Автор: Jim Harries
Category: Евангелие процветания, Бедность и богатство, Мировые религии
Africa is an enchanted place, said Nyende. He is right. To understand Africa, one has to realise this. It is enchanted in many ways. The past spills over into the present. The future hovers in anticipation. The earth seems to be alive with the spirits of the dead. Human interactions occur in the light of ‘others’ – unseen, and not heard with ones’ physical ears – but yet present and communicating by mystical means.
The enchantedness of the world makes it bearable. Remove the magic, and it is like one is just left with cold hard rock; bitterness would never end; cruelty would reign; feelings would be hardness; death would be yet more callous.
This enchantment is not a lie. The world is an enchanted place. But I don’t think in Africa that we have fully understood the enchantment. Our view is too limited. Hence the Gospel adds joy to joy, and often substitutes joy for sorrow. Understanding that Gospel is a constant challenge. Long may enchantment continue; the Gospel of Jesus Christ – the hope of the World, the true basis of the enchantment.
Some Western missionaries coming to Africa do not go to church on Sundays. Perhaps the reason others plant their ‘own’ churches is because the experience of being at an African-led local church is so difficult to cope with.
The apparent difficulty is often language. Who wants to go to church every week if they hardly understand what is going on? But, I suggest, there is also more to it than that. It relates to the ‘enchanted world’ mentioned above.
People’s living in an enchanted world is not a nice irrelevancy. Rather, it has a profound impact on all that African people do and how they do it. This includes how they do church; or what they do in church.
The mind boggles. We (in the West) are used in our minds to say ‘atheism versus church’ or ‘secularism versus church’ or ‘agnosticism versus church’ and so on. Then preachers and teachers of God’s word in ‘the West’, perceiving where they are under attack, try to shore up Christianity against those ‘enemies of faith’.
Not all do that. It was striking to me when my pastor, came on a visit. When he preached in my home in Kenya, his opening line was ‘I believe in witchcraft!’ Everyone (all Kenyans except myself) was amazed. (Partly because in Dholuo when this is translated it can also mean ‘I agree with witchcraft’). The pastor was right – in trying to position himself where the people are in their thinking.
But there is a further implication of living in an enchanted world that perhaps the pastor didn’t get in his short visit. That is, that one’s’ fortune or otherwise in life depends almost entirely on the enchanted realm. Because on a scale of material possessions Europeans clearly have much better ‘fortune’ than do Africans, it follows that they must know better how to interact with the enchanted world. This means in turn that African people’s following of Western worship practices can be almost entirely with material ends in mind!
That is tough for a Western missionary. The fact that in Africa people live in an enchanted world means that every word spoken, every teaching given and every sermon preached can be transformed in its impact when it is transported from the West to Africa. All the words become ‘enchanted’, if you like!
Of course in the West the two things are rather distinct. Business, engineering, planning, foresight, and nature are one thing. On the other side, to many people, believing in God is to do with the part of their life called ‘religion’.
The ‘words becoming enchanted’ in Africa – means that peoples worship and service to God can frequently be to do with getting money. That is how many people know to get money.
Some people who rejoice at African spirituality fail to perceive this. Once perceived it is very hard for a Westerner to live with. It all seems wrong! In that sense, I don’t blame Westerners for getting mighty frustrated when they seek to fellowship in African churches. At the same time though – I am not sure that imposing a ‘dualistic’ kind of worship for their own benefit is a sufficient way forward.
I must say as a Christian, that there is something fundamental and true about the distinction between god and the world. God is not the world, and the world is not God. No. God created the world, but he is not the world. He may be in the world, even in every part, but that remains different from ‘being’ the world.
If that is a truth, then it is one that is not being well communicated by today’s Western mission effort. These days, in a way that can be very confusing to folk in Africa, Westerners constantly, combine worship and Christian teaching with money and goods. They call it the ‘holistic gospel’. For Westerners that means – science supports the Gospel. For some Africans it means – that good fortune (and money) come through prayer.
Unfortunately, this latter belief generates enormous unhealthy unintended dependence of Africa on the West. In this sense, it is cruel.
That is why, I emphasise that some missionary work to Africa should not include financial transfer and projects. The latter bring too much confusion. They do not allow God’s transcendence to be seen. Perhaps money transfer and projects can be good? But – there must also be a transfer of the Gospel that is independent of these things. That is how the truth of God can truly be communicated. (For details, see www.vulnerablemission.com)
(Nyende, Peter, 2008. ‘An Aspect of the Character of Christianity in Africa.’ Journal of Theology for Southern Africa. 132. (November 2008))