Africa receives some American errors that are quite beneficial. For example, before the NBA finals, the Super Bowl or the World Series, sports merchandisers produce memorabilia of both finalists winning, so as to be able to immediately sell when the final is over. Unfortunately, half of that merchandise represents an alternate universe: where the team that lost actually won. What happens to the champions-that-never-were T-shirts and caps? Much of it is donated to third-world countries, where needy folks wear shirts displaying an event that never happened. Hey, we’re not complaining. Another shirt on a poor man’s back is a good thing, even if it celebrates what never occurred. Error is sometimes beneficial.
Some imported errors are profoundly destructive, though. The worst of them are theological errors, for what touches Scripture touches ultimate realities. Two such errors that originated in America are particularly devastating for a country like mine: the Prosperity gospel and Woke theology. Both errors share the distinction of claiming to be a cure, but worsening the disease.
The Prosperity gospel claims to cure the pains of grinding poverty. According to this “gospel”, poverty is the prison operated by Satan who came to steal and destroy our birthrights; humans need only to actualise a reality of prosperity and health through the spoken word of faith, and God will be allowed to bring about blessings previously held back by our negative thought and speech. This slightly Christianised theology of 19th-century New Thought has taken Africa by storm. People suffering in dire poverty through a combination of misunderstanding the modern economy, a lack of marketable skills, laziness, governmental destruction of opportunity, or other providential circumstances are led to believe that poverty can be cured by giving what little money they have to the slick preacher up-front. A ‘seed-offering’ will come back hundredfold. After all, look at the car that Apostle Shazam is driving: it’s working for him, right?
Christians rightly feel revulsion at the shameless exploitation of the poor by unscrupulous merchants of financial magic. We feel grief that naïveté and gambling greed pull and push the poor to part with their last coins. But one thing is for sure: if there was one place where the Prosperity gospel is particularly wretched, it is in countries already suffering from extraordinary levels of unemployment and economic stagnation. This is a “cure” that accelerates the disease.
The Woke gospel claims to cure the pains of racism and injustice. In this gospel, race and injustice have been tools used by the powerful to maintain their power and exploit the weak. Those who have benefited from this injustice – whites – are simply too entrenched in that systemic privilege and power to even understand it, let alone help. Their role is to support a vigorous policy of anti-racism: where colonial ideas and figures are exposed and dethroned, where apologies and restitution is made (uni-directionally), where society’s structures are radically altered to not only give an equal opportunity to races, but to produce an equal outcome: fully “diversified” schools, workplaces, governments and churches. Churches need to embrace this anti-racism. Preachers must teach on “whiteness” and privilege. Churches should set up “dialogues”and inter-ethnic conversations for marginalised groups to truly have an equal voice. Churches should be ashamed of homogenous leadership or membership; they must seek to ‘reflect the diversity’. Churches should be taught about implicit bias, about decolonialising church history and hermeneutics, about why non-racism is actually racism, and about the importance of destroying white monopoly on the power structures of the church. Christians must be taught to repent of white privilege and Eurocentricity. Only when this program fully ferments through church life will we enjoy genuine equality, justice, and reconciliation.
Christians should feel similar revulsion at this. Not because it aims to cure racism. Indeed, we can even sympathise with the aims of the Prosperity gospel, insofar as it genuinely wants to alleviate suffering. Our problem is not that Doctor Kervorkian wants to alleviate suffering; it is with the method employed. The theology of Wokeism did not come from Ephesians 2:11-18. It emerged from, ironically enough, mostly white intellectuals and professors such as Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, several from the Frankfurt School, Derek Bell, Peggy McIntosh, and Marshall Kirk. None of these were interested in what the Bible means by justice, or in Paul’s doctrine of one new humanity in Christ. They taught the Marxist views of power, oppression, and equality.
Consequently, instead of healing racial wounds, it inflames them with its near-obsessive reduction of everything to power structures. Instead of providing tools of individual repentance and sanctification, it subjects entire groups to a purgatorial status of being perpetually racist until deemed otherwise by acts of penitential anti-racism. Instead of teaching personal responsibility for loving one another, it allows for ancestral grievance and guilt to be borne by descendants. This creates, in one fell swoop, perpetual culpability with no serious means of restitution. Above all, instead of glorifying Christ as our now shared identity, it divides the children of God into race groups, and tells them to find their “new” identity through anti-racism social justice. It is Babel without Pentecost.
For a country that is barely on its feet from the pains of British, Afrikaner and African racism, the woke gospel is no gospel at all. Indeed, from the Enemy’s perspective, the satanic thing to do would be to offer a leg up, and use it to deliver the crippling blow. Wokeism is the cure that makes the disease worse.
One cure remains for that form of sinful human pride known as racism. The gospel of Jesus Christ strips us of all boasts, collapsing our ethnic claims of superiority, forcing us to accept the absolutely level ground at the foot of the cross. There we die to pride, and rise to humbled love of Christ and each other, finding in our fellow brothers and sisters a deeper commonality than blood or ethnicity could ever give.