Not African, not European

Christianity: True or False – Not African or European

The cultural wars and revolutions happening in America right now are splintering once-cohesive communities into smaller and smaller identity groups. These grievance groups are usually united against the one supreme oppressor…the European man.

In Africa we have the argument that Christianity is just a continuation of European colonialism. That African Christians are inauthentic prudes who are alienated from their true African identity. We are accused of internalising the white man’s oppression. It’s what detractors like Ngũgĩ wa Thiongo might call colonialism of the mind or colonial mentality.

So Ngũgĩ dropped his baptismal name James as part of his process of “decolonising” his own mind. Incidentally, today he is a  Professor of English at California, Irvine, USA. He has largely Western accolades and audiences.

This is, ironically, the typical self-contradiction we find among fellow Africans who advance the argument that Christianity is not African. They may drop their “Christian” or “colonial” names but continue to cling to the Judeo-Christian values of universal human rights, science and education. They are hardly self-aware about the colonisation of their own minds with European secular thought.

Many self-described free-thinkers in Kenya identify with the views of Charles Darwin and Karl Marx far more intimately than they do with a garden variety African religions and philosophies. They usually speak better English than they do their own mother-tongue!

Yes, our African identity and traditions are important but only so far as they are good, true and beautiful. There are many African practices we have abandoned because they were harmful and retrogressive. And, whether we like it or not, Christianity was a had a big part of showing us the better way.

Missionaries to India helped end the historical practice of Sati (widow-burning); Missionaries to the West Indies helped stop cannibalism; Missionaries to China helped end the Chinese practice of foot-binding for girls; and Christians in America and Europe helped to abolish slavery.

The most important question should be whether or not Christianity is true, not its geographical origin. Our African skin should be a matter of aesthetics, not a way of thinking. Our shared humanity with white people supersedes all racial and ethnic differences.

The call to return to our African roots have done little for the advancement of African people.


Matthew Parris is a political commentator and atheist who grew up in Malawi. In his article in The Times in 2008 he wrote, “Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.”

One of Christianity’s first social impacts was to tear down tear down the walls of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles (Ephesians 2:14). This went on over the succeeding centuries across all continents as missionaries spread the Good News. The Bible also says that God accepts no man’s person (Galatians 2:6), meaning, it does not matter to God whether you are rich or poor, black or white, male or female. Your primary identity is as a child of God.

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