Christianity Today has published the following story relating to a Nigerian Pastor jailed for using a severed (human) head in an occult ceremony.Â The article talks about some interesting contextual issues related to African Christianity.Â It is commonly stated that before the Rwandan Genocide up to 98% of Rwandans self-identified as Christians.Â And then the genocide happened.Â Similarly, many people who claim to be Christian maintain pre-Christian allegiances as well.Â Some of it might be folk religion akin to superstitions not uncommon in parts of the US (like throwing salt over one’s sholder, making an X ten times when a black cat crosses your path, painting window sills blue, believing that deaths come in threes and that certain birds at the window fortell the death of a family member etc…) but much of the folk-religion/superstition we encounter has been largely sapped of its power and cannot be thought of as a unified belief system.Â Not so with African indiginous beliefs and practices–many of them still have a strong hold.Â In fact, I once had a Nigerian Christian of Igbo background tell me that while they respected certain Christian leaders from the Yoruba tribe, he would not want his children marrying into a Yoruba family because “so many of them practice old religions” along with Christianity.Â That was one persons opinion, but there it is.
From reading this story we can see that Americans aren’t the only ones turned on by the preaching of “prosperity” nor are we the only ones willing to pimp our spiritual selves out to whomever or whatever will provide what we want.Â We may rail against the commercialization of faith and consumerism in the west, but I wonder if we’re really looking at the deep pit of idolatry that motivates it.
“One out of 10 self-named Christians in this region practices only Christianity,” says Benjamin-Lee Hegeman, a former missionary in West Africa who now teaches at Houghton College. “Some people call it syncretism, but it may be more like dual religious allegiance, where Christianity is practiced in the daytime and occult [practice] is done at night. Many of the pastors will preach from the pulpit that this type of thing is wrong, but secretly take part in it at night. There is the mentality, especially in African Initiated Churches, where the prosperity gospel is preached, that you do what you’ve got to do to get ahead. You rely on the powers available to you. You are hopeful that Christ will help, but when he can’t come through on Sunday, you may take out a different insurance policy at night.”
Check out this poster campaign highlighted by Koranteng Ofosu-Amaah in the “Soul Struggle” section of his blog: