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an alternative ethic

December 2nd, 2019 | 2 min read

By Matthew Loftus

In the current context, where everyone is talking about the world as a global village, it is important to undertake an exploration into the particularities of the indigenous world view of Africa. We wish to sample them because they have implications for the wider purpose of the discussion on the relevance of African spirituality in the contemporary world.

Perhaps the most compelling and inclusive reason to undertake this study is that there is a global need for an alternative ethic, a different approach to living life as opposed to  the technologically controlled kind that we are familiar with today, an ethic that emphasizes the good and is not content only with what is right. At the very least, it now seems necessary to construct and inculcate a new “technological ethic.” Many observers point out that unbridled technological development does not and cannot adequately provide for the the survival of humankind and the comprehensive good of the universe. There seems to be something more to life than modern science and technological progress. While it serves no purpose to paint a caricature of the contemporary condition of the world, it must be said that humanity has a crisis on its hands, and one largely of its own making. The general description of the crisis is that we live in times that tend to be defined by a kind of individuating revelry, leaving serious disfigurement of human universal relationships int is wake. The domination of the earth, excessive materialism, and negation of the identity of the weak mark these human relationships Although the danger is not acknowledged by everyone, there is enough accumulating evidence to make it credible and to consider those who dismiss it either ignorant or irresponsible.

This situation might be characterized as the contemporary “dominant “religion,” if the term is understood as the fundamental beliefs and consequent practices people live by. It originated in Europe but has spread to Africa and elsewhere, mainly through the globalizing of Western civilization. Based on consumerism, it has become a source of social contradictions of extreme wealth and poverty in local and universal social arrangements and has gradually eliminated any other relational consideration. The consequences so far have been conflict and violence, in short, “bad growth.” This situation makes consideration for alternative an urgent task.

Perhaps the alternative(s) might be found in the original spirituality of humankind that can be trace to the African savannas, forests, and valley,s as far back as 100,000  years ago. Some archetypal values, in terms of the original human attempt to make sense of human life and the universe, must have developed there. Conceivably, they survive in the wisdom of the people of Africa. Might it be possible, then, that aspects of the hope that all humanity fundamentally and inwardly holds can be found in African indigenous spirituality? At any rate, in light of what the world is facing, it is not worth the effort to investigate it?

-Laurenti Magesa, What is Not Sacred?

Matthew Loftus

Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at