As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m interested in looking more closely at the relationship between religion (specifically, I think, Christianity) and the African novel, though I haven’t yet decided which text(s) I’d like to bring into conversation with it. Certainly religion has played a significant role in almost every book we’ve read so far – the only exception at this point being Graceland. In my somewhat uninformed opinion, it appears difficult to write about the past for different African nations, their struggles with colonialism and transition to postcolonial life, without writing about Christianity – not only because Christianity so entangled itself with the West and Western colonial oppression, and because missionaries had such an impact on many locals, but also because Christianity’s influence reverberated so far outward and continues to be significant in Africa today. By some estimates there will be over one billion Christians in Africa by 2050; regardless of the precise number, Christians already make up a significant percentage of all Africans, especially Sub-Saharan Africans, and continue to take a larger and larger share of global Christianity.
I see this as an interesting duality – that Christianity is, in a sense, a legacy of colonialism, yet one that continues to be embraced by millions of people today. Clearly, I would think, many Africans have in their own ways managed to separate it from the Western powers who brought it (and indeed, as the balance of power continues to shift, it’s likely the tables will turn and African Christians exert their own influence on global Christianity). How Africans do or do not reconcile themselves to both Christianity’s past and present in Africa is, broadly speaking, what I’d like to examine. We’ve already see several different perspectives, from Achebe to Fanon (not African, I realize) to Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Munira in Petals of Blood is an especially interesting example, a sort of splinter figure within Christianity itself, offering an opposite perspective to that of the Church entrenched in the halls of power – though clearly no less problematic for it. Ngugi and Fanon seem, in the end, highly critical of Christianity, while Achebe and Adichie (again, of what I’ve read so far) are less so. I’ll continue to be looking for perspectives on this as we read further and will be interested to see what develops.