Testing Times: Globalisation and Investing Theology in East Africa
The main topic of this book is the tendency among young people in East Africa to turn from the traditional Church towards new charismatic movements such as the Balokole, which emphasise material over spiritual wealth. The book will examine the reasons for this and its possible effects; it will consider the implications for the Church and possible action to take. The book is divided into 9 chapters. Chapter 1 gives an overview of the history of the Christian Church, especially in the context of its commitment or otherwise to fighting poverty, and other problems which have contributed to the rise of the Balokole. Ideas on unity, catholicity and holiness are discussed in relation to the Church's duties, especially the Apostolic tradition of carrying on Christ's mission. Chapter 2 turns to young people's views of the Church and its role. It argues that love, the basis of the Christian message, must imply a practical duty of care; and considers whether the Church's failure to offer real help is connected with young people's growing preference for non-traditional religion. It also looks at other problems such as family breakdown and unemployment, which are facing young people. Chapter 3 explores the Balokole movement and its links (or, mainly, absence of links) to established Churches. Its similarity to American movements such as Word of Faith is considered, and its message of 'prosperity teaching' is examined. As well as criticising Balokole distortion of Biblical messages about wealth and other matters, the chapter praises the way it incorporates traditional African elements, such as dance and music, into its worship. Should the traditional Church consider doing the same? In Chapter 4, contextual theology is discussed, particularly liberation theology. This Latin American development is considered in the context of contemporary African problems including recent ethnic conflict, widespread corruption and injustice. It is argued that liberation theology - a practical commitment to fighting poverty and injustice - is both a Christian duty and the best way to prevent the further spread of movements like the Bakolole. Chapter 5 returns to the American origins of the Bakolole movement, and gives an overview of various scholars who have attacked the 'Word of Faith' movement. It uses this criticism of the often corrupt, exploitative leaders of such movements as an opportunity to urge all leaders - including Church leaders - to reflect on and improve their own practice. Chapter 6 looks at the plight of young people in East Africa. It acknowledges the fact that the Bakolole have often given these people hope and a voice where all other institutions have failed them. As neither their families nor their governments are able to help, it is argued that the Church must fulfil its mission to serve as both family and community network, even if this means abandoning its long-standing habit of not getting involved in politics. Chapter 7 identifies the root cause of many of the problems discussed in the previous chapter: corruption. It explores the way bribery; nepotism and tribalism have poisoned East African political life, undermined the rule of law and led to grave injustices such as the treatment of the Buganda people. If this culture is to end, the Church must take the lead, and also root out corruption in its own ranks. In Chapter 8, practical ways of applying liberation theologyare discussed. The chapter mentions worldwide organisations committed to fighting poverty, with which the Church could work, and looks at examples from recent history such as the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. It considers the various criticisms of liberation theology which have been made by conservative elements, and refutes these, looking at the Christian and Biblical roots of modern anti-poverty movements. The Church's role as the conscience of society is emphasised.
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