This is part of a series on 5 Reasons Why Africa is Poor (#1 Weak Institutions, #2 Culture, #3 Religion (this article), #4 Geography and #5 Poor Governance) of which this one looks at the third reason, that being our religious beliefs.
According to Wikipedia, a religion is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence. Many religions have narratives, symbols, and sacred histories that aim to explain the meaning of life, the origin of life, or the Universe as we know it.
In that are also rituals and daily activities that help individuals connect to a higher power and accomplish the will of that being. Usually highly emphasized are works and activities that ensure virtuousness is maintained. One of the major defining characteristics of religion is that if this lifestyle is not observed, there are dire consequences in this as well as the next life.
In order to do this subject justice and not get misunderstood, we need to first open with a clear distinguishing between being religious and being spiritual in the truest form and way. This is gonna be evangelical in nature but I would be doing a great disservice if I did not show you the difference herein.
Religion vs. True Christianity
There is a great difference between RELIGIOSITY, CHURCHIANITY and CHRISTIANITY. Many are GOING TO CHURCH but few are GOING DOWN THE ROAD WHICH LEADS TO LIFE (Matthew 7:13-14). Many name the Name of Christ (2 Tim. 2:19) and claim to be Christians but few understand what a Christian really is. Many are RELIGIOUS but few are RIGHT WITH GOD. May God help us to understand the difference between RELIGION and true CHRISTIANITY as set forth in the Word of God, the Holy Bible.
In all the paragraphs outlined in this section, the first refers to religion and how one lives by it, the second relates to true faith as a Christian and how we live by it. After reading this part you will immediately realize that we have many folk who are religious and call themselves Christians when they should in fact be called Churchians!
“Salvation is something I must do. I must somehow earn or gain salvation by the way I live.”
“Salvation is something only God can do. Salvation is of the LORD!” (Eph. 2:8-9; Jonah 2:9).
Religion is summed up in one word: DO – man trying to DO different things to please God and earn His favor.
Christianity is summed up in one word: DONE – Christ dying on the cross to save sinful man (John 19:30).
The religious man is busy “working” (doing good works) in order to be saved.
The saved person is “not working” (Rom. 4:5) but is RESTING upon the finished work of Another (that other being Jesus Christ)
TRUSTING (Acts 16:31)
A Work to Do which is never done (How can anyone work well enough and hard enough to earn salvation?)
A Word to Believe (1 Pet. 1:25) about a Work that is Done (1 Pet. 1:18-19).
Man hoping to save himself
God saving hopeless man (1 Tim. 1:15)
RELIGION is man trying to BRING HIMSELF TO GOD (by human effort, good works, ritualism, traditionalism, sacraments, etc.).
CHRISTIANITY is Christ BRINGING US TO GOD on the basis of what He did for us on the cross (1 Peter 3:18).
Religion is man trusting his own good works (Titus 3:5).
Salvation is man trusting the good work which the Lord Jesus did on the cross (Rom. 3:22-26).
A religious ritual
A real relationship (John 17:3)
Enjoying life (John 6:47; 10:10).
“I must reform my life and turn over a new leaf”
“I must be born again” (John 3:7).
Knowing Someone (John 17:3)
Man trying to please God in the wrong way (Rom. 8:8 “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God”).
Man truly pleasing God in the only way (Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him”).
Seeking to earn God's favor by works
Receiving God's favor by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8 and see Eph. 1:6).
“I can work my way to heaven and earn my salvation” (Romans 6:23 teaches that we have earned our way to hell: “the wages of sin is death”)
“I could never live well enough to earn my way to heaven. Christ had to pay the price for my salvation” (1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Pet. 1:18-19).
“Salvation is something that a person must earn.”
“Salvation is a free gift” (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9; John 4:10).
The sinner sees himself as good (Luke 18:11-12).
The sinner sees himself as sinful (Luke 18:13).
The religious man compares himself with others (Luke 18:11).
The saved man sees himself as God sees him (1 Samuel 16:7; Psalm 53:1-3; Rom. 3:10-12).
TRUSTING SELF (Luke 18:9)
TRUSTING CHRIST (Eph. 1:12-13)
BOASTING IN SELF (Luke 18:11-12)
BOASTING IN THE LORD (1 Cor. 1:29-31; Eph. 2:9)
“I have kept the law! I have done that which God has required” (Matthew 19:16-20).
“I have broken the law but I am trusting the One who came into this world to save guilty lawbreakers” (1 Tim. 1:15).
A religious man trying to earn his way to heaven by works may be likened to a man trying to swim from New York to London by his own efforts and energy and strength. He will never make it!
The person who is saved by faith is likened to a man getting on a ship in New York and trusting that ship to bring him safely to London. This man simply rests upon the ship and lets the ship do all the work.
The religious man is seeking to establish his own righteousness (Rom. 10:3).
The saved man is satisfied with the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).
Religion is pictured in Genesis 3 by the fig leaves that Adam and Eve made for themselves – a terrible covering (Gen. 3:7 and see Isaiah 64:6).
Salvation is pictured in Genesis 3 by the coats of skin which God provided by way of the shedding of blood – a perfect covering (Gen. 3:21; Rev. 19:8).
CAIN'S RELIGION – “I bring to God the labor of my own hands” (Gen. 4:3).
ABEL'S FAITH – “I bring to God a blood sacrifice. An innocent substitute must die to save me” (Gen. 4:4).
Hoping to be saved by good works (a false hope)
Saved unto good works by God's grace (Eph. 2:10).
Religion teaches that good works are the cause of salvation.
The Bible teaches that good works are the result of salvation.
Religion says, “Good works are those things that a person does to be saved.”
The Bible says, “Good works are those things that a saved person does” (James 2:14-26).
“Christ is my Example and Teacher. I try to follow Him and live as He lived.”
Christ is my Savior and Substitute. I am trusting Him and only Him to save me” (Luke 23:40-43).
“I hope I will be saved.” “I think I will be saved.” “I feel that I will be saved, maybe.”
“I KNOW I am saved right now” (1 John 5:13 – “These things have I written unto you that believe on to name of the Son of God; that ye may KNOW that ye have eternal life”).
As has been clearly demonstrated from the above contrasts, Religion is actually an institution established by man for various reasons which include but are not limited to exerting control, instilling morality and dogma. Organized, structured religions all but remove god from the equation.
Spirituality is born in a person (through salvation) and develops in the person (through the daily feeding of the word). It may be kick started by a religion, or it may be kick started by a revelation. Spirituality extends to all facets of a person’s life, not just their days of worship. Spirituality is chosen while religion is often times forced.
The Challenging Factors
Unfortunately, even I as a Christian realize the challenge we face when it comes to true faith and spirituality as we live in a fallen world, and that world has manipulative people seeking power to dominate and control, to their own selfish benefit, and even the church of Christ has such wolves posing in sheep’s clothing, seeking which sheep to devour.
What follows then is the perhaps the most harmful way in which religion (even within the Christian faith’s clergy) has become a millstone around the necks of men and as such has perpetuated poverty in Africa.
By this author’s standards, religion is the foremost factor in propagating poverty more than all the other four factors. If the list were to be arranged in order of harmfulness from the most to the least, then it would be religion at the top of the list, then culture, geography, poor governance and finally weak institutions.
Let us look at precisely how religion does this in Africa.
Religiosity = Poverty
The first big surprise is that there is a very interesting correlation between religious countries and poverty. Did you know that the top 30 richest countries in the world are the least religious whilst the bottom fifty poorest countries are almost 100% religious? What is it that causes poverty to work hand in hand with religiousness?
As you may know, there is only one exception to this above “fact”, the USA; it is generally religious but rich as a nation. I will show you later on why this is the case.
The poor nations’ religions biggest negative teaching emphasizes the “pie in the sky” paradigm. This basically tells people that you are no responsible for all that happens on earth, that you simply “resign” to your fate and best of all, that there is a better life ahead in the afterlife. The emphasis is in being fatalistic in outlook.
The rich nations stopped being fatalistic (as wrongly taught by religious establishment) and instead believed in their capacity and continue to do so to change their future through their own efforts (talents, gifts, skills, efforts, abilities, resources etc.). This has then seen them overcome great odds, identify their weakest points and then collectively work to eliminate these factors.
The USA Anomaly
Their religion emphasizes a “here and now” mindset besides the hereafter. As such the mindset emphasizes is the utilization of all talents and abilities for the betterment of their livelihood today. We are now seeing this form of “prosperity gospel” being preached in poor countries as well, the only challenge being that religious dogma has still a great stranglehold on many people’s mindsets that they either totally reject the truth taught within it, or else, embrace it believing it’s a panacea to wealth without the factors of time, effort and value (skills).
The saddest part is that the vultures that stand behind religion know that the poor are the most vulnerable and thus susceptible to being fleeced out of their hard earned resources, and so use religious dogma as a vehicle to amass wealth (more later).
Tool for Mind Control by the Ruling Class
Above all else, religion has been and continues to be the most powerful tool that is being used by the establishment as a tool for mind control. With religion the ruling class can justify war, oppression and downright slavery.
In case you did not know, Jesus Christ was the most anti-religious person to ever get credited for starting a movement that has spread to the entire world and have the most lasting influence ever. In spite of the fact that religiosity has been born out of his teaching, that is not what He taught – for He loathed any form of religiousness – period. He taught and emphasized spirituality through faith in Him, not men’s institutions.
He was so anti-religious that he tells them off and shows why they are so empty and burdensome. You can read his entire speech in Matthew 23 where he calls them out for what they are – control freaks!
With religion the ruling class can justify inequitable wealth distribution using the five key seeds shown below.
Religion has been used time immemorial as a means to control the poor. This is done by instilling the “suffer now and benefit in the afterlife” mindset. It is this teaching that caused a great awakening of the protestant movement in medieval times when Martin Luther learnt the shocking truth about the mother church after his visit to Rome.
Religion controls the poor by teaching what is termed the “suffering” model. It is thus touted as a mark of piety and emphasized by “works”. If you suffer more, you get a greater reward in the afterlife epitomized by bliss.
Three key factors are erroneously emphasized.
2. Kingdoms and Empires
Religion also promoted their leaders as being gods/god’s reps on earth and thus imposed a ruling and slave class system upon the populace. This has been practiced since ancient times and the idea of nobility finds its greatest strength through religious institutions. Nobility suggests that the ruling class have special blood (sacred) and thus rule over the “commoners” who serve the elite.
One of the darkest chapters in the history of the world was mass enslaving. The ruling class usurped authority from the poor, forced them to convert and then had them enslaved for forced labor. The slave trade was justified by religion. The whites had a right to rule and blacks had no rights but be slaves.
It took centuries before the abolitionists and rights activists begun to work fervently to eliminate it – but not before seeing the great toll it had on the development of a continent and its citizens – the Africans.
This was the “back end” of Christianity as a religion. When missionaries came to preach the gospel, the came with the three C’s namely Christianity, Civilization and Commerce. The idea was convert, modernize and then exploit.
They converted us to Christianity but with a subtle plant, by using imagery of a white Jesus Christ with blonde hair and blue eyes. He looked just like the missionary! He then “civilized” us with his technology and “etiquette” so that we now looked, dressed and talked like him. He further divided us into ethnic groupings and then used color code to separate us. Whites, Indians, Colored and Blacks with blacks being classed the least and whites the most.
This brought about the fifth seed, shown below.
5. White supremacy
White supremacy gets its greatest advocacy in religion. Unfortunately Christianity has been that vehicle that has carried this terrible seed. Here in the propagators of this teaching have taught that “white” is good (white list, white magic etc.) and “black” is evil (black list, black magic etc.)
Slavery, Apartheid and the Jim Crow laws all got their strength and validation from religion through the misapplication of the Bible. The idea was not to teach the truth that sets free, but the lies that bind and enslave masses – in this case the indigenous black Africans.
This teaching was so powerfully engrained by using force, through lynching, through killing, by false teaching and by perpetuating an environment that disenfranchised black people and favored white people through inferior education and lack of equal opportunities in order to keep them blind, deaf, dumb and dead.
By continually placing this teaching everywhere, it did not take long before black Africans believed and even accepted to be trampled on and even stolen from, through colonialism and neocolonialism.
One of the most obvious proofs of this dangerous seed is seen in the “bleaching” of skin so openly practiced by people of darker skin pigmentation. The inferiority complex is so engrained that now lighter skinned is seen as angelic and beautiful whilst darker skinned is seen as poor and classless – This has caused the “skin bleaching” industry to boom.
Therein lies the proof, blacks actually now believe that they are so cursed that they have to change their own identity into that of their oppressor to be seen as progressive. This is evidenced by the term “bazungu” for anyone of influence or power. Very tragic.
The above items have imposed and emphasized the fact that with this “religious” angle, the elite can continue amassing wealth whilst the poor are kept distracted by the emphasized teachings as shown above. They then justify the continued suffering which works both ways
Now, when we know our purpose, therein lies our destiny and then, the journey becomes one of learning, giving and becoming salt and light. Salt is representative of its ability to bring change to the flavor of society to bring about positive and equitable lasting wealth. Light is representative of illumination from the darkness of poverty and illiteracy, bringing about the greater good of society through the establishment of positive legacies for posterity.
In the next article, we will be looking at the matter of how geography has had an adverse effect on the ability for Africa to create and retain wealth.
This is part of a series on 5 Reasons Why Africa is Poor (#1 Weak Institutions, #2 Culture (this one), #3 Religion, #4 Geography and #5 Poor Governance) of which this one looks at the second reason, that being our culture especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Generally speaking, culture is very widespread, so an appropriate description is in order, however, unlike the previous article, we will keep this one short and so get our definition straight from Wikipedia.
Culture is, in the words of E.B. Tylor, “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.” The Cambridge English Dictionary states that culture is, “the way of life, especially the general customs and beliefs, of a particular group of people at a particular time.”
Based on the above definition, we could thus say that all manner and behavior wholly embraced and lived by any particular group of people in a given location over time can be correctly termed as their culture. As such, even religion is very much part of culture.
However, for this particular series I have chosen to separate them because religion does especial harm to Africans and reinforces the factors that further intensify poverty on this continent – especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Let us then briefly look at each one and see it as a component of the whole cultural context of this particular dilemma.
Knowledge – The beneficial application of collective information and experience as shared by society and passed on from one generation to the next. With the advent of literacy, this has allowed for better preservation and passing on of ideas more consistently.
We however cannot ignore the effect of poorly funded education sectors and how this in turn negatively affects the proper exploitation of knowledge.
Belief – Herein lies the greatest enemy of progress and growth in Africa (more later)
Art – The preservation of culture in Africa has been a painful process. The early Christian Missionaries worked against many art forms declaring them pagan and demonic without fully understanding them. When this is coupled with the consistent and systematic reprogramming of locals from their mother tongues to colonial languages, this worked to erase much art which today remains lost in antiquity.
Morals – Our morals today get more degraded by Western influence especially through entertainment, specifically through the medium of music and film. Most youth now can be seen modeling themselves after their favorite pop, R&B, Hip-Hop or Reggae icons or film stars to such an extent that it results in a Hodge podge of lost identity – this coupled with a language that is not ours.
Law – This is the factor that determines the “rules of the game”. It is a fact that the more complex and fair the laws of a given society are and the ability to bring to justice those flouting these laws (through regulation and enforcement through the arms of governance), the more civilized that society is. Even more pronounced is the general improvement and wellbeing of its members.
Customs – The code of ethics and behavior that forms our very core of being African, by which we are defined. Many tribes have different customs though many are very similar, especially among black Africans and hence forge the amalgam known as customs.
In spite of this all, we still have evolved cultures that are driving nails into the heart of wealth creation and instead leaving in its wake poverty and suffering.
Now having looked at the full definition of how culture relates to in the context of African poverty, let us now see how this is a major causative agent in perpetuating poverty.
The Challenging Factors
There is a great enemy of progress in Africa, an enemy that has really siphoned untold potential out of the system and perpetuated mediocrity. It does not seem to be ending and if it is not called what it is – retrogressive, it will continue to be a plague to our wealth creation potential and blot to our progress.
Clan Based Thinking
This would be defined as a systematic placement of personnel based not on their competence or abilities but rather on their affiliation by family, tribe, clan or political attachment or support.
Whist this may look good on the outset for those who wish to promote and support such thinking, it has detrimental effects on the overall development of any nation where this is widespread. Unfortunately, most Sub-Saharan Africa perpetrate this thinking, and in some countries even going as far as outright genocide.
What is most critical though is that even if the person applying is known by the employer, the jobs are usually offered on merit, they pick the best man or woman for the job – period!
Regrettably, here in Africa the opposite happens, people are always picked not because they are capable, have the skills, qualifications and abilities, but are picked because they are related to someone, or are of the same tribe, clan or are “connected.” Whilst this may be good for those seeking employment or contracts, it is dire for the nations involved.
This is also another level of corruption. It is based on the premise that connections come above delivery or results. This is about eating before cooking, reaping before sowing, harvesting before planting. The emphasis is no longer about competence but loyalty and the problem with this is that in the end, no results are even considered, everyone looks out for their interests (what they can amass for themselves) – period. This is at the detriment of the nations involved.
In Africa this is usually based on tribe (same region, dialect), clan (same class, family or roots) or political membership. This practice is widespread all across society. From the public sector to the private sector, people are picked based on the above, not their abilities. Therefore the net output suffers as these individuals simply cannot deliver.
This is worst felt in areas where technocrats, experts and consultants services are required in critical sectors either in management positions or technical capacity. Instead of placing someone who understands and has the expertise to help solve pressing problems, they get someone who does not even know where to start from – and so they either waffle their way, or simply make wrong decisions. This leads to overall under-performance, incompetence and deteriorating standards. Add it all up at national scale and the results are catastrophic.
It is such that has been the root behind the inability to see continuity, planning and strategic execution of policy as individuals heading or working within these sectors are clueless. This perpetuates mediocrity and ultimately poverty.
This kind of thinking says “I am owed a piece of the pie” and therefore sits waiting to be given the same. It is aptly referred to as a “chip on the shoulder” which speaks of someone who has a self-righteous feeling of inferiority or a grudge that demands compensation beyond reason. This thinking expects to receive at all times. It is aptly represented by the common colloquial “batiyanganileko” that feels entitled. It is commonly pushed in socialism.
Unfortunately socialism in this author’s opinion does not work. Here’s an illustration to prove the point.
A class teacher indicates that he is going to mark everyone “fairly” and give an average for all effort performed by a class instead of giving individual marks for each person. In his first test after all marking, the class had a B+ average and everyone was praised. As you can imagine the A students were displeased whilst the D and F students were over the moon. In the next test, the class average dropped to C. The A students did not see any point in working for others whilst the D and F students didn’t even bother. By the fifth test the entire class got an F as the average.
The moral of the lesson is simple, people respond best to a reward system, and rewards should be given to those that work the hardest. This principle is true even with God as He will reward according to works and results achieved, there will be no “socialism” per se in heaven.
This is true on earth. All nations that pick this model inevitably fail. The better model is to reward according to work performed, in essence capitalism. When people realize that their best efforts go to fund lazy people who have not worked, they also chose to do less and less until the overall effect is that everyone ends up in the “F” zone!
The entitlement mentality believes the world owes them something in return, and so sit back and wait for government or organizations (like the church) to “do something” and alleviate their poverty. Unfortunately reality does not operate like that. If one does not work, they shall not eat (the words of St. Paul). Life rewards those who work.
According to Fin Scope 2015 Report, about 1 in 5 adults in Zambia are dependents in homes. This is yet another facet of the entitlement mentality.
In the “7 Principles for Financial Prosperity” we have the 7 common reasons why people get into debt. At #3 is “subsidizing a lifestyle” under which we have what I coined “the messiah complex”. This is where breadwinners try to become the “messiah” of their families and are burdened with taking care of virtually all their relatives.
We show that this perpetuates misery and poverty because family members tend to have the above “entitlement” mindset which sees them all sit around waiting for their messiah to provide. Over time this can have a serious negative impact on wealth creation. Progressive nationalities have learnt to synergize their efforts for betterment of the entire family. Unfortunately, a large percentage simply sits around and waits for their benefactor to bring in the dough!
Another extension of the entitlement mentality. In this case the problem is intensified by the education system that creates job seekers to feed the industrial system instead of identifying and allowing children to specialize early through determining what their aptitude is and where their greatest potential is.
Instead we have a one-size-fits-all style of education. It rewards left brainers (analytical, methodical and memorizers) instead of also considering right brainers (creative and abstract). It focuses on getting everyone to learn so much that is irrelevant instead of specializing in what is suitable.
The result is lost potential and wealth. The result is kids getting into school with the paradigm “go to school, get high grades and then get a good paying job”. But then, how many of those are available?
The world is now changing. Gone are the days (except in the civil service) when you showed up, clocked in, hang your jacket, shuffled some files and got paid. Now the time has come when pay is pegged to performance. KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are the language of the corporate sector. Numbers, bottom lines, profits, dividends, and shareholders are what matter, if the numbers don’t add up, then you get downsized – which is a nice term for being retrenched or let go.
This has made the rich countries prosper immensely and seen the overall effect benefit everyone. Poor countries focus on resource pilferage and nepotism, and these coupled with corruption have ensured perpetuity of poverty levels.
Herein is another bomb. We have decided to always be receiving. The Bible declares that it is more blessed to give than to receive and yet we want to be receiving at all times. This has meant that the giver gets more blessed, whilst the receiver gets the lesser blessing – the immediate satisfaction of the need, but not the ending of the problem.
In rich countries, most citizens have learnt to become a resource, meaning they give more, they help solve problems. They have an obsession within their area of calling. They are working.
Below are some differences between being in a job and work.
I have some news for us all, we need to simply wake up. STOP THE DEPENDENCY MENTALITY! Realize that the only way we can emancipate ourselves is by becoming resources. In the words of President John Kennedy, “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”.
Become a resource, a source of progress and strength. Start your journey toward your destiny. Seek what it is that God has placed inside you.
We are the change we seek. Nobody is coming from outside to help us. And even if they do, for as long as we still want to go around the world with a begging bowl asking for handouts, we forever will be cursed to remain dependents, looking out for messiahs to come and “save us”.
But if we realize that God has given us all the resources and abilities, and also the wealth in our ground, and then get out there and begin to work, then we will see wealth begin to accumulate and grow. Then we will see our nations become wealthier. Then we will see our people blossom. Our GDP will increase, our grounds will become rich, our works will speak for us, and our prosperity will become a reality!
In the next article, we will be looking at the greatest poison of our continent – religion!
Rev Walter Mwambazi
Author of "The 7 Principles for Financial Prosperity", Life Coach, Facilitator, Peak Performance Coach, Digital Marketing Professional, Network Marketer, Health & Wellness Consultant, Pastor, Copy Writer, Motivation Speaker & Writer.