethnic genocide and kleptocracy. Kenyans suffer double nonessentialism, by being uprooted from their African culture and having no industrial capacity to participate meaningfully in western revivals and their highly consumerist culture. The new spiritualities that are mushrooming in Africa are unhealthy phenomena, signs of looming disaster like hunger, disease and ignorance. They are the result of the failure both to westernize and to indigenize: a cognitive dissonance.
Faith, in direct response to the gospel as God's governance, raises people from the dumping ground in which domination grinds them to nothingness. Between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, about 14,000,000 people were extracted from Africa and sold to America as black gold. Between 1980 and 1990 our African dictators reincarnated the slave traders and drove about 14,000,000 women, children and men from their homes. The Kenyan government made moral capital out of being more peaceful than Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and Southern Africa, but between 1992 and 1998 spawned thousands of its own internally displaced. Rather than stand eyeball to eyeball with the dictators, as Jesus and the prophets did, churches waited for the crisis to pass with conflict-avoiding charity and prayer, looking for the opportunity to do reconciliation.
The gospel imperative The primary task of evangelization is to affirm God's image in everybody. To be our righteousness God assumed our human form. Any evangelism that does not relate to people in ways analogous to how God lives, acts and relates within the Trinity violates the image of God. Before God, people are first human and secondly sinners. We are not the objects of evangelism, but subjects worth Christ's dying for. The gospel is not the basis of unequal relationships between saints and sinners, civilized and savages.
All unequal relationships can only be maintained by violence which masks itself with mass choirs and tribal dancers thanking the state for sunshine. I bet that some of our robber barons who go to church to thank God for ransacking and looting our banks and government so successfully are born-again Presbyterians, Baptists, Anglicans, Catholics, charismatics and Pentecostals. They say that wealth is God's blessing but that freedom of worship is state-given. The churches appear to agree that "The state has given freedom. The state has taken it away. Praised be the name of the state!" Emperor Bokassa crowned himself Emperor with church blessings. Before he died, he boasted, "I crowned myself Emperor like all other African presidents. My only mistake was that I dared wear the crown."
The church is as much in need of the gospel as the world The term gospel has shifted from God's invitation to the world to participate in being recreated (saved) to the Christianization of the world. This is because the great commission presented the gospel as one of the religions rather than as an invitation to all religions, including Christianity, to participate in God's eternal governance in the world. Conversion became a Darwinian jump from a lower religion to a more civilized and higher one. Survival of the fittest became the structure of evangelism by which Christianity considered itself as more developed than other religions. In turn, this arrogance shaped the culture, politics, and economics of the Christian world.
I agree with Karl Barth that the gospel and religion are incompatible. My quarrel with Barth is that he failed to say that the gospel and Christianity are poles apart. Hendrick Kraemer in The Christian Message in a Non-Christian World and Arend Theodor Van Leeuwen in Christianity in World History made the same mistake by not including Christianity in the religions in need of conversion to the gospel. The two missiologists relied heavily on Barth to state that the gospel and only the "non-Christian religions" were mutually discontinuous and exclusive of each other. In Paul's letter to the Galatians the gospel is the opposite of religions, of which Christianity is one.
Having failed to follow the gospel of incarnation, evangelization in Africa propagates political and economic dominance for a few and dependency for others. This thinking transforms the Livingstonian formula of commerce, Christianity and civilization into 1) indigenization, contextualization and Africanization in the African scene, 2) fundamentalism, evangelicalism, and Pentecostalism in the American empire, and 3) liberalization, structural adjustment and privatization in the World Bank's money market. These transformations are not a basic change.
Faith is a radical response to the gospel where a new creation emerges. This is what distinguishes faith from religion. Faith is not a changing of the guard, reshuffling of masters or defection from one religion to another, but "a change in what people believe, how people act, and how people relate to each other".4
We have to democratize evangelization as a way of rethinking and re-imagining the world. We have nothing in our past to revive apart from slavery and colonialism. The call for re-creation was envisioned by the prophet Jeremiah when he said, "Thus says the Lord: If you turn back, I will take you back, and you shall stand before me... It is they who will turn to you, not you who will turn to them." (Jer 15.19)
The gospel has God's creative power to become its own context of evangelism. This is supported by the fact that whoever is in Christ is a new creation (2 Cor 5.17). God is inviting the church and Christianity to play a part in God's work of recreating the world so that they too can experience recreation. Evangelists are anointed by God's Spirit to go everywhere, to deliver God's invitation to all. The same Holy Spirit anointed Jesus to be the evangelist par excellence. Christ accompanies those that the Holy Spirit sends, not those that Christianity sends. Re-evangelization would reclaim the gospel on the basis of participation, accountability and freedom. Amen.
1. The Devil had some vested interest in the conflict of soul against mind and spirit against the body because, while God became a person, the Devil has never become incarnate. The distinction between God and angels, of whom Satan is one, is that God became human while angels became only appearances.
2. Rachel S Watt, In the Heart of Savagedom: Reminiscences of Life and Adventure During a Quarter of a Century of Pioneering Missionary Labours in the Wilds of East Equatorial Africa (London: Marshall Brothers, 1912).
3. The reference is to the first edition of David Barrett's World Christian Encyclopaedia. A new edition was published in 2001: David B Barrett, George T Kurian, and Todd M Johnson, eds, World Christian Encyclopaedia: A Comparative Survey of Churches and Religions in the Modern World (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 2 vols.
4. Manfred Halpern, The Politics of Social Change in the Middle East and North Africa (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963), p.3.
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