I’m almost done with the book … and I’m finding it stimulating. I especially enjoy Brian’s unique way with words. But now back to some of the ideas of Chapter 3. In this particular chapter Brian unpacks some of the conversations while he was in Burundi. It specifically focuses on the conversation between the pastors of Burundi and Rwanda. They reflected on the colonial message they received from the missionaries; a version that is described by Claude “They told us how to go to heaven. But they left out an important detail. They didn’t tell us how the will of God could be done on earth.”
The conversation is then framed in a colonial versus post-colonial version of the gospel (which is a helpful way to engage with the modern/post-modern conversation). Brian then explains how they developed two columns with a colonial/post-colonial heading and two rows with colonizers/colonized. He then writes:
“We asked, ‘How did the colonizers feel during the colonial times? And how do they feel now, in postcolonial times?’ The answers were predictable: during colonialism, they felt powerful, clean, knowledgeable, superior, capable, and civilized. But now, looking back on colonialism, they must be feeling ashamed, humbled, repentant, uncertain, conciliatory, regretful.
The next question: ‘How did the colonized feel during both eras?’ Under colonialism, they said, they felt dirty, ashamed, grateful, dependant, incompetent, incapable, uneducated, unintelligent, resentful, abused, and afraid. But now, with colonialism decades behind them, and for many of them, nothing more than a fading memory of their parents and grandparents, they felt competent, capable, hopeful, confident, and empowered.”
While I pondered their specific descriptions I realized how complex this column would be here in South Africa. It’s just not as neat as the above mentioned columns and rows. Last year some people left our community because as white ex-colonizers they felt that it was ridiculous for us to feel “ashamed, humbled, repentant etc.” There are also a lot of those who were previously colonized who still live with a deep-seated inferiority complex and don’t feel “competent, capable, hopeful etc…” Paulo Freire, in his outstanding book “Pedagogy of the oppressed” explains the intricate dynamics of all of the above mentioned categories. I also think that we should guard against a version of relief that is a subtle version of colonization (non-incarnational).
The origin of the book’s name is revealed in this chapter when Brian explains how a Burundian lady named Justine was shaken up by realizing that there is a difference between “the gospel of avoiding hell” and “the gospel of the kingdom of God”. After Brian and his friends asked her if she’s ok she responded saying that “I see what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God. I see that it’s about changing this world, not just escaping it and retreating into our churches. If Jesus’ message of the kingdom of God is true, then everything must change.” WOW! It’s so cool that this women’s passionate connection with the whole is now the title of Brian’s book – what a great story!
OK – enough for now … I’ll write some more at a later point. I’ll specifically answer Trevor’s comment.