In light of looking at the mentality of the colonizers, now it’s time to turn our attention to the mentality of those colonized. Examine at the process of colonization as the forced absorbing of one story by another. Again, the clearest way I can relate this to people is by telling the story of Daniel. Many people are familiar with the story of Daniel in the lion’s den, but the back-story is what I’m interested in. The story is set against the exile of Israel. The Israelites were taken to a foreign land, not all of them, but their best and brightest young men. In effect, the exile robbed Israel of its brain trust, its future. Those men were in turn re-enculturated: indoctrinated with new language, new customs, even new names. Essentially brainwashed as a form of systematic control.

In a lot of ways, the idea of postcolonialism is a reflection upon the struggle for identity in a non-western paradigm/context. Sort of the cousin to the discussion on ontological blackness (identity politics, nigrescence, and race as shared story). Under colonialism, cultures were wiped out, the memories of our histories wiped out (and I say “our” realizing that this was something far from unique to the black story).

In the name of Jesus, what Gospel message was heard by those colonized? You are sinners, you’re going to hell, you need to be saved/forgiven of your sins, and we will tell you how. Had the message stopped there, it still would have been an incomplete Gospel, but one I could live with. Instead, the colonizers brought in and attached their own cultural baggage: trading one sin-soaked culture for the dominant sin-soaked culture. What we heard was a Gospel message clouded by self-interest: “we’ll trade you the Bible for your land and resources. And we’ll encourage that trade by use of the whip if we have to.”

The western imperialist hegemony trust in its own power, its political/economic alliances, its manifest destiny a little too much. When you create and buy into your own mythology, you want to be able to dismiss the lingering effects of slavery and ignore the colonial systematic oppression woven into the very fabric of this country and its systems (and worse, the colonialist mentality woven into our very hearts and minds). Those colonized, the victims, basically have two choices: accept the oppressors value system, being content to remain in their place; or re-define their reality, fight the oppression. You see, such a Gospel can’t help but make the hearers of it feel dirty, ashamed, inferior, afraid … then in Stockholm Syndrome-esque fashion, grateful.

Part of the mental process of colonization is that things are always about knowing or being put in your place. Disobedience has consequences, be it by whippings, lynchings, or separate but equal. If the slave experience shaped how black people see this country and its systems, it is not far-fetched to allow for that same history shaping how we see (and hear) the Gospel. The method was simple: if the metaphor or story that you live your life by can be changed, you will be changed.

“‘Are not you Israelites the same to me as the Cushites?’ declares the LORD . ‘Did I not bring Israel up from Egypt, the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir?’” Amos 9:7

Here’s the rub: this partial, baggage-laden Gospel was REJECTED! It wasn’t true to our (African) heritage, pride, and sense of self-worth. It wasn’t true to the Gospel of the Bible and it certainly wasn’t true to the triune God in whom we all find our worth and identity. God is sovereign and moves throughout history in ways I can’t begin to comprehend. The idea of Christ’s message being brought to Africa by the end of a whip, I won’t lie, I can’t put my mind around that. It’s too big. However I do know that ideas have consequences, and that colonialism had its lasting effects.

It’s the difference between people arriving here to escape tyranny and pursue freedom vs. those who arrived in chains to serve under tyrannical rule. How unless the oppressed, themselves, throw off the shackles of their oppressors, “self-esteem” can’t be reclaimed – self-hatred and a mentality of oppression will be in danger of ruling the day.

However, when you oppress the weak and poor of your own nation, trample on their freedoms, I can’t help but think that there are consequences for both the oppressed and the oppressor. There is this structure that reinforces the story oppressors tell themselves. They move over other cultures to lay down their own, their “idea” of Christianity – as if the culture can’t absorb the Gospel. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – existing in community and love, creating from an overflow of that shared communion. Wanting us to partake of that community and know its peace and love. God’s will not being a “pie in the sky when you die” message, but the reality that His will is being done now. Not that “you” are a sinner, but we all are sinners, but God’s kingdom is available to all of us now. Where faith meets social praxis, the dynamic of reflection and action. All cultures reconciled to Him. Justice to be done for all people. That is a more complete message of the Gospel, one that I can whole-heartedly get behind.

“Let’s conquer the world for Christ!” While I’m sure that Christ appreciates the sentiment, His was not a mission to conquer. That is part of colonial language, the trap of Imperial Christianity, kind of like me saying “go forth and make disciples … by any means necessary.” We use a lot of war imagery in the name of a man who said “those who live by the sword shall die by the sword.” Missionary work is about putting the Gospel message into the hearer’s cultural context. It’s about finding ways to contribute to people’s lives without turning them into the missionary’s image of what they ought to be. Guide them without assimilating them. Maybe in how black people in America were able to take the corrupted Gospel message and co-opt it – well, maybe there is something for the oppressors, the colonizers, to learn from their victims.