Global Missiology English, Vol 3, No 16 (2019)

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Africa’s Metaphors Are Essential to Its Functioning and Identity: Ignore Them at Your Peril - by Jim Harries

Jim Harries - Alliance for Vulnerable Mission: chair; missionary in East Africa since 1988


Secular Western development interventions in Africa have largely failed to change Africa much for the better because they have, first, failed to engage the metaphors by which Africans perceive life; and, second, not supplied alternative metaphors which Africans find compelling. Outside interventions have failed to engage African metaphors because of a bias against their "unscientific" (spiritual, theological) nature. The bias is not against the metaphors themselves but against watered-down translations of them, which are straw men easily demolished. That bias prevents the West from taking the metaphors seriously enough to engage them in their own languages, process them in dialogue with biblical metaphors, and collaborate with Africa for the compelling, reformulated, genuinely African metaphors that can not only help lead Africa toward understanding itself, but free the West from its biased secularism toward a more Christ-centered, way of life.