EDITORIAL This is a very mixed issue with no single theme. Birgit Meyer's detailed analysis of the diabolisation of Ewe terms and spirits is a major study, well-rooted in a particular culture and church but of continent-wide significance. It helps to elucidate the way Chris- tianity has been Africanised through particular modes of personify- ing evil within popular theology, modes drawn both from 19th cen- tury evangelicalism and from African tradition. This sort of African theology 'from below' can be central to the reality of modern African Christianity. While Jack Nelson's discussion of clergy salaries in Zaire may seem a very long way away from Meyer's discussion of witches in Ghana, here too we are faced with an almost continent-wide phenomenon within Protestant churches. Moreover the two are not entirely unrelated, because both constitute aspects of the struggle African churches are going through in the post-missionary era to remain loyal to the mind of their missionary founders while becom- ing ever more deeply African social and intellectual entities. Lamin Sanneh's stimulating new book, Translating the Message, seemed a good topic for dialogue. So we asked two scholars to com- ment and Professor Sanneh to reply. We believe that some of the issues raised are crucial to the interaction of Islam and Christianity with African tradition, which is near the centre of this Journal's interest. Readers will choose their own side, but it has to be admit- ted that if Christianity has-as Sanneh argues-a built-in commit- ment to translatability not so evident in Islam, nevertheless Chris- tianity in at least some of its guises in Africa as elsewhere has shown a reluctance to be translated at least as considerable as that of Islam. And scoring at one end or another of the flexible-inflexible spectrum is no proof of truth or even appropriateness. It is simply one among a number of possible characteristics of religious phenomena.
Journal of Religion in Africa – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1992
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