African Heritage and Contemporary Christianity Themes

J.N.K. Mugambi

Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

A core concept for Mugambi is the idea of religious education and what form it should take in Africa. Because many Africans grew up when the conflict between traditional African religions and Christianity had a destabilizing effect on their spirituality, they may find themselves concerned about the moral welfare of their children. They may be unsure what to teach them, particularly when consensus has not emerged on the Christian values regarding morality. The churches need to draw from the traditional African approach to moral education, which is built on the limitedness of humans as compared with the limitlessness of God. Increasingly, traditional African values and norms should be incorporated in the Christian religious education curriculum.

For Mugambi, Christianity and African tradition are not incompatible or exclusionary. Rather he feels that a clash between Western cultural norms and the African worldview creates a dissonance that destabilizes the spirituality of the Christian converts when they attempt to explain and pass on the hybrid tradition to their children.

Another concern for Mugambi is the notion of mission, the idea of witnessing one’s faith to the world in the hope that one’s example will move others to follow. For some missionaries, the purpose was to baptize and therefore save as many souls as possible, but for others it was equally important to teach “the Christian way of life,” moving Africans from a primitive state to a more civilized one. For yet other missionary groups, the importance of teaching people new trades and agricultural and industrial skills went hand in hand with the mission of saving souls. A central impulse of missionary work has also been the notion of saving people from suffering, whether physical, economic, or spiritual.