This article in the London Times where an established atheist states- reluctantly- that Africa needs God recently came to my attention.
First of all, Mr. Parris must be commended for his honesty and objectivity. I find myself thinking that if he continues exhibiting that kind of honest seeking he will find himself a Christian!
You can read the story for yourself, but the essence of it is that Mr. Parris reflects on his actual observations of life in Africa and the impact of missionaries he witnessed. He cannot deny that it has been positive which poses problems for his worldview. I also appreciated this observation, which he rejects:
There’s long been a fashion among Western academic sociologists for placing tribal value systems within a ring fence, beyond critiques founded in our own culture: “theirs” and therefore best for “them”; authentic and of intrinsically equal worth to ours.
He’s absolutely right to reject this, and for the reasons he mentioned.
The ruddy fact is that beliefs have consequences and for better or for worse, seeds bear fruit, and the fruit is always determined by the seeds planted. This is reality and while it might be mocked and the connection between seeds and fruit sometimes strained and resisted, ultimately reality makes itself known. It makes itself known at our peril if we defy reality rather than conform ourselves to it.
For all of its faults (and they are many), the Christian Church has been a force for good in the world and the overall tendency is to produce truly liberated individuals. It has this astounding ability: it can liberate even those who remain in physical chains and bondage. Christianity allows one to detach the question of their identity from their circumstances. This is the undeniable trend, exceptions factored in. Parris gets it.
As someone who has friends in Africa as missionaries, I can see how Mr. Parris can come to the conclusions he does. These people are some of the finest people who walk the earth and I can see how anyone coming in touch with them- and those like them- encounter a reality that cannot be mocked.