By Ivy Robi
African culture was once vilified as something that had no place in Christianity. But over the years scholars have demonstrated the importance of culture in shaping one’s identity.
One such scholar is Dr. Sammy Githuku, the Director of Postgraduate Studies at St. Paul’s University.
Dr. Githuku says that everyone’s belief stems from their own culture. “An individual lives out the Christian faith from a cultural perspective. We cannot deny that we are products of our own culture,” he adds.
He believes that there shouldn’t be a war between religion and culture. He argues that culture should be the medium through which religion is propagated.
Having acquired his early education during the pre-independence era, Dr. Githuku believes that there is a need to teach Cultural Studies and Biblical Studies to the youth today.
“I was educated by missionaries who vilified my culture and made my language and heritage seem unworthy. This attitude has been spread to our youth today. They glorify Western culture yet they have their own,” he says.
He feels that teaching the youth about their culture will be instrumental in giving them a sense of identity and a story which can be their own.
“I feel sorry for people who have no roots in their culture because that denies them an identity,” Dr. Githuku points out.
However, he adds that he has noted an awakening in the present generation to know more about their heritage. This, he says, gives him hope that there are more people who have begun to appreciate their culture and who are willing to learn and spread this knowledge to their future generations.
Initially a high school Science teacher, Dr Githuku joined St. Paul’s University which was at the time, St. Paul’s United Theological College in 1985 to pursue a degree in Divinity.
“I got a calling to serve in the Ministry in 1985 and I decided to pursue my Bachelors’ in Divinity,” he reveals.
Since 1995, Dr. Githuku has served in various capacities in St. Paul’s University, including lecturing in his area of specialization – Biblical Studies and Cultural Studies.
He clarifies that although he had no initial interest in the course, as he continued to teach it, his love for it gradually increased.
“Initially St. Paul’s was a theological school, taught primarily by missionaries. Although Cultural Studies stems from Religious Studies, there was no one to teach the course here and I volunteered. I had studied the course at undergraduate level,” he says.
Dr. Githuku has a Master’s degree from McGill University in Quebec, Canada and a doctorate from the Catholic University of East Africa. The two degrees are in Biblical Studies and Cultural Studies.
“My doctoral thesis on sin was written from the perspective of the Bible as well as African culture,” he says.