Black or White?
Righteous or A Sinner?
Moral or Uncultured?
Good or Bad?
Good or Evil?
Right or Wrong?
Black or White?
So, I have questions… Lots of them.
You might be wondering what connects these two. There might be absolutely nothing similar about these two. Religion is about belief, a belief in some supreme being who somehow is all knowing and all powerful, while culture is simply the way of life a group of people, their values, morals, clothes food e.t.c. For most parts, these two seem like two parallel lines that’d never meet but in more ways than one, religion and culture go hand in hand like a couple who are only different in personality but complement each other perfectly.
There must have been a reason why missionaries came on to the coast of West Africa to preach Christianity, calling the people’s gods archaic and primitive. There must be a reason colonialism came with Christianity as a support structure. Religion to change the culture to fit something they can control or because they really wanted to save the lost souls? Is it that to get through to a people, you have to understand their thought patterns, and if you can’t do that, you train those thought patterns to one that fits what you want and need to pass your lordship on the people? Do you ever wonder why they (the British colonialist) didn’t carry the Christianity to the Northern part of Nigeria? Is it because they found a system/culture that already had its people under some sort of control?
How do you influence a way of life? How do you make a people who have told stories of their fathers and grandfathers under the moonlight for generations to believe that it’s way better to write these stories down? How do you beat a cold metal into a shape you want it to be? How do you convince a people their gods are powerless?
There are certain parts of these things I’ve realised I might never understand about the past, but there is now and important questions about the now that I need to ask. Questions that bug me a lot.
These Grey Areas.
Growing up, church was a major part of my day to day life. I heard and read about Jesus just as much as I read my Abc’s and 123s. For most parts of that childhood (till I was 12 or 13) I totally did not understand the concept any bit. Why in the world would anyone leave the safety of this magical place (that’s heaven if you didn’t figure that out already) and come to miserable earth to die for people who mostly still piss on the idea that someone died for sins they haven’t even committed. The entire idea didn’t really make sense or maybe I was just too young to understand because I always went to give my life to Christ every single time there was an altar call. Do kids even understand these things properly or we just need to keep beating these things into their minds until they understand? Well that’s a question for another time.
The very concept of religion and culture I have come to realise are hard rigid concepts. Even if culture sometimes changes over time, religion is pretty much a constant, the rules stay the same. However, I’ve come to realise, many of the religious concepts I’ve grown up with are direct copies of cultural morals and values, not necessarily what the Holy books have expressly laid out.
“Give us an example, man.”
I’d pick something not too hot button. Dreadlocks and make up. Is there any passage in any holy book that expressly states that men shouldn’t have dreadlocks and women shouldn’t use make up if they so wish? No? Then why have we consistently heard about how deadlocks and make up is not ‘Godly’? Is it more about culture than it is about religion? Is it more about Omoluabi than omo Olorun? These and many more are examples of grey areas where nobody expressly explains but everyone has a stance about… Black or White. Good or Bad.
What is Righteous? What is Godly? How did we equate cultural rules, norms and values as Godly or the right thing?
Am I less whatever religion I practice because I am not doing things that are not Yoruba like?
Why is religion swimming in the same water as culture, mudding the water with inconsistencies? Why do many religious leaders decide to tow the line of the colonial masters, the line of control in whatever means they deem fit. It has been said that your personal experience/background isn’t and shouldn’t become a doctrine in the house of God. Why, then, do some religious leaders use their intuition (which would mostly lean towards their cultural values) to make up rules for their followers. Aren’t they meant to be led solely by the word of God and his leading?
Does religion have the same effect it did on culture like it did during the colonial days or it’s time for culture to assert its own authority on religion?
Questions and more questions, not many answers.
Oyekunle ‘Fikayo Oyediran.
Do you have answers for me, or you have more questions like I do, if yes, don’t hesitate to drop your comments in the comments section below.