Imagine that your state is having an energy crisis. It can't produce enough electricity to cover the needs of your state, and the energy facilities are old and need to be updated. As a result, you start having power outages on a regular basis.
Sometimes it's just a couple hours in a day. Sometimes it's 12 hours in a day. You never know exactly when you will lose power or for how long.
Imagine trying to do business in these conditions. When there's no power, not only is there no light in your office building or store or school, but no computer, no cash register, no internet. The traffic lights don't work, so traffic snarls and it takes you twice as long to get anywhere. This goes on for weeks....months.
Oh--and it's summer. Temperatures average in the 90's everyday. When the power is out, no air conditioning. No fans.
Then imagine, that in the midst of this, an enormous scandal comes to the surface. The governor of your state has actually been pilfering the energy budget. Money that could have gone to producing more energy, or repairing old facilities, has actually gone into his pocket. To tune of 120 million dollars.
This is a true story.
Just a few days ago, it came out that the Tanzanian Prime Minister (along with a few others) stole $120 million dollars from the energy budget.
Some members of parliament are asking him to resign. Others actually want him to stick around. Interestingly enough, the exact same thing happened with Tanzania's previous prime minister, just a few years ago. He did actually have to resign. But there's no indication there was ever a trial. In fact, it seems he may still be one of the richest men in Tanzania. So there's not a lot of hope that justice will be done the second time around.
And yet, life goes on. We lost power for 12 hours one day last week. Yesterday, it was off for 9 hours. Yet there is no picketing, no rioting, no public outrage.
In Africa, this is barely a scandal. It is ordinary life.
Why is this? Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world. Yet even when something like this happens, the people sadly shrug their shoulders and get on with life. The power goes off again, and my heart breaks for the shopkeeper whose entire supply of ice cream melts. The power goes off again, and my heart breaks for the welder who sits idle. The power goes off again, and my heart breaks for the hard-working carpenter who can't pay his kids' school fees. The power goes off again, and millions upon millions of productive hours are lost, all across the country.
And the man responsible simply "resigns" and lives his life in luxury.
Why is this happening?
Ideas have consequences.
In Africa, animism is the predominant worldview. Even among many who claim to be Christian or Muslim.
Animism is the belief system that the world is governed by capricious, irrational spirit beings. They are unpredictable and usually mean. There is no rhyme or reason to what they do. You cannot control them and there is very little point in trying.
Thus, many Africans believe:
We are poor and will always be poor.
Why try to change it?
There is nothing we can do.
We are trapped in poverty.
Those who are in power--the chiefs, the government officials, even many times the pastors--they are higher in the spiritual hierarchy. If you mess with them, you mess with the spirits. If you mess with them, you're bringing a heck of a lot of trouble on yourself.
you don't question them.
You don't hold them accountable.
"Animists have fled from the righteous and holy Creator to a multitude of gods who act arbitrarily, on their own inscrutable whims--the perfect models of corrupt power." (Darrow Miller, Discipling Nations)
This is why Africa does not need more government aid. This is why Africa does not simply need more wells or more shoes or more schools.
Until the underlying worldview is addressed, there will not be change in Africa. This is why Africa needs the gospel to penetrate its worldview.
What does biblical Christianity have to offer Africa?
The idea that progress is possible. Our Creator gave us the earth to subdue and cultivate. We can control it; it does not control us. Hard work, creativity, and efficiency can make a difference.
The idea that every man is equal and under the authority of his Creator. There is no spiritual hierarchy. We are accountable to God; we will one day give an account for our actions. Integrity, honesty, and justice are to be cherished and upheld in a God-fearing community.
"Having justice linked to the unchanging nature of a holy God undermines the power structures of animistic society." (Darrow Miller)
Earlier this year, sociologist Robert Woodberry published his research that throughout the history of nations, the more Christian missionaries have been in a country, the greater the presence of democracy and justice in that country.
Stunningly, a few years ago atheistic journalist Matthew Paris wrote an article titled, "As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God." He said:
"Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosophical/spiritual framework [of animism.]"
Of course, though I absolutely believe in the power of God and the Truth of His worldview, Christians themselves can be wretched. I am not defending everything that's been done in the name of Christ. I also believe that just as the animistic worldview in Africa needs to be challenged by biblical truth, so does the secularist worldview in my own country.
But when you consider that two of Tanzania's prime ministers, back-to-back, steal millions from the energy budget and get away with it, you've got to wonder what's really got to happen for change to take place.
"Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted." (Matthew Paris)
The problem is not poverty. The problem is not a lack of resources. The problem is not a lack of education.
The problem is the human heart. And that, my friends, is changed only through the gospel of Jesus Christ.