The African Century?
At the end of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s great novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the escaped slave George Harris, after achieving a university education in Europe, announces his decision to leave the white man’s countries, where he can expect at best to be only tolerated. His plan is to settle with his family in Liberia, where he can devote his energy and intelligence to building a distinctively African Christian civilization as an example to the world both of liberation and forgiveness. George explained his vision to Mrs. Stowe’s millions of nineteenth-century readers in a vivid prophecy of Africa’s destiny, which I will quote:
I trust that the development of Africa is to be essentially a Christian one. If not a dominant and commanding race, Africans are, at least, an affectionate, magnanimous, and forgiving one. Having been called in the furnace of injustice and oppression, they need to bind closer to their hearts that sublime doctrine of love and forgiveness through which alone they are to conquer, which it is to be their mission to spread over the continent of Africa.
That kind of prophecy, if anyone knew of it, would have seemed far from reality during the twentieth century, in a materialist intellectual climate, when Mrs. Stowe’s classic was no longer read, and Christianity seemed to be in retreat in Africa and elsewhere. Since 1945, the news from post-colonial Africa has featured mainly war, tyranny, corruption, and social chaos. Intellectuals and bureaucrats looked to technology rather than Christianity to solve the world’s problems.
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Phillip E. Johnson is Professor of Law (emeritus) at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of Darwin on Trial, The Wedge of Truth, The Right Questions (InterVarsity Press), and other books challenging the naturalistic assumptions that dominate modern culture. He is a contributing editor of Touchstone.
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