By Lenrod Nzulu Baraka
From time immemorial, deities have been invoked as communities and nations attempted to impose their wills upon other communities and nations. It was generally believed that military contests established beyond the shadow of a doubt which gods and goddesses were supreme. This philosophy is reflected in an amusing Bible story involving the Assyrians and the Israelites. The outcome of this old Bible story was predictable since in the eyes of the writers of the Bible, no god was stronger than the god of the Israelites.
In the Bible story, Sennacherib king of the Assyrians, invaded Judah after the other ten tribes of Israel had been defeated and scattered by the Assyrians. When the king of Assyria heard that the king of Judah was fortifying his city and getting ready for a ground assault by the Assyrians, the king of Assyria sent envoys with a letter clearly stating that the gods of the nations that had fallen were not able to stop the mighty Assyrian army and that Judah would suffer a similar fate to all the other kingdoms.
Fortunately for the kingdom of Judah, the deity of the Old Testament was spoiling for a fight. Jehovah, the almighty deity of the Jews promptly dispatched one of his deadliest angelic killing machines who made light work of the entire Assyrian army in what can only be described as an Israeli Defense Force on steroids style offensive. The defeated and disgraced Assyrian king was forced to retreat only to suffer the ultimate indignity of being dispatched to the realm of the ancestors by some of his own sons in an Assyrian church of all places. I guess the writer of the Bible story wanted readers to know that the deity of the Jews would execute an extra-judicial killing in a church if necessary.
European exploration and discovery were driven by a desire to extend European hegemony far and wide. Relatively small nations in Europe, buttressed by Muslim knowledge and Chinese gunpowder, set sail to encounter new people, steal their wealth, freedom, land, lives, and of course introduced them to the one true god whether they want to know him or not. All new lands were claimed for the sovereigns of Europe and for the church. Europeans projected the opinion that both their civilization and god were superior to the civilizations and gods of the indigenous people of the New World and the Africans.
The European invaders of Africa, the Caribbean and the Americas acted pretty much like the Israeli Defense Force in the ongoing Holocaust in Gaza. They smashed, trampled, and obliterated much of the way of life of the people they encountered. Entire communities were wiped out as the indigenous were corralled like animals and driven from their ancestral lands. Colonization, which started in the Canary Islands of the coast of Africa, soon spread to other islands in the Atlantic as Christopher (Should have Stayed at Home) Columbus embarked on his treacherous four voyages.
An entry in Columbus’ diary clearly reveals that Columbus had much evil on his mind when he first encountered the inhabitants of the Caribbean islands. Columbus entered in his diary the thought that with the aid of a few men he could easily subjugate the inhabitants of Hispaniola. Subjugation however did not simply mean the enslavement of the indigenous population. Columbus and the conquistadors that followed him wanted to place chains on both the hands and the minds of the indigenous people of the New World.
The three-in-one deity of the Europeans was established as the dominant object of veneration and worship at the expense of the zemino or spirits worshipped and venerated by the indigenous people of the New World. When Africans were introduced into the New World mix, similar attempts were made to force the Africans to abandon their creator god, spirits, and ancestors. Jehovah, Jesus, and the Ghost were promoted to the top of the divine food chain and crippling sanctions were imposed on anyone stupid enough to challenge the primacy of this mysterious, inexplicable three-in-one divine being.
It is highly regrettable that many of the indigenous of the New World and continental and Diasporan Africans continue to uncritically embrace the poison pills administered by the European invaders of the New World and the continent of Africa. In hindsight we can see that the coming of the European with their supposed superior civilization and religion did little to advance the cause of indigenous people or Africans.
South America and Africa are the two regions where Europeanized Christianity is still experiencing phenomenal growth. Ironically, South America and Africa are plagued with political instability, poverty, underdevelopment, civil wars, poor infrastructure and a brain drain that serves only to exacerbate the problems in these two regions. Clearly the proliferation of churches and the popularity of the three-in-one deity of the Europeans in these two regions has not resulted in the duplication of the economic prosperity enjoyed by the colonizing and proselytizing Europeans.
A study of the rise and fall of nations clearly reveals that the gods have very little to do with national fortunes. Staying abreast of technological advances and incorporating best practices in all spheres of knowledge will do more for the economic bottom line of nations than a steady addiction to Christianity or to any other spiritual tradition. The three-in-one deity of Europeans is no more relevant to national economic prosperity than are the deities of the indigenous people of the New World, the Africans, Indians, the Chinese, or Japanese. The sooner we come to grips with this reality the better it will be for indigenous and people of African ancestry. Lenrod Nzulu Baraka is the founder of Afro-Caribbean Spiritual Teaching Center and the author of Oreos, Coconuts, and Negropeans: Rediscovering Our African Identity.