Crude oil, conflict and Christian witness in Nigeria: Baptist and Pentecostal perspectives
Osuigwe, Nkem Emerald
This thesis is essentially an ethnographic examination of the instrumentalist and functionalist reading of African evangelical Christianity that is prevalent in a section of Western scholarship. Thus, it sets out to achieve two primary objectives: to investigate, describe and analyse Christian theological and socio-political consciousness within the context of oil and conflict in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria from Baptist and Pentecostal perspectives; and to use the data to test the veracity of the prevalent account on African evangelical Christianity regarding social witness. This account is succinctly represented by Paul Gifford who claims, among other things, that such Christianity lacks social responsibility and is anti-development and a-political. In order to achieve these objectives, the thesis adopts approaches from practical theology, particularly the burgeoning field of congregational studies, with its focus on qualitative research, and African Christian Theology, with its emphasis on grassroots theology, or ‘theology from below’. Also, achieving these objectives requires an analysis and description of Nigeria’s political economy of oil and conflict, which forms the secondary goal of the study. Consequently, two local Baptist churches and a Pentecostal congregation were selected on theological, geographical, and pragmatic grounds. The thesis is in two parts. Part I, comprising Chapters One to Three, gives the background to the study. Chapter One is the introductory chapter. In Chapter Two an analysis of Gifford’s account of African evangelical and ‘fundamentalist’ Christianity is provided. Chapter Three identifies and critiques the prevalent perspectives on oil and conflict in Nigeria. Part II covered in Chapters Four to Eight comprises the core ethnographic data from the case studies and their description and analysis. Chapter Four is essentially a thick description of the three congregations. In Chapter Five the first set of theological themes from the case studies – God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit – are discussed. Also included in the chapter is their theology of prayer. Chapter Six focuses on the theme of ecclesiology and also addresses their perspective on Christian socio-political role, as well as their theology of conversion. Chapter Seven offers a detailed analysis and description of their experiences, response and understanding of oil and conflict. Chapter Eight, which is the concluding chapter, sets the research findings against Gifford’s claims and concludes that most of them are at variance with the reality in the three congregations. Possible explanations for this discrepancy are offered, as well as some implications the study has for the scholarship on African Christianity and for the three churches. The chapter also includes the description and proposal of a contextual political theology for the Niger Delta.