Ben is a PhD candidate at NEGST (Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology) in Kenya. He was born in Switzerland, but raised in Congo and Liberia and has lived in Africa about half his life. He seems (at least to me) to have a life-situation that gives him an important lens to view this situation. Start here and then read this. Once you are hooked, poke around his blog for some more of his thoughts. He’s identified some key issues and has some keen insights (and his African friends have contributed some interesting feedback). I look forward to seeing more of his posts on this topic.
From where I sit, I think that one small part of the difficulty in the West appreciating, accepting, and engaging African theological thought is the way that Africa is continually characterized in the West (even in our churches). Many times we see photos in churches, the news media, and online of Africa that only portray poverty, despair, ugliness, sin, war, or the West coming to the rescue. These photos are all quite professional and captivating. They are meant to elicit a response of caring by showing the stark difference between our lives and the lives of these people halfway around the world. However, if this is the imagery that is always used to depict Africa and African Christianity, then it is easy to see how the West does not even think there is anything good, wise, and beneficial that could come OUT of Africa.
Where are the photos of beauty, creativity, entrepreneurial success, family, tradition, pursuit of excellence? I am, of course, keenly aware that there are difficult images in Africa and I am not trying to minimize the need to be aware of those situations or the response that we should participate in. However, I think we are out of balance and I believe this contributes to how Western Christianity views Africans and African Christianity.
Want to hear about good things in Africa (aside from Ben’s blog)? Then you should follow @whiteafrican on Twitter. You should also regularly check in with the blog www.afrigadget.com which is inspiring and amazing. If more people appreciated this kind of imagery of Africa, then maybe we would be ready to listen to the theology too.