In treating this topic, let us find out some of the grounds of opposition and then discover as to how the Christian Church survives the opposition.
Before the introduction of Christianity by the white man, the Ibo society has been well-settled, with its own laws and strong religious beliefs. It is not easy therefore for an intruding religion to succeed easily. To the people, Christianity is nothing better thatn an intruding religion. Secondly, the religion is brought by the white man. Hitherto, white men have been known to be slave traders. Their religion may be a ruse for catching more slaves. This suspicion of the white man’s intention prevents mutual understanding.
Further, the newly converted men have among them fanatical ones who bring the yough Church into serious clashes with the people. We can add too, that Rev. James is not better than the fanatics because his uncompromising policy greatly alienates the good wishes of the people. Also, certain questions puzzle those to be converted. They will like to what becomes of their own gods if they abandon them for the white man’s God. The idea that God has a son without a wife and the logic of the Holy Trinity are not acceptable in their opinion. Men like Okonkwo do not want to have any dealing with the white man and his religion because he, the white man, is capable of disintegrating the clan and breaking down family solidarity. Religious contempt is also witnessed in the novel because it admits the social outcasts like Osu. In fact, the foundation members are mainly the efulefu, that is, empty, worthless men not given a jot of social respect.
These then, are the difficulties which Christianity has to overcome if it must survive. Fortunately, the church has several ways to help it. One of these is force. The colonizers come with the religion on one hand and government in the other. Military and government powers are used to subside the religion. This can be seen in the incident following the destruction of the Umofia church by the egwugwus. All the leaders responsible for this are arrested and put in prison. They are not released until a handsome ransom has been paid. Obreika understands this fact well when he tells Okonkwo that an attempt to fight against the white man and to drive him away is bound to fail for soldiers will be brought from Umuru to suppress the rising against him.
Secondly, clansmen become converted. At first, it is the efulefu and the osu only. According to the laws of the land, no one must kill an osu and the killing of any efulefu with impunity is not allowed. Therefore, the conversion of the clansmen is important for at least two reasons. First, their presence draws in more clansmen. Secondly, it is impossible to attack and kill the missionaries without committing a crime against the goddess of the earth, Ani by killing some of her children. Obreika also realizes this fact when he tells Okonkwo “our own men and our sons have joined the ranks of the stranger.”
Next, Christianity is all embracing. Any human-being is acceptable, even the repentant sinner is welcome. Thus, Christianity gives a new life to the socially outlawed like the osu, it thrusts the efulefu into a never expected prominence, and levels up the lowest with the highest in the community. They are all brothers, sons of one God before whom the osu and the elder who has taken the highest title in the land are equal. While one titled man abhors this fact, several efulefus happily accept it. Thus the “worthless”, “empty” men swell the fold as more and more come in to find salvation.
Furthermore, the Christians are bold and persevering. When in Mbanta, they are ready to stay in the market-place for five days, going to the village daily to preach. At last, they are received by the Mbanta elders. When they are given the Evil Forest to build their church, they willingly accept it. When they survive and even thrive in this Forest, the people become amazed and they feel that the white man’s God must have wonderful powers, otherwise the missionaries should have all died. However, more converts are gained due to this survival.
The Christian religion brings with itself a strong government and peaceful trade. The people become more prosperous. Foe instance, the Umofians prefer having the lucrative commerce to pointlessly attacking the white man and his religion. But Okonkwo and his kind still find them an “abominable gang” who must be liquidated at once.
Mr. Brown who founds the missionary headquarters in Umofia is the most suitable man at this delicate stage when the church is still finding its feet. His clear understanding of the situation and readiness to compromise, pilot the infant church safely through he uncertain days of its inception. The same Mr. Brown must be praised for our next point. That is, he turns to educating people, thereby opening new avenues of employment and social prestige to the people who find something new in the religion that provides them education. For example, Nwoye greatly benefits from this educational policy.
Nonetheless, the new religion gives answers to some of the vague questions that have hitherto haunted people. Thus, Nwoye feels that he has the answer to Ikemefuna’s death, and the casting away of the twins that cry on the bush until they die. It is for these reasons that Christianity gains grounds, fierce opposition notwithstanding.