Автор: Jim Harries
Category: Евангелие процветания, Устная коммуникация, Примирение
Experience of working within Western Kenya quickly reveals the basic unpopularity of MT (Mother Tongue) in theological education, as also in other fields. In a fundamental way in people’s minds formal education has become associated with English and the learning of what is foreign. There is very little appreciation for the value of interacting with indigenous theological knowledge given the kind of categories that English comes with. There is an apparent preference for the formal to be in a separate category to the indigenous, on the part of both those who want to maintain the indigenous and those who want to undermine it. Those who want to maintain it, by protecting it from outside attacks such as that of rationalism. For those who want to undermine it – to do so in foreign terms and using foreign categories as a means to try to avoid the strictures and means by which indigenous cultures otherwise maintain themselves.
Many people’s understanding of a ‘bright future’ is that it will best be achieved through the imitation of what is foreign. Because this does not mix well with local categories; it is best taken in as pure a form as possible. Formal theological education is taken as falling into this category.
I think that there is little doubt, if any at all, that communication in a language is aided by the use of that language in education. Experimental work verifies this (for example, see http://www.sil.org/asia/philippines/ovw_mle.html). From personal experience it seems to be evident. It is extremely difficult for school-children to apply in depth what they have learned using English in the classroom to their daily life that is dominated by an African mother-tongue such as Dholuo.
When such communication is attempted, uncomfortable clashes can easily be revealed. For example, English language study of agriculture can reveal the desirability of early planting of maize, whereas Luo custom requires that maize be planted in order of seniority, constraining a younger brother to delay planting until his older brother has done so, out of respect. While such can be countered theologically through reference to the ways in which Old Testament laws have been superseded by Christ’s teaching, such theology has barely taken hold within indigenous circles of language use. While such challenges to traditional customs are happening, it is much easier to climb the ladder of achievement to recognised qualifications in theological education by ignoring them than by trying to articulate or engage them.
I am not aware of any trial carried out to measure ‘pastoral effectiveness’ by comparing English with mother-tongue use in theological education. As mentioned above; it would seem to be self-evident that MT use is more effective. Except that is, where people’s expectations in churches are already oriented to the fruits of English language education. Amongst these fruits are material rewards often available to churches whose leader is fluent in English and able to convince Western donors to part with funds. If potential donors are Christian, or even in some cases when they are not, it is familiarity with Western theological debates and ability to engage in them that is more likely to impress donors than is confusing (to the donors) explanations of indigenous concerns.
In many part of Africa, and certainly Kenya is a case in point, the church seems to have ‘moved on’ from mother tongue in recent years. In a sense that is to say, that it has moved on from understanding-based-belief, to power-based or spirit-based faith. Evidence for this in Luoland is widespread, including the frequent use of the term ‘miracle’ in the names of churches. Unless miracles (or money) are on offer, one is unlikely to attract people to a crusade or other meeting, I have frequently been advised. This seems to be a revival in belief in magic. The way I here use the term ‘magic’ is outlined in more detail in Harries (2000).
The economic equation is such in Luoland and presumably also other parts of the African continent, that European languages continue to flourish while mother tongues face relative stagnation. Unfortunately their being rooted in unfamiliar contexts means that European languages cannot be understood at depth by many residents of rural (or urban) Africa. This undoubtedly contributes to corruption, as people are required to engage in processes that they do not understand and that have little fit with local ways of life. Often the use of European languages is effective through its drawing of foreign subsidy; Westerners visiting Africa are much more likely to be impressed by and to subsidize something occurring in English than were it to be happening in some other (to them) indecipherable tongue. That Western subsidy is the ‘actual’ source of many African miracles.
There would seem to be no doubt at all that MT theological education is the best way to deepen cognitive skills, but much of the church in Luoland (and presumably beyond) is more interested in power and material prosperity than it is in the acquisition of such skills.
Advice for the Future
The debate on mother tongue use in much of Africa is helpfully seen as a part of the wider debate on dependency on the continent. The current level of outside-dependency results in a preference for non-mother tongue languages. This choice is not made on the basis of maximising the acquisition of cognitive ability.
This latter is a situation brought to and maintained on the African continent by powers that arise from outside of the continent. Outside examples are being followed. This trend could be reversed by having ‘outsiders’ demonstrate and not only talk about an appreciation for African mother tongues. That is, to have respected outsiders learn, use, and appreciate African mother tongues. (For more on this see www.vulnerablemission.com.)