HomeOpinion & AnalysisThe need to decolonise Christianity

The need to decolonise Christianity

Whenever people speak of colonisation, the first thing we think of is the political aspect. Colonisation is the practice of extending control by stronger groups of people or nations over weaker areas and the residents. The practice takes control of people’s land, identity, culture, economy, natural resources plus their religion and aligns it with that of the colonisers. Most of the social aspects of the victims are assimilated into that of the victors. The dominant forces often swallow up the vanquished in an effort to suppress them. Religion is not spared either. Revolutionary wars have been fought across the globe to reverse colonisation, to bring back lost land, to bring back a people’s identity, but less often to bring back a religion. Politics is an art of an organised state of governance that follows a particular line of thinking. Religion, on the other hand, is a moral art, a system of belief in something with supernatural powers that takes control of people’s lives. Religion and politics often operate parallel to each other. They are like brothers and sisters, operating in a family environment but performing different functions.

sundayword: BY PROSPER TINGINI

Christianity is a religious identity and it has a value to it. It started soon after the death of Jesus Christ. Some people would want to argue that it was Jesus himself who started Christianity. Whatever the theory, the truth is that the Christian religion spread like wildfire across the planet and is now a very strong force to be reckoned with. So powerful were its original effects that it became an object for colonisation. Whoever colonised the Christian religion became the dominant force, starting with the Roman Emperor Constantine who brought and assimilated Christianity into the Roman Empire. Emperor Constantine reigned from 306AD to 337AD and was the first Roman Emperor to be converted to Christianity. The Romans were the then colonisers of the land in which Jesus was born. Emperor Constantine and subsequent “Christian” emperors brought Christianity and its leaders into the corridors of power and went on to fight wars known as the Christian Crusades. They colonised not just other lands, but other religions into that Christianity. Christianity thus became the reason for colonisation by the Roman Emperors of that time.

It is a fact that Jesus Christ was born a Jew and practised its doctrines. His disciples also were mostly Jews, although they brought the gentiles (non-Jewish people) into their ranks. Until the time when the Romans brought Christianity under their wings, the Christian faith was intact and relatively free of many impurities.

In an effort to pacify worshippers of the Roman “pagan” religion, Emperor Constantine then tried to “mix” the two religions into a co-operative entity. While he tried to do away with some of the Roman pagan practices, he also allowed an integration of some pagan practices into the Christian faith. This then had the effect of contaminating the pure original Christian faith with “impurities” which changed some facets of the Christian religion.

We find today that most of the days of the week were named after Roman pagan gods, so are some of the names of the months. Even some of the Christian “holy days” we have on our Christian calendars today were derived from Roman pagan worships. This scenario has largely remained intact up to this very day. The Christianity we follow today is riddled with imperfection and nobody wants to change that.

Imperialism was ignited by planet explorers. Discoveries of “new territories” across the globe was largely spearheaded by European nations in which Christianity was the dominating religion. Christian missionaries also sought to expand Christianity into the new colonies in a parallel effort. The need to convert the native inhabitants into the Christian faith brought with it the need to print more scriptures or bibles as references. Translations of the scriptures into various languages thus became big business but with it also came inaccurate translations and new interpretations to suit the missionaries.

Religious influences ensured that there was some “arm-twisting” of original contents of the scriptures to bring new meanings to suit “new teachings” earmarked for the colonies. New translations also gave birth to the terms, Old Testament and New Testament. The old testament condemned the slave practices of the imperial masters. The New testament taught the oppressed natives to accept suffering in return for rewards in the after-life. It also taught of the love of your enemies and oppressors, the acceptance of suffering and submission to torture.

A good example of the translations of the original scripture being changed to suit “new teachings” was the works of William Tyndale, the first person to translate the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures into English. His translations were opposed bitterly. He was in fact accused of “willfully perverting the meaning of the scriptures and his New Testaments were ordered to be burned as untrue translations” (preface of Revised Standard Version — The Bible). He was handed over to religious leaders who ordered his execution by being burned alive at the stake in October 1536 (preface — the Bible — RSV). The Bible translators themselves admit that most of those condemned contents of Tyndale have survived and are still enshrined in the very New Testament section of Bibles we still use today. It is obvious that Tyndale must have collaborated with other religions figures to change the meanings of the scriptures. While his translations were banned, underground printers ensured they made maximum profit by printing numerous copies to supply the market. Due to the commercial value of his works, most subsequent versions of the scriptures which form part of most of the Bibles we read today have retained the “perverted meanings of the scriptures”, purely just to promote sales. What a disgrace!

Almost half of the New Testament now consists of the letters of Paul to various church entities. Paul’s writings have had a huge effect on Christianity. While he speaks glowingly of Jesus Christ, sometimes his teachings now seem to take precedence over the actual teachings of Jesus Christ. Paul’s teachings resonated more with what the colonial missionaries wanted to teach to the native inhabitants, hence they were given more prominence in the Bibles we read today. Christianity should be based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. Anything that differs from Christ’s actual teachings should be deemed anti-Christ or “unchristian”.

Translation of the scriptures started around the same time slavery and colonisation were taking root. Although suppressed and largely untold, slavery was the worst genocide far greater than any of the human atrocities ever recorded. For almost 500 years, humans of the black skin were subjected to despicable acts a human brutality too ghastly to mention.
After spelling out the first Ten Commandments, the next batch of commandments by the Lord our God dwelt on the treatment of slaves. Exodus 21:16 reads’ “whoever steals a man (slavery), whether he sells him or is found in possession of him, shall be put to death”. No wonder the missionary “colonisers” made us, the natives, to believe God’s laws belong to the Old Testament. Do we not also need a religious liberation to bring back the purity of the original Christian faith?

Prosper Tingini would like to invite interested individuals, well-wishers, church organisations, donors and people from all walks of life to assist or form partnerships in establishing training centres across the country for pastors and priests. These training centres would be interdenominational (non-aligned). Those interested can phone or whatsapp on 0771 260 195 or email: ptingini@gmail.com)

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