"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

4.13.2009

africa in texas

Andrew Rice has a fascinating piece about African Christianity's mission efforts in the West in this weekend's NYT Magazine. It's a dead-on analysis of the way African Christianity is changing the nature of the religion globally.

The story focuses on Nigeria's Redeemed Christian Church of God, which is constructing a major camp in Hunt County, Texas. The RCCG is a great example of an Africanized form of Pentacostalism that didn't exactly result from missionary activity, but that was also heavily influenced by American and European Pentacostal doctrine. The church has unqestionably followed its American counterparts in the way it has perfected Western-style methods of fundraising, messaging, and marketing. They now send missionaries to the United States and Europe. As Rice writes:
The Redeemed Church offers a case study of the crosscurrents that are drawing Christianity southward. Its leader and guiding force, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, sums up the church’s history this way: “Made in heaven, assembled in Nigeria, exported to the world.”
Rice's piece is fantastic, pointing out that the cultural divide between a Nigerian pastor and his Spanish-speaking flock can be difficult to surmount. The RCCG is a great example of the way that Protestant churches in Africa tend to be heavily dominated by persons from one ethnic group (in this case, the Yoruba).

I'm a firm believer that anyone who claims to understand an African state without regularly visiting its houses of worship misses a lot of the picture. In the D.R. Congo, politics are regularly discussed in the pulpits. People get their ideas about politics, public order, and politicians as much in church as they do in conversations with their neighbors in Africa - just as many American Christians do at their churches. Researchers headed to the field would do well to skip sleeping in on Sunday morning and go observe what the Pentecostals are saying in Kampala or Bukavu or Nairobi. Kudos to Rice for a great overview of the issue.

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