Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Jesus, help me find my proper place

Nkem’s post gave me the idea for a theological thought experiment:

Let’s just imagine God exists. Let’s say God is not a divine person, or a divine switchboard forever answering (the loudest most fervent) prayers with action (neither of which I can make any sense of), but rather a balancing force, redistributing good where there is bad, and perhaps even bad where there is good. God is the highest form of justice, and salvation is an appeal to the redistribution of good.

There were there is good (a land where people don’t merely suffer), God is present. He/She/It does not need to be appealed to in the form of prayer. There is food in the shops, money in the bank, law on the streets and health and security for most, if not all. The function of the church, the mosque and the synagogue slowly disappears, as the sacred spreads across the land.

There were there is not good (a land where most people suffer), God is not present. He/She/It needs to be appealed to constantly in the form of prayer. People go hungry, people have no money, there is no law on the streets, and health and security are serious issues for most. The function of the church, the mosque and the synagogue becomes the most pressing issue in society, as the sacred disappears across the land, drying up like a dead river.

In a way, this undeveloped allegory just reflects a simple truth: in societies which are mostly poor, difficult for most to live in, rampant with injustice, society at large has a pressing need for spiritual narratives and release. In societies with material abundance, well-oiled mechanisms of justice, society at large tends to forget about the need for spiritual release. The upshot: God is absent in Nigeria, there where He/She/It is needed most. The prayers are not working.

Never has the opiatic, under-developing effect of religion in Nigeria been so clear to me as it was last night, watching NTA. There will be no major change in the way aviation is run here, so long as the crash is classified as an Act of God, and our response to it conditioned to be one of prayer. Religion Nigerian-style numbs every sinew of the body, freezes the brain, and erodes any possibility of rational response, and above all, transformative action. It is, at present, a malign force – a force which does not transform, which does not heal. It is, as Soul says, the most vicious colonial effect.

It could, of course, be altogether different. Religion (whatever the hue) can be a force for change, for good. Prayers can probably be answered, in a sense (one crystallises intent through quiet moments of contemplation). But not where there is no accountability, not where religion is used as a political tool for repression (explicit or otherwise), not where material wealth is taken to be a necessary precursor to spiritual wealth.

Coda: I asked my sister-in-law last night (she is an evangelical) what colour she thought Jesus was. The answer came back immediately: of course, he was white. I suggested that bits of the bible describe him as having hair like wool with a bronze skin. She looked shocked. I went on to tell her that St Augustine came from North Africa, and was therefore African. Now she looked a little distressed.

How vast the symbolic deficit. How wide white supremacy casts its net.


Soul 11:15 am  

that's not surprising.
not in the least. the fact is many people in Nigeria will point blank tell you that racism doesn't exist whilst at the same time, defering everything to a white person.

the illusion of the perfect white system is reality in Nigeria, even some of the most brilliant minds in Nigeria will defer to white knowledge.
That's why we have idiots repping Ameicana gangsta in the Oshodi when Black Americans largely nowadays seem to disown them.
That's why we have Nigerian managers who can't seem to do their jobs without being given the okay by a sales assistant in London.
The situation is embarassing and appaling and I see no end to it.

culturalmiscellany 4:49 pm  

I agree but as I have said too many times before I don't think its Christian faith that is wrong by the application of it, by some NOT all, in Nigeria. My Mum summed it up very well a few months back 'prayers covers up inaction'.

MrO and I were chatting on Sunday about our respective church attendance and what we 'learnt'. I found it refreshing to hear his account as it focused on the issue of people covering inaction with prayers. Many pastors say that one should pray about an issue and when one receives an answer move forward. Hence, if one is not highly tuned in to God's voice one would stay still forever. Instead, this pastor was talking about Moses and the parting of the dead sea. Moses had to PUT FORWARD his hand and take action before God would act. In other words, sometimes you have to take a step forward yourself in order to activate God's intervention. In my humble opinion that is what is needed in Nigeria, people to stand up and start to take action, to call out change!

Anonymous,  5:48 pm  

While I don't think the picture is as simple as your admittedly undeveloped allegory paints, I completely agree with your conclusions, as does Marx.

The principal problem is what I've always railed against re Nigeria: the quickness to attribute everything to an external power/source/cause thereby relieving ourselves of any further responsibility in the matter.

Partly, it's a problem of education but really, what can one think when even supposedly educated people make the most trite mistakes in logic?

I have to say that making statements as "How wide white supremacy casts its net" makes you guilty of the same thing: it's not the fact that whites have cast this supremacy net that's catching unknowing Nigerians like so much fish, it's the fact that a supposedly educated person (your sister-in-law) doesn't bother to learn about history and draw her own conclusions about things.

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