In what ways does the church pose a threat to Okonkwo, his way of life, and the health of the tribe in Things Fall Apart?

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The white European colonists utilize religion to establish a foothold in the region, and Christianity helps undermine the traditional culture of the native Africans. Christianity offers a safe haven and second chance to the osu and disenchanted villagers like Nwoye, who believe that the traditional Igbo culture and religion is unjust and violent. Nwoye’s conversion upsets Okonkwo, who disowns him.

In addition to providing a refuge for pariahs and outcasts, Christianity offers new, alternative ideas regarding the afterlife, which are attractive to many villagers. The accepting nature of Christianity and the missionaries' motivation to convert as many Igbo villagers as they can poses a serious threat to the traditional culture. Christianity is also a structured, established religion, which is highly organized and practical. Achebe writes,

And even in the matter of religion there was a growing feeling that there might be something in it after all, something vaguely akin to method in the overwhelming madness. (138)

In addition to using Christianity to undermine the traditional Igbo culture, the missionaries also establish a school, hospital, and trading posts. The opportunity to become literate and gain knowledge is another significant motivating factor for the villagers to accept the missionaries and unknowingly contribute to the spread of western culture. The trading posts provide attractive economic opportunities for the villagers, who amass wealth by selling the Europeans palm-oil and palm nut kernels. The European doctors in their hospital also heal the ill villagers and contribute to the allure of western culture.

Overall, the European colonists cleverly use religion, education, and economic opportunities to establish a foothold in the region and steadily spread western culture, which undermines the traditional Igbo way of life. Okonkwo is directly impacted by the spread of western culture as his son converts to Christianity and his chances of regaining his former titles are undermined by the presence of white Europeans.

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