Saturday, 6 February 2016

In 1984 I visited Eyadema’s Togo. I was
dumbfounded. Eyadema was after all an empty
inconsequential vessel. The stark rurality and
wretchedness of Lome and the cheerful naivety of
its residents could only be surpassed by
Gnassigbe’s megalomania. The national radio
would pause and greet him almost hourly and
would never forget to wish him well with his
meals. His pictures which hung every where
seemed to summon reverence from passersby.
Policemen would line the routes he would travel
and would herald his passage with their whistles
which compelled everyone to stop and to join
them in clapping furiously, waving frantically and
smiling with a determination to please him.
With the enthusiasm with which the street
submitted, it didn’t take long before my
bemusement gave way to curiosity. I tried to find
mockery beneath the obsequiousness, to lighten
its stupidity, but I found duty. How did fear compel
such a sense of duty? 1984 Lome was a house of
slaves. Their devotion to the worship of Eyadema
could only be explained perhaps by a diagnosis of
pathological servility. I didn’t meet Eyadema but
from his fruits I knew him. Many pastors in
Nigeria today have turned their congregations to
1984 Togo.
North Korea’s Kim Jong -un and his father before
him are perhaps the apotheosis of Eyadema’s
social theory. The automaticity of the North
Korean population and the vigour and uniformity
of their compliance are the products of the
brutality and repressive whimsicality of a
depraved group that has seized the nation by the
scruff of the neck and is dragging it face-down to
the edge of an abyss. But if Kim and Gnassigbe
god status can be explained by Pavlov, because
states have instruments of coercion and torture,
what will explain the culture of deification of
pastors in Nigeria?
Regular pastors and even lunatics like Rev King all
manage to be emperors in an age where the Bible
and the Holy Spirit are freely available to
brethren. You would think that in a society
rendered prostrate by widespread poverty
occasioned by wanton profligacy and unbridled
thievery by the ruling class, the poor would
despise anyone ,under any guise, abusing public
trust for self enrichment. You would think that the
down trodden who have flocked to church to seek
solutions to problems their secular leaders
recklessly and maliciously inflicted on them would
be extra vigilant.
That they would resist attempts to replicate the
demons that have haunted politicians, and made
them mad. That they would protect the clergy
from those demons. Lack of accountability, lack of
tolerance for dissenting opinions and criticisms,
self aggrandizement, corruption and theft, greed
and megalomania, nepotism and cronyism,
disregard for rigour and deliberation, disdain for
scholarship and research, penchant for
superficiality and frivolity, conspicuous
charlatanism. These demons have seized the
church, especially Pentecostalism to which I
belong. That is why pastors are now pharaohs.
Pastor Adeboye like Pope Francis, epitomes
humility, simplicity and sincerity, are revered for
the right moral reasons. For remaining broken,
contrite and therefore human despite all their
fame and stature. But that tribe is almost extinct
in the pentecostal circles. Who amongst the other
pastors are like these two? The policy of the
Catholic church, in line with Apostle Paul’s
teachings, to keep priests away from the worries
of raising families and accumulation of wealth has
proved to be great wisdom. The Catholic church
owns the priests while in many of the churches
that abound now the priests literally own the
churches and parishes.
The church of Christ is now littered with small
men in cloth with huge egos. And their whims are
passed across as dictates of the Holy Spirit. But
in what is the veneration of pompous, empty,
ineffectual, vessels preoccupied with self
aggrandizement founded? Masters of glib talk
whose personal lives cannot recommend them to
anyone. The congregations know the truth but
can’t pay the price of righteousness and the
pastors interpose themselves between God and
miracle seeking men in the manner of the
prophets of the old testament, before the veil was
torn.
Yes, Jesus came and ordained the whole
congregation are priests . These pastors claim
familiarity with God and congregations addicted to
quick , easy fixes, worship the pastors in the
erroneous belief that the pastors can help them
attract divine help which ordinarily their
unrighteousness and distance from God would
deny them. The pastors , now gods, water down
christian doctrines, permit all sorts and keep the
needed numbers. If the congregation is Spirit
filled and not deluded, the pastor loses his
‘divinity’. But the congregation wants magic.
Pastors promise wonders at the sight of money.
God wants righteousness from the congregation.
The congregation chooses to go to God through
the ‘understanding’ pastor. That is why pastors
receive more gifts than God and people no longer
give secretly. Because those who give millions
and millions to pastors do so because they
believe that in so doing they will tap into the
pastors’ chumminess with God. And since
cronyism is the order in churches now, belonging
to the pastor’s cult has added benefits. Only a
few pastors understand the millions and billions of
naira aren’t theirs.
Small pastors of small churches allow poor
congregations empty their pockets to fund their
lavish lifestyles. And they turnaround mercilessly ,
flaunt their ‘prosperity’ and mock the
congregation by declaring that poverty is a curse
or disease. But if these pastors were truly
converted they would not need anyone to tell
them that all gifts they receive, personal or
otherwise, by virtue of their positions must go to
the church and the work of God. Only a carnally
minded pastor lives a lavish life style while
children of God die of hunger and homelessness
and God’s works suffer from privations. I refer to
full time pastors and part time pastors who
receive monies from the congregation.
Why do pastors who take offerings from the
poorest of the poor in Nigeria ride limousines?
Isn’t the flesh at war with the Spirit any longer?
Why would a church that accepts offerings from
wretched people buy Bentleys for pastors? The
idea in itself is immoral. Pastors who live in lavish
opulence in the midst of general poverty are not
heavenly minded. Before you raise an eyebrow
they will claim “God said”. The Bible makes it
clear, “Feed my flock”- body and soul! How then
do you milk the flock , leave them desperate and
dying, and wallow in sybaritism? You urge them
to give so they can receive and that’s good.
Giving is good , giving to pastors is good too. But
how do full time pastors accumulate so much
wealth and live fantasy lives if they really
understand giving? How do they get away with
flying first class?
When Pentecostalism crept into Nigeria, the born
again Christians of those days went about their
Christianity with a determination to distance
themselves from the world and worldliness. Many
saw them as queer because they eschewed
substantial mirth and embraced visible
abstinence. They pursued their faith with stoicism
and mocked, by their aloofness, all that the world
cared about. And while the world worried about
their non conformity with traditions, their
exemplary honesty and general righteousness
recommended them as consecrated people rather
than deviants.
They would not be found at community meetings
but would not be caught envying the pleasures
they had foregone. They were scorned for
separating themselves but they were perceived
as otherwise standard bearers of morality. They
were manifestly sin conscious. Salvation and sin,
heaven and hell, dominated any interaction with
them , they were severe and strict. But within
them was a caring and sharing brotherhood that
was so obsessed with heavenly ambitions that
earthly rigours and pains of meager living inflicted
by moral chastity was considered worthy and
necessary sacrifice.
Pastors then across all divides were not exactly
monks but were contented, simple, people called
to a service of godliness, humanity, charity and
peace . Pastors didn’t struggle to be wealthy
because the church existed to redefine the terms
of success the world knew. Then, prosperity
preaching came , found a foothold in the
Pentecostal churches and contaminated
everything. And since Pentecostalism possessed
the youths the corrosion proved contagious and
seeped into many orthodox churches. The clergy
then began to regard poverty as sin and began to
do all not to be afflicted by it. Reckless unclothed
ambition ran amok and precipitated a
mushrooming of churches which now had owners
and later became commercial concerns.
And the church that was once separated from the
world gradually saw its appetite for worldliness
grow. The orthodox churches , once disparaged
for being spiritually docile by Pentecostalism,
mocked the capitulation of the latter to greed,
acrimony and money. They had viewed the
pretensions to superior spirituality with the
suspicion orthodoxy reserves for radical
reformations. The visible corruption and
commercialization of Pentecostalism they claimed
were inevitable evils long foretold. The Catholic
church has its own very ugly demons.
But who could have foretold that even the
Assemblies of God church in Nigeria could be split
down the middle , not for any theological
controversy but for the sort of mundane things
that motor park unions have learnt to manage.
When pastors become gods the interest of Jesus
becomes dispensable. The cult of personality
pastors nurture in churches is not compatible
with the sovereignty rights of the Holy Spirit.
TO BE CONTINUED

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