Friday, February 4, 2011
Professor Joel Tishken will present "The Zions of Africa: Non-Trinitarian Christianities of Modern Africa" on February 10th
Where: History Dept. Library, A-201, Sakamaki Hall
When: Thursday, February 10th, 12:00pm noon until 1:30pm
Professor Joel Tishken:
This presentation will discuss Zionist Christianties in Africa and proposes an ideological shift for scholars. When scholars have compared churches such as the Nazareth Baptist Church, Legio Maria, and Cherubim and Seraphim to other forms of Christianity, these African theologies have generally been compared to European ones. Yet comparison of Zionist theologies by Western scholars has, not very surprisingly, led to a mountain of scholarship that finds African theologies to be heterodox and the European ones orthodox. I would contend that such an assertion, though framed as a theological or religious question is, in fact, a political one concerning the ownership of Christianity.
I will respond to this in two ways. Firstly, I will contend that the most central characteristic of Christianity is its translatability. Thousands of cultures over the course of history have redefined Christianity to suit its own needs. Europe has had its reformation (which continues today). Is Africa not entitled to one as well? This factor alone makes Zionist churches as Christian as any other.
But secondly, and more importantly, my own research indicates that some of these Zionist churches are reifying (though not deliberately) very ancient theological ideas. Many of them share theologies similar to those Christians cast out by early ecumenical councils, such as the Arians, Ebionites, and Montanists. Far from being non-Christian, African Zionist theologies are recreating very ancient forms of Christianity. In this manner, by shifting our comparative gaze away from Europe and into the ancient Christian past, Zionist theologies can appear anciently Christian, rather than exotic and heterodox from a Western point of view.