World-renowned African history scholar and speaker Ashra Kwesi, who is known for his expansive knowledge and understanding of our ancient roots, came to town last Thursday night for a presentation at First A.M.E. Church in Los Angeles, and Kwesi unlocked the vaults of history and outlined detailed Kemetic connections to Christianity.
In his presentation, he compared and contrasted stories and characters written on the stone walls of Egypt with the stories and characters of the Bible. While some audience members “ached” (pronounced ah-shay) and clapped at the truths discussed, others sat quietly in their seats, appearing puzzled and uncomfortable.
Without ever saying the words, Kwesi challenged his audience members to consider: “How do you reconcile African history with Westernized Christianity?”
The teacher dropped information that did not quite align with the stories of the Bible. For example, while the Bible says Moses led God’s people out of slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land, historians, archeologists, and scholars agree that there is no evidence of this ever occurring in the history of the world. Instead, the Hyksos, (who are often credited with being the Israelites of the Bible), came from the north and invaded and took over Egypt during the 15th Dynasty. It was Ahmoses I who drove the invaders out of the land during the 18th Dynasty.
Facts like these may challenge the Christian believer to question his own understanding of the faith.
Ralph Basui Watkins, Ph.D., a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary and minister at FAME, is a Christian man, but is constantly challenging himself with ancient African facts. He has traveled to Africa with Kwesi on several occasions, and has seen and touched the sacred books on the walls. He explained while his faith is not shaken, he could not deny the information.
“What we have to understand is how do we understand Christianity from an African-centered perspective. What we have to realize is that, we have to start the story from where the story begins,” he said, acknowledging that Christianity begins in Africa.
Watkins began his journey seeking the truth about African people and Christianity’s origins, when he started to wonder about the African presence in the text. On his journey, he found that Africa was there all along, but it had been covered up with a perverted theology.
“I struggled with the condemnation or the thought that somehow Africans did not know God until missionaries showed up. In John 1, it says, ‘In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God.’ So God was there in the beginning,” he said. “If God was there in the beginning, and the beginning is in Africa, how was God in Africa?”
From there, Watkin’s pursuit of truth took him on a path that would ultimately make him a little uncomfortable. What he found along the way is that it is important to acknowledge the truth, our ancestors’ presence in Christianity and deal with the “tension” of Biblical spirituality and the spirituality of our history.
“If we argue that God was active in the time of ancient Kemet, we can go back and begin to put these texts and these stories in conversation,” Watkins said.
As a minister, he offers his congregation both sides and allows them to tango with the information. His own perspective and understanding is constantly evolving and being challenged, as he collects new information and returns to the revelations he has received.
“I don’t know if you ever fully reconcile. I think the real issue is having the ability and the patience to walk with the tension. And as you find truths that contradict the lie, I would hope one would land on the side of the truth,” the minister said. “And I think we have archeological evidence that tells us the stories. We have to take those seriously and rethink how we understand the whole construct of what the sacred text is.”
Watkins said the information has not pushed him away from his faith, but drawn him closer. He said that he is a more vibrant Christian and understands his faith from a more African-centered perspective.