When I decided to write on this issue, I was not sure about the direction I wanted to go with this piece. At first, I thought about religion and then I thought about its impact on society and from there I started to link one or two in my head. I’m sure there have been several articles on the effect of religion and its impact on society so I won’t bore you with any of that. Some go as far as giving conceptual clarifications between “spirituality” and “religion”. Religion has been a bone of contention for so many years in various countries. In a period, where things seem chaotic around the world many have found solace in their faith. Either Christianity, Islam, traditional or custom practices. This essay will be focusing on relationships, linkages, and connections of the church as well as the political system in Nigeria.
Many have argued that that religion has brought better results than ills to the world and has helped in uniting the people from different spheres. The question now should be “To what extent has religion united the people? Also, what measuring parameters were used to come about such assertions. Historically speaking, it has been argued that we cannot separate “The church” and “The state”. Others have also argued that these two bodies are two sides of a coin. In other words, they are imperious to one another. I believe that these 2 entities are problems to one another and for each of them to perform their functions they have to be separated.
Religion is not politics …. politics is not religion. There is a certain large congregation that receives presidential aspirants every four years in this country. The irony is that we are usually made aware of this very pubic visit during these periods. It begs the question, what the aim truly is. There is also another big church in Lagos Nigeria that gets visitors from various leaders mostly in West Africa whenever it’s time for the election in those regions. It is important to note that many third world countries are guilty of regarding the two as the same directly or indirectly. The phenomenon of spiritual leaders getting involved in politics has been the order of the day despite these spiritual leaders alleged “neutrality” the effect of their indirect /direct participation comes to play in the decisions as well as the resolve of the congregations.
Power and influence are significant concepts here; That which the spiritual leaders yield over the people under his guidance. Acting as a life-coach, adviser, counselor and other times mentor as well as sermonizing of the promise of a better eternity. On another hand also is the power in which the political leaders will to either positively or negatively impact the future of the people with the promise of a better life on earth.
Setting politics aside, there are other ways in which religion has had its impact that leaves one to begin to question if it’s worth it to be religious. Many pastors are guilty of selling grace and favor. This phenomenon plays out in various ways. A pastor after ministering could call out people who are to drop a certain amount (usually a huge sum) and says he would pray for them in return with a promise of a turnaround in their lives. I have been to a church (name withheld) where the guest pastor started calling people out to donate thousands of dollars, he started from about 5000 dollars to the least denomination in Naira which was about 5 Naira. I for one see this practice as demonic and fraudulent. It is a different thing if you decide to ask the congregation to contribute towards a particular project for the church. Also, whatever proceeds gotten should be made transparent to the people since they were the ones that made the contributions. How do you explain to a poor man who is seeking healing that his inability to give a particular sum of money is the reason why he hasn’t been healed? How do you assure a rich man on the other hand that his big donations will turn his life around once he believes (hereby claiming it’s in his hand but still end up collecting the money in exchange for the prayer? How?
There is no doubt that amidst the cunning character of these spiritual leaders/mentors they are not to be completely blamed. Every adult should be held responsible for his or her actions. Many of these people were not forced to do these things. They are merely ignorant. Indeed, ignorance is the root and stem of all evil. I have seen families that have lost all they have to maintain their pastor’s lifestyle. I have seen families that used their children’s school fees for the pastor, not for the church or the needy. I have seen families lose all they have as well sometime ultimately losing their faith along the line. People need to be enlightened about the differences between irrationality, brainwashing, faith, belief, and outright stupidity and this is where the help of the Holy Spirit is very important. The Holy Spirit plays many roles in the life of a believer. The Holy Spirit is a counselor, the fruit of the spirits includes peace, kindness, faithfulness “self-control” and which ultimately helps Christians obey God’s words.
You begin to wonder why so many Christians are committing suicide today. Some will say they were targeted by the enemy but many have refused to see that “neglect” has been one of the major factors. How many Christians can boldly say I know 10 people very well in my church? I go to visit them or reach out to them when I don’t hear from them? Many go to churches to share their problems among the congregation but sometimes they feel the church is failing them. I do not feel that there’s anyone that would just open up or share whatever challenges they are experiencing just for the sake of sharing. Depression doesn’t just start, there is usually an underlying factor. How has the church been able to tackle the issue of depression and frustration among the youths? Is the church aware of some of these struggles? Have they been able to develop committees to tackle these problems or they are only concerned about the size of offering or tithes given by these people?
Love is the greatest gift of all. Jesus Christ preached love, God is love. How has the church been able to emphasize the importance of love beyond preaching on the pulpit? Do they ignore or support the poor, the lonely, the naked, the depressed, the afflicted, the sick, and the weaklings? How have they been able to impact their lives or are they only focusing on those with heavy checks and donations. Why does it seem like Christianity is for the rich in Nigeria? Who remembers the early church in the Bible? And the apostles? The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ must be preached with love having in mind the sufferings of the multitude. Some churches have indeed been able to deal with some of these issues even beyond their members. However, most churches have disregarded this very pressing issue in society as well as among their members. Some are claiming that they give but when you look at how much they make as inflow it leaves a very gigantic margin. What good is your gigantic or mega-church when most of your members are homeless? It’s not good enough to say we have put some measures in place what’s important is how effective those measures are. In many developed countries, churches are required to pay taxes on every asset they acquire or get, as well as on any donations and this leads to accountability. However, in a country like Nigeria where the declaration of asset is a caricature churches are not held accountable to their members not to mention the government. The enforcement of payment of taxes on churches will in no small way help in generating funds or revenues for the government which could help in improving the lives of the people in the county if used as designated.
When I say we Nigerians are givers at heart that’s nothing short of the truth. We give wholeheartedly accompanied by showmanship especially to something we believe in and that could include the minister or to the ministry. Some denominations believe prayer is the way to everything. I don’t doubt the efficacy of prayers in tackling issues but some issues require actions or a new course of action rather than prayer. I believe the church has a job that cuts across and beyond praying and fasting but doing the needful for humanity to prepare the rightful environment for one to aim towards making heaven. Although the church is not the only entity with the responsibility to help people, the political bodies and government owe it to its people to alleviate hardship whether socially or economically. Give respect and honor to whom it’s due but Don’t worship men of God, worship God.
Finally, it would be great to someday see change but until then let’s remember that the next evolutionary step for humankind is to stand up for others having in mind that we can only rise above our confines by focusing on a broader part which is humanity.