Between August and September this year, the Ga tribe in Ghana will celebrate their festival homowo. Though I am not a Ga, I grew up in Osu–which has launched its homowo–and one of the fondest memories of those formative years is the celebration of Homowo, a traditional festival of the Gas which “…recounts the[ir] migration…and reveals their agricultural success in their new settlement. According to Ga oral tradition, a severe famine broke out among the people during their migration to present day Accra. They were inspired by the famine to embark on massive food production exercises which eventually yielded them bumper harvest. Their hunger ended and with great joy they “hooted at hunger” this is the meaning of the word HOMOWO”
Before you proceed further, let me tell you my answer ahead of any explanation. My answer is Yes to whether a Christian can eat Kpoikpoi (Kpekle). While working on this article, I checked with a few friends about their views. One answer made me smile: “pray over it and EAT all you can”.
Now, as with every festival, there are celebrations and merry making and one of the highlights of this festival is a special food; Kpoikpoi: “…a Ga delicacy that is prepared during their popular festival Homowo. It is a corn food with unique texture and unusual flavour”.. It is enjoyed with palmnut soup and when there is a leftover, it can be fried to get a crispy texture.
What necessitated this article was an incident which occured recently at work. In a conversation with a colleague who is Ga, I informed her I will be paying her a visit during this year’s homowo celebration to enjoy Kpoikpoi in her home. Another colleague, a Christian friend, overheard our conversation and with shock in her voice, she exclaimed, “You of all people Enoch, I am surprised you are going to eat that”. Knowing what my friend was driving at, I took her aside and we had a discussion on the subject.
Now before the festival takes off in the different Ga communities, the priest, referred to as Wolomi, together with the paramount chief sprinkle Kpoikpoi to the gods thanking them for a bountiful harvest. After this, the festival is officially opened and every Ga household participating in the celebrations prepare their own Kpokpoi. So the common perception is that Kpoikpoi is pagan which in a certain sense is true because it is solely associated with the festival. No family prepares Kpoikpoi on a normal day. The assertion therefore of my friend was that I was going to eat food offered to idols or gods.
Fortunately, the Bible does explicitly address eating food offered to idols. There are some things the Bible is silent on, but this is not one of them. Paul, responding to a question by the church in Corinth on food offered to idols, wrote saying: “Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth— as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father , from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1Corinthians 8:1-6).
Riding on the back of the aforementioned text, I will now address why I said Yes, a Christian can eat Kpoikpoi (Kpekple).
Christian liberty “can mean that Christians are freed in respect to such activity that is not expressly forbidden in the Bible. Therefore one can feel free to engage in such activity as long as it doesn’t “stumble” or “offend” another Christian” (Romans 14:12-16).
I begin from the premise that the Bible doesn’t expressly forbid the eating of any food. In answering to the question of food offered to idols, Paul begins from a fundamental truth of Christianity. There is only one God. The Christian acknowledges only one true God who has revealed Himself to us through the incarnate God; Jesus Christ: “for us there is one God, the Father , from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist”.
Any other thing that exists by name as god or Lord, “so-called gods in heaven or on earth”, Paul says is worthless of consideration”. It doesn’t matter! “we know that “an idol has no real existence”. Idols are fake. They are fraud. They have no power. They are simply what they are, idols with no life; “They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them”. (Psalm 115:5-8).
We are emancipated from what Paul calls “weak and worthless elementary principles of the world”(Galatians 3:9). Paul will finally say to the Corinthians: “Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do” (1Corinthians 8:8). What food we eat or don’t eat have no effect on our relationship with God. We have the liberty to eat any food. Unless of course on medical grounds. So on the grounds of Christian liberty, I don’t consider it a moral issue or sin if I eat Kpoikpoi.
However, the same text that gives me my liberty, again puts what I would call boundaries around my liberty. Simply put, I can’t flaunt that liberty when other believers with a weaker conscience are involved. I can’t take a superior stand and consider myself a better Christian than the person who says no a christian can’t eat kpoikpoi or any other ‘forbidden’ food. That will put me in the category of puff up believers without love (1Corinthians 8:1-2). Paul prescribes how we express our liberty when it comes to the eating or not of food offered to idols:
But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged , if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble (vv. 9-13).
In exercising my Christian liberty, not only in food, but in everything I have liberty in, my fellow Christian’s conscience is also at stake. If my liberty will harm the conscience of my fellow believer. I better abandon that liberty out of love for my fellow Christian who has a weak conscience. That however doesn’t mean eating Kpoikpoi in itself is wrong or a sin.