Observations on and the experience of Christianity
Economically, there is a large gap between the rich and the poor in Ghana, especially around Kumasi area. Oxfam, an international confederation, estimates that just one of the richest men in Ghana earns more in a month than one of the poorest women could earn in 1,000 years. The wealthiest 10% of Ghanaians now share 32% of Ghana’s total consumption – more than is consumed by the bottom 60% of the population combined, while the very poorest 10% of the population consumes only 2%.
This inequity of rich and poor is reflected in their houses, their ways of transportation, and clothing style. The rich normally will live in more grandeur buildings, while the poor will live in small home pieced together by woods and clay.
I noticed while we are traveling in Kumasi, around Accra, and Cape Coast (all very different cities) that one type of building is always considerably better than others —— the church.
From the excursion last week around the south part of Ghana, I have seen so many beautiful churches surrounded by slums. The sharp contrast between the buildings could indirectly concord with my observation that Ghanaian people hold strong belief towards religious beliefs.
I first noticed this phenomenon because a fifth-grade child from where I am working asked me, “Are you Christian?” on the first day of my work. When I said no, he asked me if I’m Muslim. When I explained I’m neither, he seemed disappointed and went back to his seats. From that first week, I have been observing the role of religion in Ghanaian’s life. I was asked that question a couple of times with the 4 weeks I have been in Kumasi. There’s often a God sticker on the transportation in Kumasi. Moreover, almost all the post signs (advertisement signs) are either a male prophet or priest; or a female celebrity advertising for food.
It is common to see people sitting around arguing and debating about their beliefs of God. I witnessed this phenomenon among the artists and merchants in Kumasi National Culture Center, the taxi drivers around Tech junction, and many more places. People see religion as part of their identity here in Ghana and it becomes hard for them to believe that somebody holds no religion.
The teacher from my working site was surprised when I said: “I have never heard another person in China talking about they were called by God and God asked them to teach the messages to his/her brothers and sisters”. Since the cultural revolution in China, most people become agnostic or atheists. It is a cultural unanimous consensus that people claiming they heard God are normally con man or women. Therefore, for me, the passionate and unquestionable belief towards God and the devotion to God was a huge cultural shock for me. To better understand their context, I went to a Sunday church called Resurrection Power and Living Bread Ministry, the branch in Santasi.
The ceremony started with songs praising God with drums and pianos. The music sounds like pop music instead of religious music to me. It’s beautiful, like a live music band. The host sang with full devotion top, full of emotion. Then the teaching started, and it was more like a lecture, where the priest asks questions and students answers. The lecture is about life philosophy and appropriate behavior in society. Then, to my surprise, a prophet came and started yelling at us for us to give money to the church. “From the bottom of your heart, GIVE! That’s what God wants you to do.” “GIVE! How much do you have! One thousand Cedi! Open your wallet and Give!” (He was shouting, which made the words sounds like they are from the higher world after listening to it for a while) He even asked people how much they are going to give, and then gave an example of an anonymous person giving two of his cars without saying his name. He then said, “What is the difference between Christian and Muslim? Muslims are lazy, they wait and receive, they wait for people to give to them, and Christians, we Give!” The religious ceremony then ended with us handing in our giving (money), and then music and singing. I learned later that that day was the Harvest day when people give back to the church. I enjoyed that experience, and would definitely come back again, because of the transcendent feelings this experience gives despite the prophet’s yelling. I think the church creates an oasis or a sanctuary for the citizens. All the people dress their best clothes to go to the churches, there’s music, and you could learn knowledge from God’s messenger. Moreover, there is advanced technology that I have never seen outside of the churches. In all, I think the glorious church serves an important social and cultural function, especially in Kumasi.
This blog posts gleaned on the observation made on the religious belief. There are a lot of scholarly articles about the interrelationship between Christianity and the Akan culture. Further research could be done on intercultural religion, how different cultures view religion differently. Examining the procedures and settings of the church in Ghana in comparison with those in China and the United States, and see the relationship between the differences of the church settings and cultural values.
“Ghana: Extreme Inequality in Numbers.” Ghana: Extreme Inequality in Numbers | Oxfam International. Accessed June 16, 2019. https://www.oxfam.org/en/even-it/ghana-extreme-inequality-numbers.
Nsiah, Alice & Nyama, Emmanuel. (2013). Christianity and Culture in Ghana: A Study of the Church of Pentecost Decree on Head covering and 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.