As Africa moves into the 21st century it faces new spiritual, social, and economic challenges.
Dominique Zahan, from whose essay the soccer metaphor is lifted, sets the tone of the book by explaining that traditional African religion has no concepts of original sin and redemption. That huge departure from what many Westerners see as the basis for Christianity is a gulf of understanding the authors work to bridge.
Issues such as the endurance of traditional African religious imagery and symbolism to the strains of incorporating new religions into old societies are examined. The size of the text reflects the variety of expressions of African spirituality, as the authors discuss not only traditional practices, but the impact of the revealed religions of East and West. The volume is part of an encyclopedic series on world spirituality produced by Crossroad Publishing. Its editor, Jacob K. Olupona, was well-chosen. The book's major theme is one of religious understanding and tolerance, goals which have become the life work of Olupona. The Nigerian professor, who now teaches at the University of California at Davis, was a leader in the push for multi-faith education in Nigerian schools.
The authors speak with different voices but deliver a similar message: understand what you see before you pass judgment. G.C. Oosthuizen, in his essay on South African religion, makes a persuasive plea for less dogma and more understanding of African modes of modern worship: "It thus becomes disastrous... to produce theology for its own sake. Its usefulness to the religious and cultural situation should be closely analyzed and evaluated. This means that the emphasis is not to be put on the church as an institution but rather on the church as an organism."
The writers of the twenty essays do a careful and caring job of describing African religious organisms. They help a reader understand not only how religions work, but also why men and women, of Africa or any continent, would let faith rule their lives. (February)
Meet the Author
Jacob K. Olupona is professor of African religious traditions at Harvard Divinity School and professor of African and African American studies in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University. He is the author and editor of many books, including "African Spirituality, Beyond Primitivism," and "African Traditional Religions in Contemporary Society," Terry Rey is associate professor of religion at Temple University. He is the author of "Our Lady of Class Struggle: The Cult of the Virgin Mary in Haiti and Bourdieu on Religion."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews