African Religion: The Governing Nature of God

Through many African societies; in His governing aspect, God is seen and perceived as a King, Ruler, Lord, Master, and Judge; the perception of God in the forms just described can generally be found in societies that traditionally have a Monarchic structure which in turn, informs the society’s perception of God as a King or Ruler. However, it should not be misconstrued that the idea of God as King is confined only to societies with a Monarchic political structure.

The authoritative image and work of human rulers tend to be easily accepted and projected on the image of God. Of this we have clear examples from several parts of Africa. The Barundi and Banyarwanda consider God as their Governor and Supreme ruler. The Baluba and Barotse speak of God as the ‘Great King’ who reigns over all things. The Akan address God as ‘the One who rules over the sky, the earth, and the underworld. The Ila, who have made it a habit to pray before they go hunting, usually address God as ‘Chief’ and beseech him to intervene during their hunting spree. This implies that the African people consider God as not only a ruler over human affairs, but over nature as well.

Among the Zulu people, God is considered as the King of Kings, or the Chief of Chiefs; an attribute which exhibits His supreme authority and power. There are many other tribes that consider God as a Supreme power who reigns over the entire Universe. They pretty much on point I must say. The symbol of God as King fits into the image of human rulers; He is pictured as absolute, supreme, wealthy and the ultimate owner of all things.

God is also spoken of as Lord and Master in many other societies which is another way of saying that they accord Him all the honor and respect. Their attitude towards Him in this regard therefore, is one of humility and submissiveness. The Banyarwanda speak of Him as the ‘master of all’; to the Bambuti people, He is the ‘Lord of Magic Power’; and to the Yoruba people of Nigeria, He is the ‘Lord of Heaven.’

As Lord and Master, He is considered omnipresent and can do all things; he can help those who are in distress, he can accomplish what man cannot accomplish on their own among many other things. For this reason he is proffered various titles by various tribes. For instance, the Barundi refer to Him as ‘the One who does all’; the Baluba call Him ‘the Bearer of Burdens; the Shilluk people consider Him the final source of help in times of trouble; and many others refer to Him as the Giver (of life, of rain, and so on). Thus God is deemed as the absolute ruler of the Universe. As a ruler, He is detached from his creation, but as a Lord and Master he is involved to the last fabric of His creation. There are communities who look at their human rulers as God’s divine representatives through whom He executes his will here on earth.
In His capacity as ruler, God is seen as a judge who administers justice to His subjects; through this concept, He is associated to justice, retribution, and punishment; for instance, when the Azande people pray during times of crisis, they first swear by Him that ‘they have not coveted or stolen other people’s property, they address Him as the One who ‘settles the differences between us men.’ For the Elegeyo people from Kenya, lightning is a weapon through which God destroys people who do wrong by their neighbours. The Nuba people hold belief that God metes out punishment to those who go against the society’s traditions as God is thought of as the Guardian of traditions. Among the Nuer, it is a firm belief that God rewards what is right and punishes what is wrong. The Ovamba people believe that disrespect to the elderly, theft, and murder, are punishable offences by God.

Through all the examples given of God in His various capacities, it can be clearly seen that the African people perceive of God as the Absolute, Supreme Authority, who acts with impartiality.

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