OPINION – Could too much Religion be bad for you?
According to the Economist of London, the United States is the only country in the world where Christianity and wealth go together. This, according to the Economist is because the “God of the American church is a prosperity God”. Elsewhere, poverty and religion seem to be interwoven and much so in Africa. I may not entirely agree with the conclusions of the Economist, but I think the findings attracts my interest. Why is the “African Christian God” not a wealthy one?
In the last 8 years, I have had the honour of facilitating a few discussion groups, many of which were in business meeting and social media. In these meetings, I am often surprised by the amount of religious content that strays into these discussions. In many of these discussions people will quote a bible verse and tell you that is what the bible says and that ought to be the answer to the discussion.
As a facilitator, I will try to steer the discussion away from such short cuts. I call them short cuts because ‘many times’ when people say things in the name of God, they are trying to put some finality to the discussion. The objective of facilitation is not to get such a short cut answer, rather it is to explore uncharted territories. I have been privileged to participate in a few American discussion groups, to tell you the truth, the content of the discussions always lives me a wiser person.
Sometime in 2017, a Christian organization wanted me to facilitate a leadership session. Concerned that I could bring in examples from the secular world they repeatedly emailed me that the discussion was “Bible only”. I was tempted to cancel the meeting; but anyway, I was glad I went and by the end of the meeting the host was the one who led me to veer into the secular examples they did not want me to delve into.
In my short life, I have found out that often people who run to bring bible into a conversation are not willing to learn. It is not enough to believe in the Bible? listen to the Bible itself, “THOU BELIEVEST THAT THERE IS ONE GOD; THOU DOEST WELL, THE DEVIL ALSO BELIEVE AND TREMBLE” – James 2:19. The devil not only believe, he trembles. Some of us do not even tremble. People will try to use the bible to manipulate others, to avoid valid discussions and close themselves to change. What is my point in this piece?
Being born again is not the end to the use of your brain.
The “African gospel” has failed us in this area. You see the American Christian is educated, he knows that after praying, he has to work out his salvation; he has to THINK. Don’t tell me that when people have relationship challenge all they have to do is pray. That is cheap junk. Pray, yes; but when you are done praying, THINK. I think this is where the American Christian differs from the African Christian. Read Acts 1: 24 -26. When the 11 Apostles had an important appointment to make, they prayed and after they prayed, they decided to VOTE with their brains, and Matthias was chosen. After Prayer, they decided to use their brain. If the brain was not meant to be used, then it was no good for God to give it to us.
I once heard Andrew Womack say that so many Christians surrendered their lives to Christ and now, they have no life again. No brain, just nothing to think. In 2010 I was attending an African church in Manchester with my wife, when it was testimony time, a Nigerian man came forward to testify. In his testimony, he related how that he was offered two jobs, one in Manchester and the second in Lagos, Nigeria. Confused on which to accept, he went to ask his pastor to help him with the choice. I looked at the man and told my wife that I was done and have attended enough service for the day. When did Pastor’s become “talismen”, fortune tellers or soothsayers?
In the Republic of Ireland some years ago, I tried to offer my thoughts to a Nigerian who was stranded in the US. It turned out that this Nigerian has a Doctorate degree in Civil engineering. He had applied for asylum and was denied and was just floating in the country, jobless. When I tried to tell him to return to Nigeria, he told me God told him not to go back to Nigeria. As usual, God is the burden bearer for all foolishness, He is the insurance of last resort against all our stupidity. Every attempt for me to make him see his stupidity fell on deaf ears. He had no explanation for why he was in the Republic of Ireland other than the miserable excuse that God told him to be in the there.
See, if you do not understand what God is telling you, pray for understanding.
Read Apostle Paul’s words in 1Cor 14:13, if you are praying in tongues, you should pray that to be able to interpret. Have you received a leading that you do not understand, that sounds like tongues? You need to pray for understanding, don’t be foolish.
Don’t be foolish, God gave you your brain to reason. Even when the Apostle knew that God did not want him to go somewhere, he used his brain to say I am going, I want to go, this is what I want to do. The bible describes us a co -labourers, sharers in the grace and co -heirs, not servants. Is it wrong to dialogue with God? Absolutely not. God says when you come to a meeting with him, you should bring your strong points. In Exodus 3 when Moses was holding a dialogue with God, he urged God to “repent” of what He was planning to do. What do we see today? People who come to God with no plan, no reasoning just foolishness.
Today the “African God” is crippling so many destinies. But this crippled state is not really the fault of the African God. Until the African culture is rooted out of its education, the road is still a long way for true prosperity. There has never been the need for audacious education in Africa like we need it today. In a speech to the Nigerian Institute of Management, Warri in 2011, I had hinged my hope for Africa on education. Today, I think that sentence needs to be qualified. We need QUALITY AUDACIOUS education. The kind of education that can challenge our cultural idiosyncrasies. In a conversation with some church leaders not long ago, my attention was drawn to the fact that the leader of the organization cannot be wrong as he was God sent. I was stunned.
The liberation of the African mind from its cultures is going to be the final battle for the liberation of Africans. This is a war that will make apartheid struggle an elementary story.
In 2018, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Ife declared that there was not enough leadership in Nigerian universities to make them globally competitive. This is an honest admission from the most qualified man to make such a claim – the Vice Chancellor of a reputable institution. Despite huge knowledge, once the African professor mixes the knowledge with the African culture which has become inseparable with the religion, he becomes uneducated.
CS Lewis in his book “the abolition of man” depicts this sorrowful state of the African God when he writes that “We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” Today what should have been intellectual genius in Africa has become priests, professors and leaders without chests. These people cannot give us the greatness that we seek. Our culture is crippling us, it is making us men without chests and the depth of leadership in the country is so low that it is even difficult to reason with people these days.
Besieged all around by empty brains wallowing in religious slogans, we are in great need of redemption.
That so many pastors and churches have made their followers easy preys is not entirely their fault. These pastors have mapped out strategies to be relevant to our cultural hunger. I don’t blame them; what do you do when thousands of people knock at your doorstep every morning to give them a prophesy? You will have to prophecy.
A few years ago, a friend of mine, whose name I will not mention for privacy reasons was going through very challenging times; as a big man so many pastors were calling and joggling to pray for him and telling him what to do. He invited me for a chat and while we were chatting another Pastor called from Kano, telling him he was on his way to the airport to meet him in Abuja to pray for him. I was silent, wondering what he will do in the light of some bible passages I had just read to him. In a calm voice he told the pastor he did not need to come anymore. When he hung up the phone, he said to me, “Tunde, you know when they come, you have to pay their return tickets, house them and give them something and they cannot embark on all that journey and not prophecy, so they come under obligation to prophecy and give you a prophecy to justify your expenses”. This for me is SAD!
I was in a bible class of a Pentecostal church in Lagos a while ago and you could see that the pastor was not spiritually and academically qualified to instruct primary school students. When the adults in the class challenged his lecture, he resorted to prophesying and calmed the restiveness in the class when he gave some African prophecies, the type that the gods of “sango” used to keep us in bondage in the time past. He quickly delved into murky waters that cannot be challenged by African cultural idiosyncrasies. I looked around and asked myself if this has just happened in a supposed bible school? This was witchcraft in broad day light inside a bible school.
The late Kenneth E Hagin once said that if Christians will read their bible, 99% of people who go for counselling will disappear.
Now in Africa, reading is not in sync with our culture. You must understand where we are coming from to understand the depth of the shit that we are in. Before education, when we encountered problems, we approached idols. Today, with education, we have replaced our idols with these talisman pastors. Don’t get me wrong, there are honest pastors out there, but the vast majority are just fraud; and their fraud is not wholly their making, their followers created them. It will take more than just will power for a catholic priest who has sworn the oat of celibacy and yet besieged everyday by the opposite sex who desperately need him to keep to his oat. This is a 2-way problem, the leaders have emerged from these same bunch of followers, blinded by our culture and who might one day become the leader. This is a crisis of monumental proportion.
Africa needs a second fight for independence. We need to add a course on cultural re-orientation that caries the same weight as English Language and Mathematics before one is admitted to a University. This course should be taught from the Primary School to the University. Until we do this, Africa is likely to remain in poverty for centuries to come.
This “pause piece OPINION” from our weekly discourse is to challenge all of us to educate ourselves properly. Many of us need to go back to school and good schools for that matter. Many of us need to save part of our offerings to pay for executive education at the Lagos Business School or similar. We cannot continue to wallow in this ignorance. Many of us need to reduce the time spent in prayer meetings fighting an imaginary devil created by our imagination. We need AUDACIOUS EDUCATION.
God says my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Trust me, your life might just be better off reading a book on the subject you need help with than that 5 hours wait to see the “man of God” to resolve your relationship or whatever challenge you may have. You need knowledge and until you get the requisite knowledge, “aluta continua”, the struggle continues. Over 70% of the messages that emanate from most pulpits today is just scrap. They are messages designed to put the listener in perpetual bondage to the leader. In my talk with some church leaders, I have come to see that many of them know this as the Gospel truth and they confess that the people want it this way.