Home Opinion Opinion: What is the church’s main priority; the name or conviction?

Opinion: What is the church’s main priority; the name or conviction?


By Dedan Kimathi was Kanyoro

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine who from our interactions passes off Euro-Centric posed an intriguing question; “Can one be accepted into the Christian Faith without adopting a European name?

For a minute, I stared at him steadily trying to read his mind, trying to understand what could have motivated him to ask such a type of question. It then crossed my mind that he wants to strike a conversation or looking for an entry point to spew some Caucasian laced propaganda.

By the way, I enjoy Fred’s (Kajubi) company much as we usually don’t agree on almost everything every time. But we are used to one another, no beef. Usually on Fridays or Monday’s when Parliamentary business is low key, we talk about everything; marriage, Black Liberation, Religion, Economics, Governance, Music and sometimes sports.

We argue our voices hoarse until those next door beseech us to take a chill pill. This microscopic background is aimed at giving readers a glimpse of our intellectual relationship.

Finally I summoned up courage and I mentioned twenty two botanical or native names, including; Mukasa, Lwanga, Musoke, Bazzekuketta, Mulumba among others which belong to 19th Century Ugandans who were murdered by Kabaka Mwanga for refusing to do away with Christianity.

Suffice to note, the aforementioned were canonized and elevated to sainthood by Pope Paul VI in 1964.  I might have been wrong but I wanted to convince him that the Catholic Church, specifically; is multiracial and all welcoming.  

The fellow didn’t buy this, instead he told me that he was not interested in the names of Uganda but native names without any attachment to the Roman Catholic Faith. Names like Kiwuuwa, Luwaga, Nsubuga, Mpagi, Nanziri, Kyomuhendo, Baluku, Isabirye, Komagum, Akurut, Rwothomio, Karegyeya ET alia.

I realized that I had been cornered, my attempt (s) to dissuade him had fallen flat. I then tried to convince him that it is possible for adults to do away with their alien names through a deed poll.

A deed poll is a legal document used to change or adopt a name, required to be published in the National Gazette and eventually registered with the National Identification Registration Authority (NIRA). Fred or Kajubi still rejected that option and stuck to his guns.

 I usually describe myself as a ‘woke’ Christian, not an agnostic, as many of you would like to state. As such, I love to talk about the contradictions within the Roman Catholic Church like sexual abuse and the scandalous rein of Pope Sergius III (904-911) in the same way I exalt the institution for its healing prowess.

For those that are not so familiar with Sergius III, it is rumored that he fathered an illegitimate child while at the helm of the most powerful religion.

The reason I tried hard to divert Kajubi is because, personally; as someone who comes from radical families; Roman and Anglican, I am always mindful of the pain that comes with candid discourse.

That said, I now realize that Fred or Kajubi had a valid point. One that causes discomfort but needs to be discussed and resolved.

By the way, I don’t care about my piece getting rubbished as balderdash or gibberish or any sort of diatribe. My only interest lies in spurring debate about this subject matter.

Identity Problem

For a large part of my life, I have realized that as a people (Africans) at home or in the diaspora; we suffer from an identity crisis. Many of my peers in my category (children of the 90s) are not conversant with their family tree and cannot name their great grandfathers or even where ancestors migrated from, not even at gunpoint.

Many don’t know their clan totem or even the meaning of their surname but can easily narrate how Moses rescued Israelites from slavery in Egypt or Jesus’ miracles and how he walked on water.

Many don’t know that a black General called Toussaint Louverture liberated Haiti in 1804 or Haiti’s location but easily discern what goes on in King Charles III’s courtyard or in Ukraine.

And today, there’s a worrying trend that is creeping up in Africa where a kid is born and given only two Caucasian names, something like; James Joseph or Shay Diddy leaving out what would have been that child’s Kinyankore, Luo or Igbo name.

And this phenomenon is rife in people that we call Generation Z, those that were born between; 1997 – 2012 and the slightly older category known as Millennials (1981-1996).

These two categories resent everything pitch black, it doesn’t surprise me that a significant number especially females have taken on bleaching. To them, anything authentically African smells like cow s*** or is a curse. They would rather settle for something in between.

Much as some might contend that it is fancy that way, it highlights a fundamental problem with the modern day Black man. However it appears that this is not by accident but rather by design.

It seems the colonialists or their agents, in this case missionaries; knew that christening Caucasian names on unsuspecting Africans would obliterate a significant part of their history and hasten conquest.

Years after their departure, we still take pride in carrying the colonialist’s names and religion while we continue to reject ours.

Civil rights icon Malcom X kind of explains this in a March 17, 1963 interview on the “City Desk” Talk Show. Malcom himself after undergoing a reawakening, first scrapped off the ‘Little’ name that coincidentally shared with his father and replaced it with ‘X’  to symbolize his lost ancestral name.

He later on altered his name to El-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz after a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964. Long story short, he addressed it this way.

If a Chinese person was to say that his name is Patrick Murphy, you would look at him like he was innocent. Because Murphy is an Irish name, European name or one that has a Caucasian or white background. And a Chinese as a yellow man has nothing or no connections whatsoever with the name and it doesn’t look proper for a person who is yellow or Chinese to be walking around in a Murphy or Jones of James name. I think it would be improper for a black person or so called Negroes in this country….” Malcom reasoned.

Juxtaposing this with race relations in America of that time, he added, “The same slave master who owned us, put his last name on us to denote that we were his property. So if you see a Negro today whose name is Johnson, if you go back in history you’ll find that his grandfather or one of his poor fathers was owned by a white man whose name was Johnson.”

Maya Angelou (RIP), an American Poet once remarked “If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going.”

Unless we change our mindset, concepts like African Nationalism and East African Community (EAC) shall remain a pipe dream.

That said, what is the church’s main priority; the name or conviction?

                                                                                      Dedan Kimathi wa Kanyoro, the author is a Journalist

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