Part 1 - The Good
It's not often that we talk about Christianity on this blog. Which, is rather odd, considering that Ghana self-identifies as a Christian nation and signs that point to this aspect of our identity are all around us - I mean every other Ghanaian owned business has a name that identifies the owner as a person of the Christian faith, right?Think tro-tros (e.g. No bribe in heaven) and kiosks (e.g. Except God) , containers (e.g. My Savior lives), nursery schools (e.g. Little angels School).
So in today's post and the next 2 posts, I want us to look at what impact Christianity has had on our country and our people. Today's post will address all the good that Christianity has done for Ghana and Ghanaians. The next post will address the bad, and the post following
that will talk about the downright ugly.
I crave your indulgence, ladies, and gentlemen, as I lay down the rules.
Today's post shall only be about the positive. So if you have nothing good to say about Christianity in Ghana, shut up, sit tight, and wait. In subsequent posts, you will have all the opportunity to bash, and vent and let it all out. But today... today, we want to acknowlege the good. I'd like us to do this because it will help us hear from both sides without one side drowning out the voices of an opposing side. This way, even if you're not a fan of Christianity, you'll be forced to acknowlege its merits. And even where you believe it's had no positive impact, you will read only from others who believe it's done us some good.
Similarly, in the next post, we will only talk about how it's impacted us negatively. This should help maintain some sanity in here. My hope is that the discussion will not degenerate into personal attacks and we'll all learn something, maybe even switch positions at the end of it all.
The question is this: tell me, what good has Christianity done for Ghana.
I have a few answers of my own.
Majority of the top secondary schools in Ghana were set up by Christian missionaries and continue to be guided by Christian principles and values. I'm talking about the Mfantsipims (Methodist), The Wey Gey Heys (Methodist), the Presecs (Presbyterian), and Rosecs (Catholic), The Abugiss (Presbyterian), The Holy Childs (Catholic) and St Augustines (Catholic), The St Peters (Catholic) and Adiscos (Anglican?). And more recently, we find that a disproportionate number of the newly established private universities are affiliated with Christian denominations. Like the Catholic University, Presbyterian University, Methodist University, Central University
and so on.
That which makes us kind and loving towards other people, even if we're not related to them.There are times when it seems to me, all life should be spent pursuing that which makes
our time on earth a little easier for one another. I attended a wake-keeping last friday. My first. And despite my objections, was pressured by my peers to go see the corpse.I'm glad I caved. Seeing a body so lifeless of a man who was very wealthy in his day, with tens of people gathered around him, yet unable to restore him to life...that did something to me.
When i came out, I couldn't understand why mourners were dancing in the courtyard.
They said they were celebrating the dead man's life but I imagined, if i died, would i want people dancing? When i got out of there, i broke down and cried my heart out. The kind of crying that leaves you with puffy eyes the next day and makes your
husband look bad. haha. I was crying for the dead man, yes, but also for all of us, especially myself. I wondered how I would deal with it if my husband died. What would life without my best friend be like?
My thoughts led me to one thing. If all the things we chase after-the fame,the fortune, the success- is meaningless, and we're all just going to die in the end, maybe more time should be spent making the life we have better, more enjoyable for those we love. Should I be having a fight over who does the dishes, and who takes out the trash and whose money we use to build the house that we're both going to stay in and die in and then leave behind? The least we can do is spread a little kindness. Helping the poor, the sick, and the outcasts.
I went into all of this to make the point that we all need it, not just the lepers and the beggers, and the homeless. In Ghana, Churches, and even individual Christians tend to be extremely charitable. Just recently Christ the King Church invited some lepers to their church and they sang and worshipped with all the usual bourgeois Christ the King Crowd. I thought that was the most beautiful thing, and a wonderful example to the rest of us. I heard later that the usual church goers were not very happy with the idea at first but that their priest insisted, saying that it's not enough to send cash and other donationsto those in need. That besides gifts, we should treat people like these as we would like to be treated. What can i say? Even if you're not a Christian, hearing this kind of thing is pretty inspiring.
In a discussions that I had with people before writing this post, one of my friends said,
"a positive contribution is the social interactions it fosters. Many people make and hang out (every week) with friends or acquaintances from Church, forming an extended social structure that sometimes rivals our extended family system. Some Church groups have credit unions." I couldn't have said it better. In one of the comments coming out of Naa Anang post on mental health in Ghana, someone (Anonymous) also said "I think most Ghanaians use church and God as a coping mechanism. We pray about whatever is bothering us and "let go and let God". i guess thats therapy in a way" So yeah, having the Church has helped lots of people deal with personal problems, marriage problems, even financial problems
and so on.
Forth, Contentment & Hope
How can a people who have so very little materially be so very happy, generally?
Hope and contentment with one's lot. It reminds me of my encounter with the street seller who inspired me to be content with what I have. For better or worse, Ghanaians are generally a content people and I think content:) and I think Christianity has had a role to play. But whilst they're content, they also have hope that their condition will get better because God is on their side, or even if it doesn't get better, God will grant them the grace to cope. Call it what you will, but somehow people are able to draw strength from this to cope with the toughest circumstances and still keep on smiling.
Note that in this post, I have tried to isolate those things which we can truly attribute to Christianity. I have left out values because our people had values and morals before the first
Christian missionaries arrived at our shores. I remember in secondary school, when it came time to elect prefects, we would look out for people with certain qualities. People who were humble, who upheld the school rules, people we could respect, people who were smart, etc. A lot of the people who possessed these qualities were devoted Christians so we thought that one had to be a christian to have these qualities. Now I realise that this is not true. There are many non-Christians, even atheists, who treat people as they would like to be treated, and who have integrity. And even if you look at our traditional system of leadership and rule, to become, say an asantehene, you ought to be thought to have some values and strong morals. So yeah, I would not count morals and values as one of those blessings Christianity bestowed on Ghana and Ghanaians.
In summary, not only has Christianity done us good by contributing positively to what we have (education, and community), it has also contributed immensely to who we are (charity, contentment, and hope)
But don't take my word for it. Do your own thinking and let's see what unexpected contributions you come up with. If you're a Christian, what good do you think your religion and way of life does for you and the rest of the country? If you're not a Christian, do you think Christianity makes any positive contributions? Is there anything we can learn from it? Like what? I look forward to learning from you.
Oh, ane please watch this space for "And He Went About Doing Good - Part 2" in which i'll write about the not so great contributions that Christianity has made to our country and our people.
Mad love to K.K. Yankson for helpful discussions and to PK Imbeah for inspiring this post.