Monday, February 22, 2010

Postcolonial Thoughts

I had a very interesting conversation with my (black) ministry supervisor on Sunday. I've been struggling with this whole 'postcolonial theology' and the stuff that comes out of the Amahoro conferences. The thing that seems to be said there is that we can't forget apartheid and also that we can't forget the 'damage' done by early white missionaries. It's as if remembering these things should be key parts of our formation as Christians. I might have oversimplified this view point, but it is one that has really hamstrung my minstry over the last year and a bit. Who am I, as a white person, to tell any black person what to do? Who am I to potentially force my culture on someone else - perhaps by my own ignorance of cultural differences?
My supervisor told me yesterday to get over it. (Ok, he was a bit more polite). The time has come to stop seeing things in terms of colour and race and to move forward together, each of us making our God-given contributions.
It seems ridiculous that I needed to hear it - but I did need to and from a black person. So, I'm sorry, but postcolonialism and white guilt and Amahoro and whatever else is now in my rubbish bin. The past is past - not to be forgotten, by any means - but no longer to hamstring us and force us to continually relive the hurt (on all sides). Sometimes, western culture actually has an enormous amount to offer us all - including black people - and I won't deny people that benefit.


Steve Hayes said...

I'm, not sure that Amahoro was about any of those things. Yes, there was a paper on postcolonial theology but I'm still not sure what any of it means. And yes, Adriaan Vlok was there and was white and was guilty and was expiating his guilt, but it wasn't guilt over being white but guilt over being Minister of Law and Order and wearing metaphorical fascist jackboots to stomp on people.

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Hi Steve. You're probably right. For some reason I think I have become over-sensitive to this whole thing. So much depends on where you are coming from. But to me, it has become a burden of guilt that I'm throwing off. To those for whom it is meaningful - especially those white people too young to have experineced apartheid, I understand.

Thomas Scarborough said...

I think that one needs to see it from the point of view of what God was doing, not what man was doing. That's the story not only of colonial missions, but of your local Church and mine. To put this another way, one needs to judge things according to grace -- God's grace -- not law -- God's law.

My own father was the last Chief Missionary in the Central Pacific. He was one of the only missionaries (if not the only one) to have been elected to lead the local Church both pre-independence and post-independence -- and he was awarded an honorary doctorate for that. So I myself saw colonial missions (the last of it) from the inside.

I like the writing of Dr. Yusufu Turaki of Nigeria, and perhaps you might come across him: "I harbored a critical spirit against missionaries for many years ..."

markpenrith said...

Hi there,

I read your post, scratched my head, and then read Steve's comment, and thought some more. Then I read this post and now I'm totally confused.