Friday, February 19, 2010

And He Went About Doing Good - Part 2.

The Impact of Christianity on Ghana - The bad and the Ugly

right, good people. And...we're back! I just love it when i'm chatting on gmail and the internet acts up, and then just when it get's back on, gmail chat says "and....weeeeee're back!" I just looooove it!

I know some of you have been itching to take a swipe at Christianity in Ghana. Here's your chance. This is part two of "And he went about doing good" , that is the impact of christianity in Ghana....THE BAD and the UGLY.

When I first started writing this, I thought I'd have so many negative things to say that i'd break it down into the bad and the ugly but i can't think of so many. Maybe you can help. Have there really been so many negative things, or we just keep talking about the same ones over and over again and in louder voices so it seems like it's sooooo bad. Y'all need to help me out.

Here's my own contribution...

1. Wiping Out Our Culture

With the embrace of Christianity, came the adoption of all things Western. Whilst Christianity, Western customs and language were seen to be civilised and therefore accepted, Our traditional religions, customs, and language were seen to be heathen andd therefore rejected. For example, whilst music was always an integral part of worship, Ghanaian musical instruments like the gong, drums, and rattles, which we now enjoy in church were not accepted into our churches until Osofo Komfo Damoah, founder of the Afrikania mission, and then a catholic priest introduced them. With the rejection of our ways of doing things our confidence took a hit. As a people, we became ashamed of much of what was indegenous like own names,our way of dress, our music and so on. Fast forward to 2010, some of these things have changed but others remain. Within my own family, my first brother, who died soon after birth was named Nyankoms, an anglicized version of a beautiful name Nyankonton, which means Rainbow. Rainbow represents rebirth,good news and hope, whilst Nyankoms, its anglicized version is stripped of meaning. What were we thinking?! hehe.

Just about a year ago, I attended a friend's wedding in a church and one lady, who introduced herself as a deaconess told me that she senses that God wants to use me and so I should draw closer to God, but that she also thinks I should do something about my hair, as if to say, God cannot use someone who has natural african hair.

2. Discrimination and Prejudice
Some christians use Christianity as an excuse to be bigoted. Take homosexuality. I can understand if as a Christian, you do not approve of a woman sleeping with another woman. But when you actively harrangue homosexuals, when you discriminate against them on the basis of their sexuality, and legitimise your prejudice through religion, it becomes a problem.

3.Failure to Discriminate
Here, I do not refer to the oft used meaning of the word but rather the little used meaning of the word discriminate. That is, to make sensible decisions or to judge wisely. In Ghana, people place blind trust in ministers, prophets, and men of God. Somehow people believe that God speaks to ministers and pastors and not to them. This isn't actually scriptural. In the old testament, God lived in one temple, which was called the holy of hollies. Only priests were allowed into this place and God communicated to his people through them. All this ended in the new testament. So in 2010, when a person becomes born again, his spirit is renewed, and for those who believe in the bible, it says, the spirit of God dwells within the human body. So God lives in the new Christian and s/he needs no prophet to instruct her on God's will for her. But because Christians are not paying attention to the spirit of God, or being led by their inner witness, what happens is they look in all places for signs and wonders. And the people who perform these signs are elevated as "men of God"...even though the bible explicitly states that to them who believe he gave them power to become the sons of God. Not merely "men of God", but "sons of God". Anyway, what's my point? It's this: That because people think men of God are special, in their eyes, they can do no wrong. Ghanaians blindly trust such people so even false men of God get away with a lot. They rape children, break homes, and buy cars with other people's money and all of this happens only because people are not thinking. That's really the ugly part of it. That when it comes to men of God, Ghanaians become non-thinking beings and we do not question anything they do or say.

Also, i'm very interested in ways in which Christianity affect you, personally. I think we all keep talking about it in abstraction. As in, ooooh Christianity is so bad. It did this and it did that. But on a personal level, has it impacted any of u at all?

For me, my parents gave me my local name. I'm still very much in love with Ghanaian culture and way of life. I'm fairly open-minded and am quite able to judge for myself. So who are these people that I claim Christianity has impacted negatively? Are you out there? Or is it all in our heads? Do we just loooove to bitch and hate?


  1. I love all of these. My biggest gripe with Christianity in Ghana is that it has become ubiquitous, and with that ubiquity comes assumptions about who you are and what it means to be a real Ghanaian, as well as extreme intolerance of other people's religious preferences. As someone who prefers not to be religious, I find that my choices are not respected - there was a lively discussion on this very blog about how someone would get irritated when people would insist on starting any meeting (not just at church) with a prayer. To which I say, Amen! (HA HA). It is never ok to not be a Christian in Ghana, and that is what worries me. If you are some other religion - Hindu, Moslem, whatever - that is fine, but you had better not be Ghanaian as well, because your choice will be criticized and you will be ostracized. If you are atheist, count yourself out entirely, because people believe there is no such thing and you are secretly practicing witchcraft. And yes, I have come across this attitude. Even worse are the people who feel sorry for you because you are not a Christian, and will not hesitate to tell you so. Don't get me started on the mass emails about prayer, the random insertions of God into perfectly banal conversations, the constant inquisitions about one's faith, or lack thereof. Enough! I do not try to convert anyone, why am I constantly getting clubbed with the Bible (figuratively speaking)? I know it exists, I choose to live my life on my own terms and respect your decision to practice your faith - why, then, is my decision to not practice Christianity constantly probed, questioned, and viewed with suspicion and prejudice? (This is not only in Ghana, though, I will add - I believe I will never see in my lifetime the election of an American president who is not Christian. But that is not the subject of today's post...)

  2. At AB: that is not true that it is NEVER ok not to be a Christian in Ghana. Perhaps that has been your experience among the Ghanaians you've met. But among the Ghanaians I've met, it's ok to be whatever religion you are. SO that must mean that all Ghanaians are not the same then, are they?

    @Esi - as to culture, I'm just now learning that culture is dynamic, no? It changes with time and both inside and outside influences. So mnay people were orced to convert during colonialism, fine that's true. But no one is forced to convert now. If I decide today that I want to worship at the Nogokpo shrine and pour libations to Asaase Yaa and go consult with the Nai Wulomo, there is nothing to stop me. Besides, who is to say without the colonialists, people wouldn't have changed anyway? Culturei s dynamic - it changes.

    I also don't know that discrimination and prejudice is the preserve of only Christians in Ghana. As I do not truly know how things were before my generation, I can't say whether Ghanaians were less prejudiced and bigoted before Christianity came. I find prejudice to be expecially common in collectivist society - which Ghana was and still is, so I would tend to go witht the argument that we were prejudiced before the christians came; they might have aggravated the prejdice, but we were that way before they came.

    As for the blind trust - I don't know why. I don't know why people open themselves up to all sorts of charlatans that way.......

  3. "So in 2010, when a person becomes born again, his spirit is renewed, and for those who believe in the bible, it says, the spirit of God dwells within the human body. So God lives in the new Christian and s/he needs no prophet to instruct her on God's will for her. But because Christians are not paying attention to the spirit of God, or being led by their inner witness, what happens is they look in all places for signs and wonders."

    As I read the above section, I felt I was reading an evangelist's message. Good point there, Esi.

    I disagree with you (and side with Anonymous) on the point of Christianity introducing prejudice into our society. I think our traditional religions and culture were/are even harder on the issue of homosexuality and homosexuals than Christianity. Take for example, that in decades past, a young girl could be banished from her immediate "society" if she became pregnant before being married off by her family. If a society was so harsh on premarital "natural" or "normal" intercourse, can you imagine what sactions they would place on openly homosexual individuals? In a soceity where family honor and respect were the only currencies some families had to trade on, can you imagine them being tolerant of a son or daughter who practiced a lifestyle so contradictory to soceital norms? If a town could banish a girl for getting pregnant before marriage, I wouldn't put it past them to even resort to murder to keep their society chaste. I think that with Christianity, there's the belief that God can cure a homosexual. So homosexuals, although discriminated againts and in some situations, ostracised, don't have to live in permanent fear for their lives in a Christianized soceity.

  4. AB- your statement about it not being ok to be another religion in Ghana is COMPLETELY false. Thank you.

  5. I completely agree with AB, it is the same in Nigeria and some Christians even make no apology when you call them out on it.

  6. Good to see you here Myne:-)

    @Esi: I agree with you on all the points you mentioned, but agree with you more on the second point of "discrimination and prejudice." Surprisingly, it also happens to be the shortest paragragh:)

    Some Christians can be the most exclusive people you ever come across. Its either you belong or you don't belong - especially Ghanaian Christians. Sorry, but i'm speaking from personal experience, and as a Christian who doesn't go flaunting hypocrisy all over the place!

  7. @AB, I'd never thought about what you mentioned. That somehow Christianity has become the Ghanaian religion to the extent that one is considered not Ghanaian enough if s/he is not Christian. You're completely right about the starting meetings with prayers least it is true in southern Ghana. I remember my first few weeks at work, whenever I said I wasn't a Christian, my colleagues were generally dismissive of my choice and would say things like "please...this is not America". I didn't think too deeply about it then but now that you mention it, i see that they were telling me...not being religious or subscribing to other religions, if you're Ghanaian is not acceptable. Maybe they were merely expressing that it's not expected rather than that it's not acceptable? for thought.

    @Anonymous, i'm not saying that only christians discriminate. I'm saying many Christians who do discriminate feel justified in doing so. They're very militant because they think they're fighting for "goodness". So whereas a fanti man who discriminates against an Ewe man may not do it publicly because he can't rationally justify his actions, some Christians can do crazy ish because they think it's part of serving God.

    @Nanasei, i hear you, and agree with you that some of our traditional practices were harsher than Christian ones. But this is not a search for the lesser evil. Ideally, we wouldn't live with any evil. I believe Christians can live in harmony with queers. I think God loves homosexuals even if he hates homosexuality...and i'm not absolutely sure that s/he does anyway. I'll have to read my bible more to be sure. Therefore it's not the Christian's place to beat the homosexuality out of a gay person. Why people feel the need to "cure" gays is beyond me. Why does it bother them so?

    Also, my mom tells me that when she was growing up in Aboso, there were men who lived with men. It wasn't talked about but everyone kind of knew that they were together. There was some secrecy surrounding the whole thing but clearly, these men were living and loving one another within a fairly traditional set up, so i'm not so sure that Ghanaians traditionally were not accepting of queers. I'd love to hear more stories about this kind of thing. Can you ask your grandparents or your parents if they knew of such people?

    @Nana Ama, sorry the paragraph you liked most was so short. Hopefully the discussion makes up for it. Thanks for your contribution too.

    Btw, I read the article you wrote recently on was it ghanaweb or modern ghana? about the vagina monologues. I thought it was really well written, but as usual, as the comments on those websites typically go, the conversation following it was disappointing.

    Anyway, your article has inspired me so i'll go see it hopefully tomorrow night and will write about it here. I'll likely quote from your article and I trust readers on here won't let us down with smart, thoughtful comments and we'll all learn something.

  8. And oh, Nana the office today, my boss asked. "how would we say vagina monologues in twi?" so i responded "etwe a, ono nkoa kasa", we were all laughing and someone said ...then that etwe is anti-so :)

  9. @ Esi: Lol at the twi translation of vagina monologues. That was a really god one. I laughed so hard!

    I look forward to reading your take on the play. I hope they do it justice though. You know how we Ghanaians like to take Western things and overdo them. I am sitting on pins and needles waiting to see which parts of the article you quote:-)

    No comment about commentators on Ghanaweb. They are a different breed!

    Great work with the blog though. I am a die hard fan!

  10. Esi O,
    I hope the fact that you couldn't find that many negative things to say shows that, may be, we christians aren't as bad as they claim we are.

    My second point is, I think you use some words very loosely. Ghana and Ghanaians are two such words. There are parts of Ghana where Islam is the dominant religion. Some other parts are still very "indigenous" or "traditional" in their approach to life. In those places, Christians are a minority and often keep their mouths shut.

    On homosexuality, I read the Nzemas and Gas were quite tolerant of it but not the rest of the tribes.

    I want to assert that if you were to compare the good Christianity has done for this country, you'd be surprised how minute the flaws are.

  11. Ghanaians are just too religious! It's sometimes sickening! Ghanaians pray their lives away. We spend too much time in church. We waste so much time on church stuff instead of doing productive activities. Nyame b3 y3, fama nyame, God's will attitude dont help us address our issues. When people die of preventable diseases, or stupid accidents, people are quick to say it's God's will. Really? There are way too many churches and too many morons calling themselves men of God. Church has become a business..get rich quick. If Ghanaians spent half the time they spent on church activities in entrepreneurial ventures, Ghana will be better off. If we could use our brains instead of praying for everything, we'll be moving forward. With all the prayers Ghana is still a very poor country.

  12. Anonymous - that is a cheap and unsubstantiated argument. Ghanaians do not spend time in church to the detriment of the economy - trust me, if there were bonuses for working overtime, people would work overtime! Also, church is not just church for some people - its their church, their club on Friday nights, their brunch with friends, their Saturday night concert, their gossip-time with the girls/ guys. Its their Facebook, their Twitter and their MySpace. I wonder how many people are checking and commenting on this blog while at work...productive activities eh?
    Yes the church has been hijacked by scammers to make a quick GHCedi or two...kinda like the way bankers hijacked capitalism and sent the world into a tailspin...I don't see us throwing capitalism out with the bathwater in favour of communism! Entrepreneurial ventures and church are also not mutually exclusive. Heck, a lot of people bring their business ideas TO the church and use the congregation as their original client base. Everything from selling home-made pies to tie&die and financial advice. I've seen it - it happens.
    With all our prayers we are still poor? Heck, you sound like a prosperity preacher about to hint that prayers can actually make us rich. It is not the church alone that is holding us back - to claim that would be to refuse to take responsibility for our situation - something that GHanaians and Africans tend to shy away from. Every day its someone external force screwing us over. Please. Fa ma nyame is better than an eye for an eye.
    We could be worse, we can be better. Lets stop whining about what's on the surface and scratch what's beneath. We supposedly followed oburoni into Christianity - now we're gonna blindly follow them into humanism too?
    I think a collective grip on reality must be gotten by those of us in the Diaspora. We don't know it all - if we did, we'd wouldn't struggle so much when we relocate home!

  13. And on Christians supposedly discriminating - I almost fell over laughing at that one. I've been through both phases - the 'ChriFe till I die' and the 'God ain't real'. I can say without a drop of doubt that its worse being a Christian among non-Christians than a non-Christian among Christians.
    Non-Christians are just as arrogant and superior as those who feel they have found the key to eternal life. Non-Christians will purposefully not invite a known Christian out to dinner with them because they are offended by the person's unwillingness to drink and act how they think they should. Non-Christians express shock when someone expresses their faith - shock, followed by disdain and sometimes outright mockery. Homophobia? You'll find it even in amoung the clientele of the local whore-house. Yes, the church speaks against it, but in my experience most Ghanaboys are homophobic with or without a faith in Christ. Wiping out our culture? If the missionaries hadn't put our language into writing would the secular government have taken up the mantle? Methinks not. Colonialism was the devil's work, but it had a few upsides.

    My point at the end of this very long rant is this - We are where we are. We have a place to get and only we can get there. Let's stop pointing fingers at Christianity/ Islam/ White People/ Colonialism and move on. The rest of the world is leaving us behind whilst we play "List the WrongDoer".

  14. Asabea you have said it as it is and said it well. I couldn't agree more!

  15. Haven't read the blog for while so am late on this one but would like to add another way Christianity may have changed our soceity for the worse.This would apply to the Akans and any other matrilineal groups.Intensified gender prejudice.I say intensified as these cultures were not completely free of patriarchy but women did have greater voice than in the patrilineal societies that brought Christianity to our shores. So everything from having to now take your husband's name and the economic subservience borne of the idea that a husband is the primary breadwinner.I live in Southern Africa and when I explain that in my culture children belong to the woman's clan/family I am told that this is not 'biblical'.I feel that Christinity has added a layer of oppression to Akan women.