Gold Coast Bereans

Out of Ghana, West Africa; Christian hearts and critical minds seeking, speaking and writing the truth with love. This is a conversation of a group of friends, now living in the USA and the UK, who have known each other for more than 20 years.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Changing the way others see us. Part I

AFRICA, still a relatively unknown country.

Occasionally, I think I lurk in the twilight zone of the internet and I should be looking for new places. There is a blog I read called the Boar’s Head Tavern which is an online conversation between a group of Christians mostly from the USA but also the UK and Canada. I find it very interesting and educative because they come from very different viewpoints. The subjects discussed are wide ranging and I confess that sometimes, the deep theology is above my “Sermon on the Mount” level of understanding.

Unfortunately, there appears to be no brother represented on the blog so anytime anything about Blacks or Africans comes up it is quite interesting and sometimes burdensome to read the thoughts of my Christian brothers. Some of these Christian brothers could be your next door neighbor in the college dormitory, apartment, town house or suburban single family home but attend a different Church. Or, they may be the people who sit next to you in the local Church you have made your home.

It was very educative and enlightening to read the discussion there in the aftermath of Don Imus and the Rutgers Basketball team. Recently the subject turned to AIDS and Africa and the vast sums the government of President Bush has provided in aid for research and treatment. Remember that this is a blog which operates in the manner of a bar and patrons come and go, and grant that in a bar-like atmosphere, a lot of banter goes on and as the wine flows, lips and fingers on a keyboard get loosened and careless talk is possible. Here is the comment that troubled me.

Can you severely curb AIDS in Africa with a court decision? No. Obviously not. The barbarous, animalistic sexual morality of a huge number of men and women on that continent and the crushing poverty/religious strictures that turn many women to prostitution is not something one can end by the USSC simply saying “No, AIDS is not allowed according to the Constitution.” Posted by: xxxxx @ 2:59 pm

I decided to send the following email to the writer.

"Please tone it town a bit. There are quite a few "African" Christians who read the Boar's Head Tavern blog. I certainly do, very often. There is varied opinion there and I do not expect to agree with everything but "barbarous, animalistic sexual morality" takes it a bit too far. Don't believe everything you read wherever you get your information from. Get to know some real Africans and if you get a chance, pay a visit to an African country and get yourself pleasantly surprised.

The average unregenerate African is really no different morally from the average unregenerate American.

Peace, Robbo"
I did not get any reply from him but at least I thought he would think carefully before writing such broad generalizations. Fortunately, someone else on the blog took the writer to task and asked him to justify his assertions but he maintained his position, which does not surprise me. On the internet, people seldom ever admit they could be wrong, let alone change their positions.

A few days later, I was reading through the same blog again and came across this by another completely different writer still on the "the AIDS crisis". Honestly, this takes the biscuit

African Sexual morals are a difficult question because their culture has certain practices that would break out of the Christian paradigm. For example, it is very common in Africa that when a women’s husband dies (from Aids or anything) that his surviving brother is supposed to have sex with her to cleanse her of grief etc.

There’s also a lot of incest. I don’t think it would be fair to judge these cultures as more “immoral” but there’s an awful lot of intercourse going on between unmarried couples.

Then again, there’s lots of stuff I don’t understand. College educated African men beat their college educated African wives just like some parents here spank their toddlers. Posted by xxxx @ 6:24 pm

You hear this kind of stuff on AM Talk Radio; three years ago when the circumstances of life caused me to make a fortnightly 7 hour journey from Pennsylvania to Connecticut to spend weekends with my family until we were reunited, similar uninformed talk by Radio Hosts and their callers was useful in keeping me awake during the long drive. However, is there any excuse for a Christian brother to be writing something like that or is ignorance or wrong information an excuse?

I really do not care to address the misrepresentation, misconception and borderline prejudice in these statements. For one thing, I do not think these two writers mean any malice. I do not intend to flame anyone and that is why I have not placed any direct links to the blog in question, though it is easy to find. My intention is for us to examine ourselves and see how best we respond to such situations in real life, not the faceless internet.

One can argue that before we also arrived in the UK or the USA, we also had a much skewed mentality; we thought the streets were paved with platinum, and milk and corn syrup flowed from the taps. Our idea of America was largely based on LA Law, the Cosby Show and well, the Bronx Warriors. Our idea of the UK was a genteel society where they drank tea at 3 o'clock, cats talked to the Queen etc, okay not really. So then, why should I blame a well meaning Christian brother if in this great information age, he has a picture of Africa we don't recognize?

There is a tendency in the press to make generalizations about sub-Saharan Africa which in actuality comprises a very diverse people and culture. So from time to time, I will post brief lessons here for any interested parties.

Lesson 1

Africa is a diverse continent with 54 different countries. Ghana, a small country in West Africa the size of the US State of Oregon contains a diverse group of 24 million people speaking at least 50 completely different languages. The national language is English, which is also the language of instruction in school. - Robbo

Related post
BALANCE, POLARIZATION and the Child of God

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Anonymous Gaius Columbus said...

I need prayer because I feel the early rumblings of volcanic activity about to erupt within my soul...

There is positive bias and there is negative bias. It is difficult to live a life devoid of bias and distortion; however, if I err, let me err mildly and in the right direction by attributing to others a genteel nature, tea at 3:00pm, a Cosby-like existence, streets paved with milk and honey and things that extend honor to others!

Far be it from my lips and thoughts the notion of others as less than myself. This is shameful and ought not to be given the veneer of a Christian discussion. Sadly this person is blind to a fundamental tenet of Christianity, that all men are created in the image of God-not animals, not refuse or garbage but endowed with dignity and honor even if tarnished by sin. I think that our Lord would probably rebuke these brothers no less harshly than he rebuked the sons of Zebedee when they asked that fire fall down on the Samaritans, people whom they despised and who on that occasion had the audacity reject the message and refuse Jesus passage through their town.

Ah well, enough said.

February 20, 2008 at 3:40 PM  
Anonymous Annang said...

I think you email was appropriate, and you should it as a ministry responsibility to educate them. The benefit, if they would be humble enough to listen to you, can be immense.

I have always had difficulty explaining the high incidence of AIDS in Africa, considering what I know about our "morals". One friend of mine who is doing research for a PhD in Birmingham on a topic to do with AIDS reckons that though there is strong evidence against that view, the international community is very reluctant to shake itself away from the conception that Africans are promiscuous. Like these brothers, they feel more comfortable believing the worse about people they don't know.

February 20, 2008 at 5:49 PM  
Anonymous Koo said...

Unfortunately that is another example of prejudice. Ignorance is no excuse for anyone to make such assertions about Africans. The Bible teaches us to be quick to listen and slow to

I'm often surprised by the insensitivity of some of our American brothers when it comes to their comments about Africa which they often consider as one country. Some of it is benign, yet still annoying. About 6 years ago I was quite surprised when an American Christian brother asked me, "your name Albert, was it given to you at birth or you picked it up when you came to America?" He could simply have asked me to tell him about how names are given in my country instead of dropping such a bombshell.

February 20, 2008 at 6:28 PM  
Anonymous Calorius said...

you know, i was also very upset when I read this. However, i think the problem is not so much what this guy is saying but that he believes or thinks that way.
Unless you intend to engage him in a way that will change his actual thought process, i feel it's useless to confront him.

Even if he was to apologize for saying it, that would be worthless unless he no longer thinks that way. It is similar to what James says about faith without works is dead, and of John, who says not to love in word or speech but in deed and in truth.

On other hand, some people must be allowed to persist in their folly. -Calorius

February 21, 2008 at 7:35 AM  
Anonymous Robbo said...

I was really upset about it too, more so because of where it came from. One has come to expect that sort of certain places but I read that blog quite frequently and it was the last place I expected to see stuff like that. It worries me that there may be people in my local Church who believe this way but do not verbalize it to me. Leaving aside this guy who, as has been correctly pointed out by Gaius, misses some of the points of grace and thinks that his "cultured" culture is a result of his genes or his being American, what are the reasons why people believe stuff like this? I will hazard the following

- the sinful pharisaic nature which makes people beat their chest and say " thank God, I am an American with good sexual morals, and I am not like those animalistic Africans” A few hours after the guy made that post, there was a post made on that same blog linking a news item in which the founder of a company called CleanFlicks (which edits Hollywood Movies after they come out to remove sex scenes so that Christians can safely watch them) had been arrested for allegedly having sex with a 14 year old girl. Did it draw any comment or generalization? No.

- Misinformation, not only by the press but also by well-intentioned missionaries. Missionaries sometimes selectively portray their experiences in order to pander to the expectations of their financial supporters. I have experienced that personally. Some African pastors who come here to raise money sometimes also unwittingly help this process

- There is a temptation to answer the charges using the same kind of folly but that is unnecessary. I bet the guy if he reads what he wrote a third time and has a conscience will see the absurdity of his charge, unless he is completely blind.

February 21, 2008 at 11:42 AM  
Anonymous Annang said...

One factor you can't ignore is the statistics showing huge numbers of Africans infected with AIDS. How do we explain it? With millions of people reported to be actually infected or prone to be infected and with no other clear explanation, I can sort of see why it is easy for the person who is unfamiliar with "African morality" to believe those myths.

I mentioned in my earlier comment about a friend doing in Birmingham, UK. One aspect of her research is comparing the sexual behaviour of Secondary school children in Birmingham with a group in Accra. Her supervisor cannot believe the result of the interviews she conducted with the Ghanaian children. When she presents her findings at conferences, she is barraged with expressions of incredulity etc.

The bottom line question, which I don't have the answer to is, if Africans are not worse in sexual morality, why is AIDS so. The unprotected sex argument does not sufficiently explain it, I understand. If this question is unanswered then any person wanting to believe the worse about the “dark continent’, has the grounds on which to do so.

February 21, 2008 at 3:53 PM  
Anonymous Calorius said...

But is it really true that AIDS is that prevalent in all of Africa? I know there are some hotspots, but those numbers which one sees in the popular press can not be correct. Also, the WHO recently revised its figures drastically downward.

by the way, about the Ghanaian children; did they come out good or bad? You didn’t make that clear

February 21, 2008 at 4:00 PM  
Anonymous Annang said...

The Ghanaian children came out far better. Very few are sexually active, and they know more about AIDS and related health issues. I think the survey was at Accra High School. Her supervisor thinks the Ghanaian students are telling lies or are afraid to admit due to religious reasons etc.

About the statistics; not a few epidemiology "experts" also think they are exaggerations. You are right that there are hot-spots, but generally the rates, even for Ghana are said to be surprisingly higher than the West. So the "why" is yet to be answered? I think this was the background to the postulate by someone that perhaps the virus in Africa may be spread by mosquitoes; there is no evidence for that!!

Anyway, I don't know the reasons, but was pointing out one factor which may be fuelling a false perception that Africans are sexually promiscuous, or at least far more promiscuous than other people.

February 21, 2008 at 4:10 PM  
Anonymous Calorius said...

A shame about the CleanFlicks guy; I very much admire those efforts. By the way, there is now a feature in some DVD players that allows you to sign up for automatic purging of videos you watch on it. It will delete bad words, bad scenes, etc according to your settings. Very often these scenes are not essential to the story. They sell for only a little more than regular DVD.

There's nothing to be done though about the thematic elements, except to literally do the “parental guidance" responsibly

February 22, 2008 at 2:08 PM  

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