Random thoughts on Holy Easter, Jesus and Christian scholarship

By Asuman Bisiika

Tomorrow is Easter. According to Christianity, this is the day Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead. Like the Jewish Passover and Islam’s Eid al Adhua, Easter is said to be the most important day in Christianity.

The resurrection is a triumph over human mortality. Without mortality, there would not be the miracle of resurrection as a rallying for the faithful. The resurrection, as the foundation of Christian Faith, is brought home by Paul in his First Epistle to the Corinthians using the analogy of a grain wheat.

In A Grain of Wheat, Kenyan venerable novelist James Ngugi (later Ngugi wa Thiong’o) borrows Paul’s homily on the resurrection and delivers with a knock out effect: ‘thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it dies’. (1 Corinthians 15:36. King James Version).
I have heard a bishop preach that without the resurrection, there would be no Christianity. But where would this statement leave the canonical deification of the person and personality of Jesus? Isn’t the deification of Jesus more fundamental than the miracle of resurrection? Isn’t Jesus the God more important than Jesus the mortal human who performed the miracle of resurrection on himself? Christian Canon has almost stripped Jesus Christ of his humanity and it is now difficult to appreciate the fact that Jesus is a figure of recorded history. He existed and walked on Earth (as a human person).

Like any social and cultural activist, he spoke truth to power and challenged the leadership of his community in a fashion that an opposition political leader would do in Uganda today.

He challenged the Pharisees, the Aaronite priests, the corruption of the Tax Collectors etc. His teachings are relevant today as they were with his contemporaries. He railed against bigotry, intrigue, false ideology and Power etc. As a non-violent activist, it is clear that Jesus avoided confrontation with the Roman Military Occupation of his motherland.

And then the Romans adopted him. The adoption of Christianity as a state religion by Rome reshaped and now represents the contemporary frame of Christianity as a faith and the Church and a socio-cultural institution.

Imperial Rome subtly stripped Jesus Christ of his Judaic heritage and instead Romanised him; so Romanised that there was a time when Roman Christianity held Jews in contempt because they killed Jesus. Yes, their Roman Jesus.

When Christianity came to Equatorial Africa (scholars call it Sub- Saharan Africa), it carried a Romanised Jesus. But shortly, Equatorial Africa made attempt at enculturation (the adoption of Christianity to suit the African cultural heritage or to Africanise Christianity).

Scholars of Christianity in Africa must be familiar with Simon Kimbagu in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Joswa Kate of the Bamalaki fame in Uganda. The Gikuyu in Kenya also tried to Gikuyunise Christianity.

But this African attempt at enculturation (Africanising Canon) was seen as a challenge to the Church and Christianity. And since the Church and Christianity had come to Africa as a strong partner of the state, the Africanised Christian ministries of people such as Kimbangu and Joswa Kate (Uganda) were framed as acts against the State.

Now, the contemporary Christian leader in Uganda faces the challenge of speaking truth to power. The State is African managed and the Church, through which the Christian leader ministers, is African managed.

A Christian or church leader is a citizen and ministers to citizens. How can the church leader engage the State as a citizen without appearing to be promoting partisan political interests? Can the church leader claim his citizenship currency, act as a community leader and engage the State? Happy Easter!

Mr Bisiika is the executive editor of East African Flagpost.

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