Carson mentioned that you enjoy giving talks on several themes, which includes conflict resolution and race relations. Can you please expound a bit on those talks, like the question on why those themes are relevant in your country’s discourse? And also a bit about how you share to people on how to address those issues.
Greetings @omnarchy, grace and peace to you! Thank you for your question.
Some of the topics that I’ve been speaking on relate to our troubled history in the general, trying to make a case for Christ in our social narratives. I believe that if we see and treat people like Jesus did, a lot of our social issues can be solved. “Moving from our shared troubled past to a shared hopeful future” would be an example of such a talk that addresses the current social tensions due to lived realities caused largely by our apartheid past.
As it relates to apologetics in particular. For many Africans, the advent of Christianity was also the advent of colonialism and dehumanising racism. If you ask people (as I have many times) a similar question that Jesus asked his disciples (“who do people say I am?”), you might get some of these responses:
Jesus is the colonial ideological tool that was used to disrupt African civilisation and progress, a tool that used to bastardize Africa and conveniently position her as an underdog in world history and in her own home.
Jesus is the single most threat to dismantling the painful lived realities that were built by a history of prejudice because in the name of Christ we are told, let us just move on.
Jesus is someone who has everything to say about my black soul, but nothing to say about black bodies
Jesus is the thing that Christians pray to with their eyes closed (so that they don’t see society) and with their arms folded (so that they don’t see themselves as an answer to a prayer)
Jesus is the god of my colonisers. You see, we had the land and they had the Bible, they taught us how to pray, when we opened our eyes, we had the Bibles and they had the land.
Jesus is something that was spoken in a language that was not my own, a language I was told was spoken by real human beings. If I wanted to be human, I would speak like them.
Approach to responding (outline):
Take time to understand people’s experience and their current pain. Seek to understand.
Don’t defend the wrong thing. A “jesus” was preached in an unjust way that devastated communities, you don’t have to defend this idol.
By way of storytelling, contrast the “jesus” that people have experienced with the real Jesus of the Scriptures and in your life so that he stands out beautifully and is presented as the Good news.
Thank you so much. I appreciate your answers, @Mahlatse_Mashua, and your willingness for more questions. I do feel that to be equipped in how to answer regarding this type of issue is needed. In a university where we are doing ministry, I attended a talk about anthropology before, and when the topic is about the West, and about colonialism and imperialism, they always relate it with Christianity, then they use it as an evidence to say why Christianity is destructive.
In light of that, I’m curious. Can you please give me a specific example in your country, like an accusation or objection against Christianity, which is an idol “jesus” that you did not defend. Then how were you able to contrast the idol with the real Jesus, so that you would be able to present Him beautifully for them to see the Good News?
Mahlatse, as I read your response I have to admit that EFF came to mind here.
I must confess that although “white” I was assigned a congregation in a location. My experience with them was both fulfilling and insightful. I never had a hint that Jesus was seen in any other light but saviour. And I like to think that I was accepted by them. (They called me, Mofokeng.)
White Jesus. A lot of paintings of Jesus here depict him as being white. This is particularly a sensitive issue. During apartheid, a “social pecking order” was established using race as a measure of worth, placing black at the bottom and white on top. Furthermore “whiteness” (colour and culture) was communicated as a standard that black people needed to aspire to. So a lot of people developed a view of Jesus as a white Jesus who could not identify with them (foreign). This jesus, was certainly the jesus that some missionaries preached, that the some Christians in SA who gave theological support to apartheid preached, but is not the Jesus of the Scriptures. So telling stories of Jesus in his Jewish context (imbedded and transcending) and his attitudes towards everyone else who did not come from his cultural context helps to enlarge the questioner’s view of Jesus’ mission and the broadness of the invitation to all nations.
The Gospel was often heard in a way that was also wrapped in Western culture. So in order to be Christian, one also had to reject some aspects of their cultural expression that did not necessarily conflict with Scriptural truths (dress code, music instruments, celebrations etc) and take on their Western expressions. So when the conversation around “decolonisation” takes place, people are usually rejecting a “jesus” who is against all aspects of African cultures. So again, framing the Gospel in its cultural context (e.g Galatians 1:11-13 ffg) is a helpful entry into not only preaching Jesus (the cultural converter) alongside “jesus” (the cultural destroyer), but also helpfully explaining the relationship between Jesus and culture.
No, Jesus was not a colonial tool. He is the second person of the Trinity, my Lord and Saviour. I was saying that this is how some people perceive him because of how Christians have preached him. So the rest of my bullet points about how people have responded to me when I’ve asked them the question “who do you think Jesus is?” relate to that as well. Their answers reflect their experience of Christianity or of Christians, which of course is not who Jesus is as he is revealed in the Scriptures.
I will leave the EFF link out of this response (because i think your response to me was out of a place of misunderstanding of response to @omnarchy).