Black Spirituality Religion : THE AFRICAN EXPERIENCE OF GOD

Discussion in 'Black Spirituality / Religion - General Discussion' started by Pharaoh Jahil, Jun 1, 2005.

  1. Pharaoh Jahil

    Pharaoh Jahil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    THE AFRICAN EXPERIENCE OF GOD THROUGH THE EYES OF AN AKAN WOMAN
    by Mercy Amba Oduyoye

    Africans experience God -- Nana -- as the good parent, the grandparent. Some say he is father; others say she is mother. But the sentiment is the same: Nana is the source of loving-kindness and protection.

    MERCY AMBA ODUYOYE is a widely known African theologian, author of Daughters of Anowa (Orbis, 1995) and -- with Musimbi Kanyoro -- The Will to Arise (Orbis, 1995). Her essay appeared first in a special issue on Africa in The Way, the English Jesuit journal of spirituality, Summer 1997.

    Writing about Africa is a hazardous enterprise. One needs to draw up many parameters and make explicit the extent of the study. This becomes even more difficult considering the subject in hand. Whose experience of God are we dealing with? What is the extent of the Africa we are talking about? From the Mediterranean to the Cape of Good Hope there have been primal religious experiences of God issuing, for instance, in the building of the pyramids and continuing to undergird the annual festivals celebrated by West Africans. There are Muslims from Cape Verde to the Red Sea and down to Dar and throughout the continent, some of them having roots going to the beginnings of Islam while others are recent converts. The same goes for Christians. Africa also hosts Hindus and Sikhs and Buddhists and many others. We, therefore, want to talk about the experience of God in a multi-religious context.

    To create a handle for the subject we shall limit ourselves to the Primal Religion (designated African Religion, AR) as it has been documented by recent studies, and the new Christianity that Africa is living in our days. Geographically we shall limit ourselves to Africa south of the Sahara. The scope of the content will be guided by the experiences of God I have gathered through reading and participation in events that have afforded me the possibility of hearing Africans talk about God. I have in mind the traditional notions as captured by the early African theologians from the AR, the experience of God in South Africa in the days of the struggle against racism, and the emerging profile of God being sketched by African women through creative literature and theological reflection. But first we need to establish the nature of the reality of God in African cosmology and culture.

    The Living God

    "The fool says in his heart 'There is no God.' " In traditional Africa there are no such "fools." In his inaugural lecture delivered at Ibadan in 1974, Professor Bolaji Idowu discussed "the reality and unreality of God" under the title "Obituary: God's or man's?," bringing to that university the "God is dead" debate of the 1960s. Idowu believes that "man's estimate of himself and his destiny, his interpretation of the phenomena of the universe and his philosophy of history depend upon this one central point: belief in God, because He is; or unbelief. . ." Elsewhere Idowu asserts that "God is universal and so is revelation." Here he agrees with the Tanzanian who said that as people everywhere see the one sun, so they all have the one God.(1) On the other hand, Betty Goviden, in her article "In search of our own wells," quotes Malusi Mpumlwanas, a South African poet, who asks "What do I mean when I say I believe in God?. . . . Is God of the 'Die Stem' and 'Nkosi Sikelela' one and the same God?"(2)

    In traditional Africa, that is, Africa when people are being themselves, discounting Christianity, Islam, and Western norms, God is experienced as an all-pervading reality. God is a constant participant in the affairs of human beings, judging by the everyday language of West Africans of my experience. A Muslim never projects into the future nor talks about the past without the qualifying phrase insha Allah, "by the will of Allah." Yoruba Christians will say "DV" ("God willing"), though few can tell you its Latin equivalent, and the Akan will convince you that all is "by the grace of God." Nothing and no situation is without God. The Akan of Ghana say Nsem nyina ne Onyame ("all things/affairs pertain to God"). That Africans maintain an integrated view of the world has been expressed by many. In his autobiography, Nelson Mandela writes:

    My father was an unofficial priest and presided over ritual. . . . and local rites. . . ., he did not need to be ordained, for traditional religion of the Xhosa is characterized by a cosmic wholeness so that there is little distinction between the sacred and the secular, between the natural and the supernatural.(3)

    The Yoruba respond to prayer with Ase, the divine and highly potent power with which Olodumare (God) created the universe and maintains its physical laws.(4) The belief in the all-pervading power and presence of God endows the universe with a sacramental nature.(5) The African view of the world is nourished by a cosmology that is founded on a Source Being, the Supreme God, and other divine beings that are associated with God. As God is the foundation of life, so nothing happens without God. God lives, God does not die, and so indeed humans do not die. Even when we do not occupy a touchable body, we still live on.

    The way we experience God is portrayed in the language we use about God, especially the names by which God is known. Early researchers into AR like G. Parrinder, E. B. Idowu, and J. S. Mbiti have recorded for us several African names of God with copious annotations, which it is not necessary to rehearse at this stage.(6) What needs to be said is that these names are still current and that more names descriptive of people's experience of God are available in proverbs, songs, and prayers. These names, says Idowu, are not mere labels: "They are descriptive of character and depict people's experience of God."

    When words fail, symbols take over. For the Akan of Ghana the Adinkra symbols, the minuscule figures for gold weights and those on royal maces, include many that are theophorous. The star in Adinkra is a symbol that says "Like the star, I depend on God and not on myself." The symbol of hope says, "God, there is something in the heavens, let it reach my hands." The dependence of the existence of the human spirit on the spirit of God is expressed in another symbol; and the more well known Gye Nyame is the Akan expression of the belief that without God nothing holds together, and is variously interpreted as "except God" or "unless God" -- God is experienced as the very foundation of existence.(7) All these examples demonstrate the difficulty of translation and the inadequacy of words to express our experience of God.

    People believe that all the good and well-being they enjoy come from God, and that if one is not yet enjoying well-being it is because one's time has not yet come. "AR holds that the world and nature are good gifts that God entrusted to human beings: they provide nourishment for life, security and home for our bodies" (Lutheran World Federation [LWF] document on AR). The experience of God as beneficent is not only Muslim or Christian, but a living faith of Africans that has been reinforced by these "missionary" religions.

    To read the rest, go here..

    http://www.aril.org/african.htm
     
  2. SAMURAI36

    SAMURAI36 Banned MEMBER

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    Awesome article, JAHIL.

    SHUQ'RAN for this.

    SALAAMZ
     
  3. Ralfa'il

    Ralfa'il Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    I concur with the last post...

    Not only is this an excellent article, but this goes further to confirm that paganism and idolatry IS NOT in our culture and we didn't need whites or anyone else to teach us about the One True God.

    We already knew Him.

    We have always known Him.


    And those within our community who serve as agents of Satan in an attempt to stir us away from the service of that One True God should be atleast identified if not sectioned, so as not to continuously take some of our people off the path with thier deception.
     
  4. karmashines

    karmashines Banned MEMBER

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    So what do you suggest blacks do... reject the part of their ancestry that believes in indigenous faiths while embracing those that believe in one God? Is polytheism really THAT evil? Even Christianity purports a multiple version of God... why is that any different than what some indigenous groups believe?
     
  5. Pharaoh Jahil

    Pharaoh Jahil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Um you know Ralf, just like the ancient Kemetic gods represented different attributes of the One Creator...One can also draw a connection with the 99 attributes of Allah.....


    Islam manifests itself in different ways....Oh but "orthodox" muslims are too dogmatic for that level of thinking...
     
  6. SAMURAI36

    SAMURAI36 Banned MEMBER

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    AQI, you know how many times I've tried to explain this? Let alone the fact that the the "One True Creator" is always acknowledged in ATR.

    Nonetheless, I can't wait to see what the response is.

    PEACE
     
  7. Ralfa'il

    Ralfa'il Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Karma

    Because although most Christian doctrine claims that there are 3 gods, most CHRISTIANS THEMSELVES actually believe in only One.

    There are also many different forms of Christianity, some of which only hold the Father as God...so it would be unfair to paint all Christians as polytheists.





    Pharaoh

    You're right.

    But we must keep in mind that 99 attributes aren't the same as 99 actual separate identities.



    What is an "orthodox" Muslim?
     
  8. Pharaoh Jahil

    Pharaoh Jahil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Well the ancient Kemetics attributed these separate identities to the ONE Creator so they were in no were practicing polytheism. Is it really that hard to grasp Ralf, each of these gods represented different attributes of the All.



    What is an "orthodox" Muslim?[/QUOTE]

    Let's see, a muslim conforming to the usual belief or extablish doctrine
    Adhering to what is commonly accepted.

    More so, many of you become so dogmatic in the above that it contradicts the very purpose of Islam, which is meant for man's spiritual advancment.

    Did not the Holy Prophet Mohammed instructed us to seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave?
     
  9. Ralfa'il

    Ralfa'il Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Pharaoh

    If that is indeed what the ancient Kemetics did, then they were indeed on the right path.

    But you're sending mixed messages.

    One one hand you're saying that there is ONE BEING being represented with different identities.

    Then just when I began to agree with you, the script then flips to "each of these gods" being used to represent the different attributes.

    A god is an actual BEING, not just an identity or attribute.

    So if they start worshiping these other gods then they aren't worshipping the One True....according to your statement.




    Yes...

    But concerning Islam, Allah says:

    Koran 5:3
    "This day I have completed your religion for you, completed My Favor upon you and have selected for your Way of Life, Al-Islam."

    Well, WAIT A MINUTE!

    If Allah has completed and established our religion for us as well as the way we should live our lives, then anything other than that is going against the establishment of Allah.

    So ORTHODOX/ESTABLISHED Islam is the only proper way to practice it.

    Islam is already complete bro...no need for additions and innovations in the religion.
     
  10. Pharaoh Jahil

    Pharaoh Jahil Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    But the Kemetics seen these gods (actual beings) as attributes to One Creator. Got it brother?






    I actually agree with this... The Quran lays the foundation, and with in this foundation the Prophet Mohammed instructs us to seek knowledge. So we're not adding nothing on because within the foundation of Islam, we are suppose to grow.....
     
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