Op-ed submission by Project 21
How did radical Islam become a legitimate threat in sub-Saharan Africa?
Should we care? Perhaps, because one possible reason stretches beyond the African continent. It may eminate from our own houses of worship.
After the recent shopping mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya by the Muslim terrorist group Al Shabaab, counterterrorism experts fear increased collaboration among the growing ranks of religious radicals in Africa operating across borders in vast, poorly-policed regions.
While terrorism experts are concerned with expanding radicalized Islam, my own leadership role in the Christian community has me preoccupied with how historically Christian areas and formerly majority-Christian countries are now under constant threat from al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and al-Qaeda in the Islam Maghreb.
It’s too soon to declare African Christianity dead, but it’s certainly ailing — and the West is to blame.
Christians went to great lengths to “civilize” Africa, and part and parcel of that process was bringing Christianity to sub-Saharan Africa. But since then, the Church of England and the Episcopal Church in the U.S. ostensibly have abandoned proselytizing in Africa. Most mainstream Western Christian denominations, in fact, now look with disdain on those still adhering to the very same faith churches once taught.
The Episcopal Church, for example, no longer adheres to the doctrine of the Bible as the inspired word of God. The Western evangelical church in particular proclaims an overly-feminized form of Christianity in which men cannot act as men and women assert a theology that gives them dominion over men. This “enlightened” West no longer honors the God-given roles and distinctions between men and women. Actually, it demonizes them. This is why Christianity lost its appeal in, and it’s hold on, Africa.
The Western church no longer builds up men for the Body of Christ. When the church prefers to place women in masculine roles, while discouraging men, the blessings of God vanish and it creates a vacuum. When the Christian ministry becomes an occupation for those liking pretty buildings and beautiful vestments rather than a vocation to serve God, it’s no wonder serious Christians scoff and look elsewhere.
The Christian church in Africa and around the world has left a gap that Islam is filling.
Men clearly need the civilizing influence of women, but they also must remain men. The church is too involved in a feminizing process. Wanting to love and serve God should not be at the expense of God-given manhood. I am an unapologetic Christian, but I know that nothing in Islam requires or expects men to deny their manhood. Islam does quite the opposite — encouraging separate manhood and womanhood.
Almost 100 years ago, English writer and lay theologian G.K. Chesterton said that most men in his day were reduced to Victorian lapdogs when it came to Christianity. What might he say today? There are now Christians who change the word of Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer to “Our Father and Mother who art in heaven” and the nature of Jesus in the Holy Trinity. Is there little wonder why there aren’t more men in church and why men seeking God might turn away from modern Western Christianity?
Why would a man want to be part of a faith in which they are to be seen and never heard? Couple this with the general depiction of Christ as sort of a pansy with well-manicured nails and a perfectly-trimmed beard. It is not is no surprise men are uncomfortable with this, and subsequently are unwilling to become churchmen.
In my lifetime, Ethiopia, one of the most storied Christian nations, took the path of India. Once majority-Christian, it is now divided into Eritrea, which is majority Muslim, and Ethiopia, which may be at least half-Muslim.
If people are genuinely concerned about the spread of Islam and subsequent radicalization, they should consider the Christianity they practice and teach. Pastors no longer proclaim the Gospel, but instead favor of gay marriage or the prevailing populous cause de jure.
Don’t worry about Islam. The imams are doing their job. It’s the pastors and priests who aren’t doing theirs.
Archbishop Council Nedd II, a member of the national advisory council of the Project 21 black leadership network. He is the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Missionary Church in the United States and the Archbishop of Abu Dhabi.