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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 вЂ"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 вЂ" 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. вЂ? You are afraid of Chukwu. In my religion Chukwu is a loving Father and need not be feared by those who do His willвЂ™Ð²Ð‚Ñœ (180 вЂ" 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. вЂ? We also believe in Him and call Him Chukwu. He made all the world and the other godsвЂ™Ð²Ð‚Ñœ (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 it was an Ibo being converted to the new religion, they did become educated about the religion that would soon overcome Africa. Throughout the novel, the egwugwu are mentioned on several occasions. These “spirits” are really just masked men of the clan, but instead of them being seen as just symbolic figures, they are believed to be actual spirits of their past ancestors, “The egwugwu house was now a pandemonium of quavering voices: Aru oyim de de de dei! Filled the air as the spirits of the ancestors, just emerged from the earth, greeted themselves in their esoteric language” (88). These men or “spirits” are seen throughout various rituals in the book, but their true effect upon the Ibo is not fully seen until a court proceeding at which the egwugwu decide a man’s punishment for breaking a law (87 вЂ" 94). In most, if not all, predominantly Christian countries, the citizens have some sort of judiciary system where he or she is punished for their crimes. The Ibo would not be any different if it were not for the reason that the jurors are believed to be the spirits of dead ancestors but in actuality are just men. This practice allows the select few egwugwu to judge their peers as if they themselves were gods. Not only does the judiciary process differ between the two religions, but as does the judgment of one’s actions that effect their spiritual lives. The Ibo believe that one man’s transgression has the potential to cause punishment towards the entire clan. This fear is observed when Okonkwo beats his wife during the Week of Peace, and he is commanded to make a sacrifice to Ani in order to satisfy the god (29 вЂ" 31). In Animism, a man must not only strive to please the gods for his sake, but for the sake of his fellow clansmen as well. In Christianity, one man’s sin does provoke God to punishing others but rather a person is punished on an individual basis. In a way, this belief holds Animists accountable in the sense that their transgressions could not only spark divine persecution, but persecution from the entire clan. In order to communicate with the gods or God, one must have a means of doing so. In both Animism and Christianity, there are “priests”. In Animism, specifically the Ibo, there is the Oracle. In Christianity, specifically Catholicism, there is a priest. This similarity is seen in the Ibo through



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