Having expanded as a civilising religion during the era of European colonialism, the growth of Christianity in Africa in the decades after the 1960s has revealed a tendency to reject European patronage, choosing either to ‘pentecostalise’ (to various extents) and, following American-styled expressions of Christianity, to globalise or to embrace a new identity as independent African denominations.
This globalisation of African Christianity has been influenced greatly by American Evangelicalism and with this came the legitimisation of celebrity-styled preachers and the prosperity gospel which has, in turn, led to some African evangelical and Pentecostal preachers using fear to dominate and exploit vulnerable people.
In Western discourses on African Christianity, these prosperity-preaching ministries dominate the conversation. However, a majority of African Christians, especially in rural Africa, have no clue what it is.
Soyinka is against charlatanism, fundamentalism and extremism in religion. He has written and spoken at length about what he perceives as the imperialist tendencies in the two leading religions. He gives many examples of abuse of power and the weaponisation of fear in his creative writings as well as in newspaper articles, lectures (particularly the 2004 BBC Reith Lectures that resulted in his book, Climate of Fear), and other works.
What is particularly troubling here is his tendency to demonise all religion without acknowledging the good that it stands for.
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