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Here’s an interesting article

September 6, 2007

It seems that the Pentecostals in Africa are using the old jealous God of the old testament to wipe out their own cultural heritage.

And with the Pentecostals growing so rapidly in Africa, one wonders how much they influence the way the Anglican Church of Nigeria operates. It certainly doesn’t have an Anglo-Catholic flavor, that’s for sure.

Christianity Vs. the Old Gods of Nigeria, from the Associated Press.

ACHINA, Nigeria (AP) — Born to a family of traditional priests, Ibe Nwigwe converted to Christianity as a boy. Under the sway of born-again fervor as a man, he gathered the paraphernalia of ancestral worship — a centuries-old stool, a metal staff with a wooden handle and the carved figure of a god — and burned them as his pastor watched.

“I had experienced a series of misfortunes and my pastor told me it was because I had not completely broken the covenant with my ancestral idols,” the 52-year-old Nwigwe said of the bonfire three years ago. “Now that I have done that, I hope I will be truly liberated.”

Generations ago, European colonists and Christian missionaries looted Africa’s ancient treasures. Now, Pentecostal Christian evangelists — most of them Africans — are helping wipe out remaining traces of how Africans once worked, played and prayed.

As poverty deepened in Nigeria from the mid-1980s, Pentecostal Christian church membership surged. The new faithful found comfort in preachers like evangelist Uma Ukpai who promised material success was next to godliness. He has boasted of overseeing the destruction of more than 100 shrines in one district in December 2005 alone.

Achina is typical of towns and villages in the ethnic Igbo-dominated Christian belt of southeastern Nigeria where this new Christian fundamentalism is evident. The old gods are being linked to the devil, and preachers are urging not only their rejection, but their destruction.

The Ezeokolo, the main shrine of Achina — a community of mainly farmers and traders in Nigeria’s rain forest belt — has been repeatedly looted of its carved god figures. While no one has been caught, suspects range from people acting on Christian impulses to treasure thieves…

Early missionaries to Nigeria condemned most traditional practices as pagan. Roman Catholics and Anglicans later came to terms with most practices, even incorporating some traditional dances into church liturgy. But there was no room for local gods once their erstwhile worshippers became Christians.

Similarly, Muslim preachers in Nigeria’s predominantly Islamic north forbade interaction with figures dedicated to local idols, although many cultural dances featuring traditional masks are still tolerated.

Most converts are in constant tension over how much of the old beliefs can be incorporated into their new faith, said Isidore Uzoatu, a specialist in the history of Christianity in Africa affiliated with Nnamdi Azikiwe University in southeastern Nigeria.

“….Where the older Catholic and Anglican denominations are more tolerant, the Pentecostals reflect more strictly the idea of a jealous God that would brook no rival,” said Uzoatu.

…While Achina had few Christians 60 years ago, they now constitute more than 95 percent, says Emmanuel Eze, a retired teacher.

There is hardly anyone around these days to speak up for tradition,” said Eze.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 6, 2007 12:19 pm

    Of course, you see this here amongst many evangelicals in America too. There’s a growing movement to put as much distance between Christian holidays and cultural carry-overs like Easter eggs and Christmas trees. (And let’s not even get into Halloween!) Often the argument is that these things are more than just cultural, but religious in nature. (And in a sense, they’re right, as the idea of culture and religion being separable is pretty unique to our modern society.)

    I think that honoring one’s cultural heritage when it involves religious elements of a faith one no longer practices will always be something of a difficult topic to navigate for many people.

  2. episcopalifem permalink*
    September 6, 2007 2:39 pm

    Agreed. I don’t think it’s a terrible thing to take what was, and find a way to make it fit/work with what now is.

    But, I’m a heretical bitch, so, what do I know?

  3. September 6, 2007 2:48 pm

    Well, if it’s any comfort, we apostates love you in all your splendid heresy. 😉

  4. episcopalifem permalink*
    September 6, 2007 3:00 pm

    Least I’m in good company!

  5. September 10, 2007 9:25 am

    On a related topic, my Guatemalan neighbors recently told me that Guatemalans, religiously speaking are mostly pentacostals. Of course this came up after I had invited them to visit my (ELCA) Lutheran church.

  6. episcopalifem permalink*
    September 10, 2007 11:12 am

    Yeah – from what I understand from my friend Luiz, alot of Central/South Americans are getting very involved in the Pentecostal movement. I think that culturally, the way that the spirit is expressed in the services – singing, dancing, speaking in tongues, etc. – is closer to where these folks are culturally.

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