Thursday, June 18, 2009

postcolonial church

A lot have been said recently about the postcolonial church. This time I, unfortunately, missed Amahoro (again), but also had some interesting and (difficult)conversations about postcolonial church, mission, etc, amongst others, in a bar in Utrecht. Let me maybe make a few scattered, uneasy (?)comments, maybe in dialogue with my friends in the Amahoro conversation(or maybe just on my own!)
1) Postcolonial mission or church for some, is an oxymoron-certainly not easy bedfellows. Missionary Christianity was inherently colonial, invasive, violent. It created people who don't speak truth to power, especially, it created christians, who are nice and warm, who know the lingo, but are afraid to speak the truth. It destroyed sense of self, because it destroyed our archives, of a proud culture. What is our culture ? From a bruin perspective, I have to say in my mothertongue: dit was nie bloot die vernedering vanaf christen sendelinge nie, dit was die vernietiging van 'n selftrots in ons geskiedenis, in ons voorouers, in wie ons is, wat die diepste tref. Colonial mission/ colonial churches destroyed a history of pride, in our forbears and left many with shame and self-hate. This is why the assertion from black consciousness: 'black is beautiful' was such an liberating act.
2) the church is for many thinkers in our community- a place of submission, of stooping low, being reminded of inferiority, being dirty, sinful. Many intellectuals find conversations on mission (espescially when it is still only whites speaking) absolutely irrelevant. Maybe 'irrelevant' is not even the right word. Too soft. Maybe the word is absurd, deluded. Unless we engage these angry, honest voices and are confronted with the depth of the divide, we'll be fooling ourselves. When I spoke to people about the gathering, inviting themm there was a blank silence: why still bother- get on with what is relevant for the real Southern African context, was many a response...
3) Tinyiko Maluleke wrote an article on Postcolonial Mission: Oxymoron or new Paradigm, in 2007. Uncomforting and uncompromisingly black theology in ferment! He also wrote something on the postcolonial church ( I will come back later on this one !)
In 'Oxymoron or New Paradigm', he explains:
'The 'postcolony' does not denote that the colony is no more; rather postcolonial studies are a study of the interface, interaction and dialectic between postcolony and colony. Postcolony does not mean ‘after colonialism’ but rather ‘since colonialism’. Whilst he (Tinyiko) is generally positive of the poco/theology dialogue he is also critical. He states, '[in postcolonial theory] little has been done in terms of hardnose analysis of the postcolony as the material space where colonial and postcolonial strivings compete, coalesce, multiply, clash, mutate, reinvent, connive and materialise.
He propose the postcolony (Mbembe) as a key lense to 'see' the Africa. He states, "From my point of view, in order to properly consider Africa and African countries it is necessary to critically delve into Western history and the theories that claim to interpret it(510)… the othering of Africa is not merely about Africa, it is also about the West."
The possibility of postcolonial mission is linked to addressing the reality of a frightening God-image that still haunts the postcolony, but also the overcoming of the invented history of the colonised. Can it ever be overcome ?

Another name is Musa Dube, who are recognised as one of the key African thinkers on post-colonial theory and African (feminist)theology. Both of them, I found to be deeply wonderful Christians, but also speaking the truth in difficult uncomfortable ways. There are easy blacks who are cool to know and quote, then there are those uncomfortable blacks, whom you don't know what's coming. It seems to me that unless we hear these, we will remain trapped in colonial power relations, where only certain groups remain in charge.
3) Then there is the issue of land. This is one of those issues we should not talk about in christian circles- property and wealth. (Maybe only when we were blessed by it)I hear Paul Verryn saying that churches own probably a the largest chunk of land in SA (in a context of homelessness and refugees!) I dont have the figures, what I do know is that the land-issue, buildings, properties will haunt us, unless it is faced head-on.

Of course, this is simply some of my own agony and struggles with being authentically a christian and being part of church, born and messed up by colonialism and (still!) steeped in foreign culture..
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