Things Fall Apart: Christianity vs. Animism

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Christianity vs. Animism

A major aspect of one’s society is religion. Without it, the way people hold themselves accountable would be nonexistent. In addition, many moral standards that exist today are values taken directly from religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Currently, there exists a feud between people who believe in a god, and of those who do not. Eventually those who believe in a higher power will fight against each other. In “Things Fall Apart”, Chinua Achebe brings to light the differences and similarities of Christianity and Animism in order to demonstrate the effects of religion upon one’s society, which is exemplified by Okonkwo and his people. This is noticed in the lives of the Ibo, the missionaries, and Okonkwo himself. The differences and similarities between Animism and Christianity do not become evident until the arrival of the white men and the missionaries. Due to the differences, the Ibo and the missionaries eventually go from living together peacefully, to being on the brink of war with one another. One such difference is seen in Mr. Smith’s actions towards church members and the members of the clan: Our Lord used the whip only once in His life –to drive the crowd away from His church. Within a few weeks of his arrival in Umuofia Mr. Smith suspended a young woman from the church for pouring new wine into old bottles. (184 – 185) In doing this, Mr. Smith showed the Ibo people that Christianity is a religion that is exclusive, and is only for an elite few. On the contrary, Animism is customary to the Ibo and is to be followed by all members of the clan. As a result, many of these half-heartedly committed members are held unaccountable for their actions and rely on precedents set by their ancestors and elders, unlike Christians whose laws are explained in the bible. Mr. Smith’s successor, Mr. Brown, also demonstrated a difference in that the God of Christians is to be proclaimed as a loving god who is to be feared only when His will is not done. On the other hand, Animism’s followers live in fear of their gods’ wrath and suffer spiritually, mentally, and emotionally for their gods’ happiness, “’You said one interesting thing,’ said Mr. Brown. ‘ You are afraid of Chukwu. In my religion Chukwu is a loving Father and need not be feared by those who do His will’” (180 – 181). Mr. Brown subtly brings up a theological paradox that is, “What is the point of living for a god that must be feared?” This difference greatly affects the Animistic and Christian way of life. Christians are to spread the word of God, serve their fellow men, and repent, and in doing this they need not fear God. Animists, specifically the Ibo, are to dedicate themselves to their chi or personal god, make sacrifices to their gods, and hope that their gods are not angry with them. Surprisingly, there is a similarity throughout all of this diversity. A major part of their religions is the belief in one God that created everything. Animists believe in Chukwu, who created everything including the other gods. Christians believe in a single God who also created everything but is divided by the Trinity into the Father, the son, and the Holy Spirit. This is brought up by Akunna “’You say that there is one supreme God who made heaven and earth,’ said Akunna on one of Mr. Brown’s visits. ‘ We also believe in Him and call Him Chukwu. He made all the world and the other gods’” (179). Akunna and Mr. Brown eventually find a similarity between their religions and this allows for their people to coexist for some time. The beliefs are not similar in that they believe in the same God, but rather they believe in one supreme god who shares power with no one else. The Ibo would not have been able to realize and assess certain downfalls of their society had it not been for the missionaries. Just as the missionaries learned from the Ibo, the Ibo people had been educated as well.

Though the Ibo never took an interest to Christianity, unless...
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