About God By Nancy Monnya
There are two sides to a story……..
And you have not heard Africa’s side yet
The history of Africa’s colonial past is well known and documented; even when many choose to have amnesia. The scars that this legacy has caused are still visible in individuals, and in our diseased communities. One of the symptoms of this dis-ease on the continent and in the Diaspora, is the demonizing of Africa’s believe systems. I am sure the above statement makes a lot of people cringe. When you say African belief systems, people retreat into their shells for fear of judgment because the greatest achievement foreign religious systems have done to Africans was instill the fear of punishment from what they call God. When we say God as Africans, even in our native tongues, we often imagine a man of European descent, blue eyes and long grey hair and beard.
This is and has been the image presented by most religions foreign to Africa, through pictures, film and oral descriptions. This process was and still is subtle. For example, the Christian religion was introduced by white missionaries, and God as the ‘father’ of the person introducing the believe system will resemble that person. The messiah according to Christianity, Jesus Christ, has been presented as a white man, the son of God. It therefore becomes logical for the brain to associate God with this image; as the son so is the father. This has had a profound impact on the image of the people who have been at the receiving end of this doctrine. Although this religion has been modified and re-colored recently, the impact of being told that the only true God that you must worship looks like the very same man who is responsible for your castration, the raping and pillaging of your women and your land cannot be overlooked.
This impact has dealt Africa such a blow that today, and truly for decades we have been slowly rising to this realization; we have come to realize that there is no going forward where we do not know where we come from, and who we are. You cannot take anything anywhere if you do not know what it; therefore we cannot carry ourselves forward if we
do not know who we are. Our societies are sickened, our environment is sickened and this is because all that we would have recognized as ourselves has been eroded and in an attempt to heal, we continue to cause more harm. We have tried it their way, without being given a choice as to whether we want it or not.
And the story of God? Here is the beginning of Africa’s story of God.
Spiritual belief systems such as Ifa, Voudoun, and many others involve the veneration of one’s ancestors, and believe that Modimo, Nyame, Olodumare, Ngai, etc. as we call the concept of God in many of Africa’s languages, have set systems that ensures one must atone for their wrongs here on earth and not wait to die before they face judgment. These spiritual belief systems have been demonized, not because they are doing anything wrong or different from what Christianity and others are doing, but because they are the backbone of the people and when you seek to dominate a people, you first attack their backbone, which leads to the erosion of their identity. Without a backbone, one cannot stand.
All these other foreign religions venerate ancestors too; from Jesus to Muhammad and all the other saints. The only difference is that while the other religions give one the freedom to indulge in all wrong doing and only fear judgment after death, African belief systems follow nature’s way of rectifying the problem before it grows and consume those around it. You do not wait to go to hell to know you have wronged humanity, even by harming one person or animal and plants. We always say we stretch and support a sapling when it still young when we see it starting to bend. This ensures the tree grows in the right direction, upwards, and does not grow all bent and uncontrollable disrupting the growth of others.
There is this purported need by humans to have a savior; a need to have a messiah. It is supposed that human beings need to be given hope and by giving them a messiah, someone for them to look up to when troubles come, someone for them to trust when they cannot trust anyone else around and themselves, foreign religions have managed to keep the Africans forever dependent on someone to change their immediate situation. If the situation does not change, then this is where heaven and hell comes in. One then accepts the situation one is in, making no effort to personally change it
because they are looking forward to inheriting a piece of happiness and abundance in heaven. One is promised retribution for sufferings endured in life because one strongly believe when people die they will either go on to inherit happiness that eluded them while living, or go to eternal damnation for the wrongs they have done. All this then supports the teachings that one is born with something wrong with them and must work doubly hard to stay holy, and fear doing otherwise lest they be bound for hell. So the all capable God has created a man who is faulty from birth.
There are a few, if not many shortcomings with this supposed ‘logic’. First there has not been any tangible proof that heaven and hell indeed exist as a geographical location and in the form and shape as religious teachings purports. Secondly all these religions say they are founded on the foundations of an all loving God, a forgiving God; one who loves without conditions, and yet these very same religious teachings come and say this very same God will sit and watch as people, ones he has created, burn eternally. This does not in any way define unconditional love and a forgiving nature. Thirdly, the believe that everyone will be forgiven and go to heaven no matter their crime, as long as they fully repent before death. This is by far the most difficult argument one finds difficult to comprehend and come to terms with, because this means a perpetrator of a crime will be in heaven with his or her victim. This does not show any balance, nor does it show this believe system to be one of justice.
Here you see a system that allows people to shift blame from themselves. Here you see people who continue to subjugate others by telling them if God can forgive, then who are they not to forgive. Here you see a system that says one is allowed to harm others, to live as they wish without any regard to others, as long as they can run to this believe system on time to repent before their death. You see a belief system that has allowed the maltreatment of the African, by teaching him to accept to submit to the earthly master just as they would submit to the heavenly master. You see a belief system that says this very same self appointed master will enjoy the supposed benefits of heaven with you. It is taught that this kingdom of heaven is for those who suffer, and yet the same evil doer who repented a couple of hours before his death is promised the same peace. Where is the justice in this?
African belief systems do not accept nor do they condone such. One will not be punished or be disciplined in the afterlife. One ought to atone for their wrongs while still living not only to keep the balance of nature and relationships between people, but also to serve as lessons for the younger ones who learn by imitation. And until the African understands the concept of God, the African will continue to see God as man outside of himself. Until one understands that this concept is universal, that it isn’t religious and does not require one to be taught, until then, one will carry the fear of judgment by this God who supposedly sit high up somewhere in the skies. Man will fail to get himself out squalor because man waits for the coming of a man-god to come and get him out of squalor.