African spiritual response to Western christianity with particular reference to Abagusii and the Seventh-day-adventist church in Ogembo division, Kisii district, Kenya
When the Western S.D.A. Missionaries carne to Gusii in early twentieth century, they ignored the previous Abagusii traditional cultural experiences, beliefs and practices. All Abagusii customs and values were treated with contempt as heathenish, anti-God and damnable. So the missionaries embarked on converting Abagusii from what they thought was an unworthy cultural-religious system to that was a sound cultural-religious system or a civilized religion. This unfavourable S.D.A. missionary attitude to Abagusii cultural experiences, beliefs and practices was based on three major wrongful and ethnocentric assumptions, namely cultural, theological and scientific. At the cultural level, the Western S. D.A. missionaries did not find it important to study and understand or respect the values and ideas cherished by Abagusii. Instead they simply looked down upon all and sought to impart Western values and ideas to Abagusii through organized Western education. At the theological level, the S.D.A. missionaries confused western civilization with christianity. This was in contravention of the Biblical great commission in which the Lord had sent out Seventy, two-disciples to proclaim God's kingdom in all places. The Lord had instructed the disciples to survive on whatever small they were given in the places they went (LK. 10:1-17). (R.E.V). Instead of proclaiming the Kingdom of God, the S.D.A. missionaries proclaimed western civilization. Instead of relying on material provided by Gusii cultural beliefs and practices, they relied on what they brought from the west. It was a major distortion of st. Paul's teaching that a Gentile did not necessarily have to become a Jew before becoming a christian. (Gal. 2:11-17). (R.E.V.). The S.D.A. missionaries lacked these theological insights. In essence, they bestowed upon themselves two tasks, to proclaim western civilization at the same time with the Gospel of Jesus. Even worse still, the S.D.A. missionaries were determined to believe that they brought God to Gusii and that before their coming, Abagusii had been worshipping idols and not God as they (missionaries) conceived of him. Subsequently, they introduced a "new"God who they identified for Abagusii with the Luo name Nyasae and took him to the church where he remained confined. At the scientific level, western S.D.A. missionaries branded Abagusii beliefs and practices superstitious. Subsequently, they sought to liberate them (Abagusii) by means of western education. It was wrong on the part of the-S.-D.A. missionaries to think that matters to do with a people's religion or culture could be tested scientifically.They also failed to learn that each religion is sustained by a specific world-view. This S.D.A. missionary attitude has been retained till now. Conversion to christianity is thought to be the same as becouing "civilized" and looking down upon traditional beliefs and practices in favour of western ones. This missionary trend of thought has over time, In the period between 1912 and 1980's, attracted varied responses from among Abagusii, which have often occurred concomitantly. The earliest I and, first response took a form of a cultural protest. In 1914, on the eve of the first world war, the Gusii attacked and demolished the first outpost mission erections at Nyanchwa and Nyabururu. At the same time they organized themselves into the cult of Mumboism, which defied anything western. The second form of response is non-compliance with the teachings of S.D.A. christianity. This response is typical of Mumboism except that it is not organized as such. It is 'a response of the general Gusii Community as distinguished from S.D.A. church members. The people who constitute it have over-time seen the S.D.A. church as an agent of western civilization with its alienating influences. They have deliberately chosen to do the opposite of S.D.A. church teachings. The third form of response is double- standard behaviour. It characterizes a greater majority of Abagusii S.D.A. adherents. This group has found it difficult to either reject or accept decisively a christianity that advocates the abandonment of traditional values and beliefs. Subsequently, they have remained consciously and unconsciously attached to traditional values and beliefs while professing S.D.A. christianity. This is an estranged group with regard to the S.D.A. church and tradition. they are neither perfectly S.D.A. christians nor traditionalists. The fourth, and, last form of response is acceptance. This response has been there, especially after 1920, and can be seen at various levels. First it is constituted by a group which tend to, implicitly and explicitly think that, it is possible to accept the values of S.D.A. christianity, without necessarily relinguishing traditional ones as the church expects. The second level of this response is constituted by a separatist movement, Ime Y'Omwana, within the S.D.A. church. the movement neither recognizes western values nor African ones. Naturally, however, the movement finds expression within the Abagusii worldview and it constitutes an acceptance of christianity within the Gusii cultural context. This diversity of Gusii response to S.D.A. christianity would have been averted had the S.D.A. missionaries approached the (Gusii) with understanding. This is in view of the fact that their responses were, and, are unfavourable to S.D.A. miss ionaries intentions of converting Abagusii.