Akan Rites of Passage and Their Reception into Christianity: A Thelogical Synthesis (European University Studies: Theology, 768)
Robert Charles Snyper
$ 62.95 (new)
Paperback (320 pages)
Peter Lang Publishing
Reader ReviewsSemi-Informative Anthropological Exercise
I ordered this book as a follow-up reading to the 2000 book The Africans Who Wrote the Bible, which makes a connection between today's West African Akans and Ancient Egyptians and by that with the very roots of Judaism and Christianity. According to the title, I expected a more in-depth revisiting of the religious roots with the branches. Unfortunately, the author of 2002 seems to have escaped the above book, still cluelessly wondering about the extraordinary similarities between the two parts of religion.
Still, by the author's religious comparisons I could indirectly find the fascinating roots of some Jewish and/or Christian (and others') traditions: The veneration of saints, the fear of menstruation blood, circumcision, confession, re-incarnation, the witch hunt and others. Also, the concept of the "Supreme Being" and the (non-)existence of death is (indirectly) revealing. As a RasatafarI, I found the information on the concept of the ancestors rewarding. (As it is generally claimed Christianized Diasporans can't go back to that sort of concept.)
The book is a post-graduate dissertation for the Catholic Theological Faculty of the University of Tübingen, Germany. It becomes apparent that the main sources of information about the Akan are derived from books by German anthropologists. Even though the author is a Ghanaian, usually living and working as a Catholic priest in the land of the Akans. He in/directly quotes other authors, but usually remains shy of really commenting them or delivering some input of his own. The "Theological Synthesis" largely restricts itself to comparing various Western sources. Often, it remains unclear, wether the author just quotes or agrees.
The results are the following:
1. Even though critical of the neglect/absolute condemnation of Akan religious traditions by the official church, the author still harbours occasional religious attitudes of superiority over the "pagan" Akan religion, which he doesn't recognise as his very Christian roots.
2. Even though critical about the sexist consequences of the Church's treatment of the Akan matriarchal culture (or rather: matrilineal culture) and devoting the final chapter to the improvement of the situation of women in Christianity, any feminist's hair will turn grey while reading some of the author's statements.
3a. "Female and male homosexuals" will get offended, mostly by indirect statements. I am not mentioning that to raise the point by itself: It actually appears, however (in)directly, that the Akan traditional culture is a purely "heterosexual" one, has always been so and that no alternative would be able to fit into the described religious/cultural thinking. That is not so. (The above mentioned book also gives a hint to the contrary.) The various Akan tribes, like the Fanti, Ashanti, Anyi, Nzema etc. incorporate(d) various alternative concepts. The question is: Didn't the Ghanaian author know this by reading/considering German language books from a German Catholic university's library selection or did he tabooise this information? My point is: This dissertation obviously isn't authentic. What else might got omitted, tabooised or distorted? (For more information on this, read e.g. Boy-Wives and Female Husbands: Studies of African Homosexualities.)
3b. By omitting the very diverse alternative concepts among the various Akan peoples something else gets rubbed into the reader's face: The general monolithic description of "the Akans". Especially in comparison with the diverse description of the Christian "counterparts" according to various historical, geographic and denominational framesets. Much more room is given to Western religion than to Akan religion in that respective chapter. Which reveals a colonial mindset even though the author makes many anti-colonial statements.
Interestingly, on the other hand, the author makes all the arguments in favor of polygamy (but only for the supposedly only "natural" version of multiple wives for one husband). Which gives this book besides its rather questionable information value a somewhat selective ideological coloring.
On the other hand, I appreciated the author taking time to analyse and really define such vocabulary as culture, tradition, ethnicity etc., before he makes use of them. For usually, most other authors use them rather carelessly.
The bottom line is: I gained some worthy information and overstanding, yet this seems to represent some pieces of a much larger puzzle only. I certainly will have to look for further, much more authentic and in-depth information about the Akan culture(s) to enlighten the deep roots of Christianity/RastafarI/other world religions.