by Mark Mathabane
Kaffir Boy Religion Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
But other men were not so lucky. They had no money, having paid it all out in bribes over the course of many arrests. They would be carted in vans and trucks to Number Four, a notorious prison for black people in Johannesburg. Repeat offenders and those whose passbook crimes were considered more serious would be processed to a maximum-security penitentiary called Modderbee, on the outskirts of Kempton Park. I would often hear the womenfolk say that Moderbee was a "hell which changed black men into brutes, no matter how tough and stubborn they may be." Almost every night before we went to bed, whenever my mother happened to have one of her premonitions, she would pray in earnest to our ancestral spirits that the day never would come when my father would be sent to Modderbee.
"Will prayers stop the police from coming, Mama?" I asked one evening. Somehow I had the vague feeling that all my mother's prayers were useless, that no amount of prayer could stop the police from violating our lives at will.
"No," my mother replied.
"Then why do you pray?"
"I don't know." (4.13-17)
Mama prays because she's helpless and has no human to turn to that can help her. She feels that praying is the one thing she can do to try to protect her husband and children.
That evening I listened as my mother weaved a poly to get my father to take us to the tent: she played on his obsession to acquire wealth and status by telling him that the prosperity of some of his neighbours, nominal Christians, was probably due to their conversation to the Christian faith.
My father listened, and afterward reflected deeply, seemingly trying to find a way to rebuff my mother's claims. But there seemed no way he could disprove them, for our Christian neighbours were indeed faring better than we and other adherents to tribal religions: they had better furniture, better clothing, more food on the table, radios and stoves, better shacks, more beds, and some of them even had used cars.
"And this afternoon," I put in, "I heard them say that those who came to the tent will hear 'good news' so glorious…" I went on to restate the evangelists' invitation.
"Okay," my father said finally…(9.17-20)
Swayed by material concerns, Papa agrees to give Christianity a try. At least, he agrees to go to the revival.
At that a Zulu woman in tribal garb stood up and shouted: "We don't need Christianity. We have our religions of a thousand years. We don't need to worship a white man's god when we have our own."
The cross-eyed evangelist turned a full circle and faced the woman. He lifted his megaphone and directed it to the woman's head, took a deep breath and blared: "O, woman of little faith. The Bible is full of people like you, whose sins made them doubt that Christ is the only true living God. Unclean woman, did you know that our ancestors never knew Christ until the white missionaries came?"
"We had no need for Christ," the woman retorted.
"See how the devil speaks through you," the cross-eyed evangelist gloated. "Everybody needs Christ. Our forefathers, who for centuries had lived in utter darkness in the jungles of Africa, worshipping false gods involving human sacrifices, needed Christ bad. That's why God from his sacred seat in heaven one day looked at Africa and said to Himself, "I cannot in all fairness let those black children of mine continue to follow the evil path. They've already suffered enough for the transgressions of their cursed father, Ham. I've got to save them somehow." 'But how can I save them," the mighty God wondered, 'for there's none among them who knows how to read or write, therefore I cannot send them my Ten Commandments.' God worried over the problem for days and nights, until one day he stumbled across the solution: He would send to Africa his other children in Europe, who already knew the Word. Indeed the white missionaries – valiant men like Dr. Livingstone – heard the call and braved treacherous seas and jungles and disease to bring our ancestors Christianity.
After years of fervent preaching by the missionaries, many of our stubborn ancestors finally opened their dark hearts and grass huts to God's light. Some became full Christians, and discarded tribal ways of worship. Others, however, while they did take up Christianity, continued to worship tribal religions, under the delusion that they could have it both ways. Still others refused completely to see the light, and they passed that refusal to their descendants, down to this day." (9.29-33)
The conflict between Christianity and the ancient religions of African ethnicities is demonstrated in this scene. The Africans who have converted to Christianity look down on their brothers and sisters as inferior because they haven't accepted the good news. The Africans who have maintained allegiance to traditional beliefs react with predictable anger to the Christians' attitude.