“Africa is bleeding,” Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa wrote recently. The African nations have thrown off colonial rule, only to fall prey to military dictatorships and one-party Marxist regimes.
“The awful truth,” Bishop Tutu says sadly, “is that in Africa there was far greater freedom in the colonial days than there is now.”
An amazing admission from a man who has fought colonial rule all his life.
The history of Africa demonstrates in concrete terms the point that Christianity is a potent restraint on evil. And when Christianity departs, that restraint is gone, too.
Again, historian Paul Johnson is our guide on the subject, in a speech entitled “The Necessity of Christianity.” The colonial days were not perfect, by any means, Johnson says. Yet the colonial powers were largely Christian in culture, if not in personal belief.
And wherever the colonial powers went, around the globe, they brought with them basic principles derived from biblical faith: things like the rule of law, individual responsibility, political freedom, care for the weak, respect for learning.
When African nations threw off colonial status, many of them lost that Christianized heritage. Under colonial rule, Uganda was Christianized by Anglican and Catholic missionaries. It was considered the most delightful country in all of Africa. Winston Churchill called it “a paradise upon earth.”
When Uganda was given independence, it fell victim to the military regime of Idi Amin. Amin’s mother was a pagan witch, and Amin himself seems to have practiced ritual cannibalism, keeping human organs in his refrigerator.
Under his rule, the rivers were choked with the bodies of his victims. Today Uganda remains a ruined country, ravaged by civil war.
Most pathetic of all, perhaps, is Ethiopia, the only African country to retain its Christianity from ancient times. In 1974 a Christian emperor, Haile Selasse, was assassinated at the instigation of the Soviets, and they installed a puppet Marxist regime in his place.
Since then, Ethiopia has been stricken by wars within and wars without. Its population has been decimated by famines, created in part by deliberate decisions of its Marxist rulers.
All in all, Johnson says, if we survey the world today, we see that where Christianity has been forced to retreat, oppression and violence have rushed in to fill the vacuum. It is just as Bishop Tutu said: Africa was better off in the colonial days.
Not because colonialism itself is such a good system, but because the European colonists brought with them the political and social fruits of the Gospel.
The good news is that the decline of communism in the world is now reaching Africa, too. The Washington Times reports that, across Africa, Marxist regimes are either being voted out or being forced to give up their autocratic powers and create free parliaments.
So the verdict of history is in. Secular ideologies give birth to blood and hunger. Christianity gives birth to the fruits of the Spirit.
In individuals and in nations.