Why it’s not right to call Christianity alien religion (ii) – Punch Newspapers

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The Christ mandate/manifesto is the fifth pillar. In His manifesto to the world to declare His mission and commission from the father, He made no mention of any tribe or nation or colour. He spoke to the entire human family.
Quoting from Isaiah 61, he declares, “The Spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of prison to them that are bound….”
It is clear from the tenor of this message that no tribe is mentioned, no race is privileged above others and none is excluded. He came to all men and His commission is to all men. Three and a half years later when He was departing, He restated the same commission with clear and unmistakable detail, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creatures, make disciples of nations, tongues and people…”
To call a religion around such a figure an alien religion is to do great violence to language and even truth.

Yes, it is true that certain votaries of Christianity have used the religion to perpetuate racism, white hegemony, wars, violence, cruelties and atrocities as Soyinka rightly noted, but we are to judge Christianity by its message, founder, contents and not by hypocrites who are looking for a medium to achieve their personal and national sinister purposes.
Guns have been used to steal, rob, rape and take government by unconstitutional means but no one blames Kalashnikov for it? And we must blame Christ and His alien religion for atrocities to our continent committed by people who neither knew Him nor understood even the message?
Come to think of it, is the African traditional religion free of those atrocities to our continent and its people? How many subjects, Africans, were sacrificed to gods that cannot speak nor hear during rituals? How many were sacrificed as accompaniment at the departure of a king? We are talking of a religion that allows kings and chieftains to sell and exchange their subjects and citizens for a piece of mirror and trifles like trinkets and gunpowder. Is there any atrocity worse than these by so-called indigenous religions? Prof, I beg you not to open that can and do not go there, you may have more to apologise for on behalf of native religions than even Christianity, the so-called alien religion.

The sixth pillar is Africans as pioneers of Christianity. Another major reason it is not right to call Christianity an alien religion in Africa is because Africans were pioneers, stakeholders and foundation charter members who enrolled the very day Christianity was founded. They didn’t join as inferiors or underdogs but as equals, stakeholders like others from the nations.
Christianity was officially born on the Day of Pentecost, a period during which Jews from all over the world usually gathered for the feast at Jerusalem.
We are told that after Peter preached that day, about 3,000 enrolled in the new faith. Dr Luke tells us the composition of this new membership in his narrative and it is this that interests us (Acts 2:9-11).
Egyptians were there, Libyans were there and other areas around and within. Thus, on the very day Christianity made its debut on earth, Africans were not wanting. Even if they were only Africans by residence, Africans were represented. How, in the light of this, can Christianity be called an alien religion in Africa or any part of Africa?
Within a few years after this, Christianity was comfortably seated in Africa through the Ethiopian eunuch who was converted by Phillip in Acts chapter eight. This was long before the conversion of St Paul who took Christianity to Europe. Thus, Christianity was in Africa long before it got to Europe. So, how can it be an imported religion from Europe if it was already in Africa even before Europe?
It is a fallacy of no mean proportion. America does not even exist at this time; America as we now know it. Those who say Christianity is a Euro-American slave religion are therefore in a grievous error.
Considering the notable contributions of Africans to Christianity are the bases of the seventh pillar. It is also erroneous to brand Christianity as an alien religion or foreign religion, because Africans have made notable contributions to Christianity, enormous contributions that are even more than others. At a point, Alexandria in Egypt was one of the most vibrant fulcrums of Christianity. Some of the greatest theologians of the Early Church who saved Christianity at its hour of great peril were Africans.

Athanasius who saved the day for Christianity against the heretical but influential Arius was an African. Tertullian who coined the term ‘Trinity’ was an African. Origen who laid the foundation of philosophical theology was an African. St Anthony of the Desert fathers who started monasticism in Egypt was an African. St. Augustine, the most influential father and theologian of the Early Church, was an African from Thagaste in present-day Algeria. At Nicea, the most significant Council of the Church, African bishops were heavily represented from Egypt, Libya and other places and none from Britain. The creed would be named after an African, Athanasius (Àthanasian Creed).
So, if Africans were stakeholders in Christianity and major contributors, how could Christianity be called an alien religion in Africa? How can a person be an alien in a venture or company in which he is the major shareholder and investor? Can someone please help me?
The eighth pillar is identifying Christianity as a universalising narrative. Christianity is a narrative, but a universalising narrative. It cleaves to all cultures, accepts, embodies and improves the best elements in every culture and uses it in praise of Jehovah. Christianity can subsist and has subsisted in every culture, tongue, land and nation. It takes the best materials in a culture and raises it to its highest level.
Thus, in Rome it is Catholicism; in Germany it is Lutheranism; in Britain it is Anglicanism; in America it is Pentecostalism; in Congo, it is Kinbanguism; in South Africa it is Zionism (Zionist churches); and in Yorubaland it is Aladura Apostolic (CAC, C&S etc). Because it is a universal narrative, it sits comfortably in every culture and under every clime. Thus, the concept of it being alien or foreign does not arise. How, for instance, is Christ Apostolic Church, a truly Christian church, foreign to Nigeria or Pentecostalism, as embodied in Foursquare Church or Assemblies of God Church, being alien to America? How can a religion be alien to the land of its birth or origin?
I present the dynamic and cultural elements of Christianity as the ninth pillar. The beauty of Christianity is that it not only moves, it also breathes. It can adopt and use cultural medium without tampering with the message; it can employ forms and modes to dispense its message without altering the power and tempo of the message.
Christians were the first to see the importance of printing as a useful medium of dissemination of ideas long before Asians saw it. As a matter of fact, the movable press was invented or developed by Gutenberg to print the Bible – long before anyone or other religions saw the usefulness or potential.
Christians were the first to use television to spread the message. They have also adopted the Internet now while the others are still asleep.

That is the dynamism of Christianity which confuses its adversaries.
They were the first to start meetings in homes right from the first Century and when the Temple was destroyed it didn’t move them because they had gone beyond that.
Innovations like these made them survive even tyrants. Christianity has survived Communist tyranny, Islamic jihads, mob-instigated violence and pogroms, dictators like Josef Stalin, Idi Amin, Sani Abacha, Muhammadu Buhari, Pol Pot…
This dynamism which can be seen across all cultures is another reason why it cannot be called an alien religion or foreign religion. It does not belong to any nation; it belongs to all nations because Christianity is indeed Christ and Christ cannot be alien to any land because “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.”

For the tenth pillar, I expound on the native factor in Christianity. The reference to Christianity as foreign religion is further complicated on several grounds in the light of seven, eight & nine above, but even more in the light of the “native factor.”
Scholars now talk of not just Christianity but many forms of Christianity and they are right. Christianity, as I said, not only passes through cultures but also embodies the fine and beautiful elements in every culture and uses it for its own ends. Without compromising the essential, core and interior qualities of the religion, thus, we have today Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Anglicanism, Quakerism, Pentecostalism…
There is American Christianity, African Christianity, European Christianity, Nigerian Christianity…

The major difference is that each of these variants has embedded something of the native but harmless elements in the culture without endangering the core of the message.
Thus, Pentecostalism in its essential core is pure Christianity, yet true to the American flamboyant culture. Aladura Christianity is, in the words of professors Bolaji Idowu and Omosade Awolalu “a legitimate branch of the church universal” yet true to the Yoruba culture of prayer and supplication. Kimbanguism is the religion of the Congo, yet in its essential beliefs, it is also Christian. In the words of Prof George Thomas, it is “authentically Christian and authentically African.” It is the same with Zionism in South Africa.
This is the native factor and the beauty in Christianity. It is for this reason that it is fatally wrong to call Christianity a foreign religion. How can Kimbanguism be foreign to the Congolese or Aladura foreign to the Yoruba or Pentecostalism to the Americans where it started in 1906?
Let us consider the call of indigenous prophets and Churches as the eleventh pillar. Here is a major reason why Christianity cannot be foreign. The call of prophets and apostles from every nation and clime to spread the message of Christianity to their own people and their empowerment is proof that this religion belongs to all.
In virtually every nation today, if you search their history you would see someone or some persons raised at one point almost without human mediation spreading true Christianity without anyone teaching him based on divine calling. St. Paul who was never part of the 12 (disciples) was a good example of this.
In this nation, we have had men and women who claimed to have received divine visitation and whose lives and subsequent developments vindicated their claims. I am not talking of most of the charlatans now parading the stage; false apostles and agents of the devil. I am talking of genuine voices with deep numinous experience.
Joseph Ayo Babalola was one of these. Moses Orimolade was one of these. Sophie Ajayi was one, same for Shadrach Mogun, Babamuboni of Ekiti and several others.

Baba Babalola was not taught Christianity or theology by any institution of learning when he had his encounter, a Paul-like encounter at Arakeji. Orimolade could quote the entire passage of the Bible yet never could read or write, for in the words of Prof (Akinyele) Omoyajowo, “he was a complete illiterate.” How then do we account for these? Much more, how do we account for the major awakening that occurred through their hands?
Babalola was a Yoruba man who spoke Yoruba better than any of our professors; he ate Yoruba food and wore Yoruba clothes. Orimolade was not a disgruntled member who separated from earlier faith traditions or religion but one of us here who lived and died, and their graves are here with us to this day.
Yet, they got the revelation of true Christianity that embodies indigenous forms like drums, gongs, songs and other cultural forms according to the University of London’s sociologist, Prof John Peel.
Thus, when we say Christianity is a foreign religion or alien religion, we must have to do two things: either we accept that these men were foreigners or that what they founded was not truly Christian. Unfortunately, both claims are demonstrably absurd. All the scholars who have worked and written on these churches, from Howard Turner to John Peel, Robert Mitchell, Parrinder and their home-based counterparts like professors Omosade Awolalu, Bolaji Idowu, Akinyele Omoyajowo, etc. agreed that not only were they truly indigenous and African but they are also authentically Christian.
This is the greatest proof which destroys every foundation of otherness about Christianity.
Finally, the evidence of the Bible. Here is my last point as I wind down this apologia. I have made my point and there is no reason to go further. This is the best evidence.
Every religion rests on four fundamental pillars: a holy God, holy people, holy place and holy scriptures. The Bible is therefore crucial to the survival of Christianity.

Now, when you read through the Bible what do you see? There is no continent whose nations, cities, lands and peoples are as mentioned as those of Africa from Genesis to Revelation. Africa and Africans grace the pages of the Bible more than any other continent. If that is so, how then can Christianity be alien to Africa or any portion of Africa?
I rest my case.
In conclusion, the reference to Christianity, Apostolic Christianity, as an alien religion offends me and my sense of being. It is an insult to me and to my fathers – Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Joseph Ayo Babalola, Moses Orimolade etc., and all who have lived to the best of their ability for Christ in this land.
I do not insult any religion, even the traditional religions of Africa nor their adherents and I also wish that traditionalists would respect my own faith as well. It is defamatory to call Christianity, Apostolic Christianity an “alien religion” or foreign religion or “tool of imperialism”. It is an insult to refer to the God of Christianity as foreign God. Jesus was in Africa before Yoruba became a nation, before Oduduwa came here or before any of the divinities now worshiped in Yorubaland came here.
I do not worship a foreign God, I worship the True and the living God Who appeared at Sinai, an African mountain through an African prophet; I worship the living God who appeared at Oke-Ooye in Ilesha in July 1930 through Joseph Ayo Babalola in amazing wonders. Daily Times of July 1930 declared “A Messiah in Ilesha” asking people who are sick to go there for healing.
How sad that your universities and scholars know nothing about this story? That is the God that I worship. That is the God that I serve, not a foreign God, at least not foreign to Africa except in the imagination of some. And not a foreign religion.
True, certain forms of Christianity may be foreign to certain parts of the world. Roman Catholicism, for instance, is the Church of Rome and may be foreign to Africa but I am not a Roman Catholic. Anglicanism may be the Church of England and may be foreign to Nigeria but I am not an Anglican. I am an Apostolic Christian, an adherent of Apostolic Christianity, a religion which has its origin in this land and which embodies Yoruba cultural forms as God gave it through the spirit of Joseph Ayo Babalola. How can that be foreign or alien in Nigeria?

In closing, I have not written this to ridicule anyone. It is particularly painful for me to do because these are men I hold in high esteem and whom I have praised and defended at other fora. However, I have carried this pain for too long, watching my own beliefs and the religion of my fathers being described in derogatory terms. I now must discharge this burden and free myself of its complications. I think it was Edward Said who said that for him “never solidarity before criticism.”
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