June 30, 2013 my mother and sister got marooned along with thousands of travelers on the religious highway – the stretch of Lagos – Ibadan expressway between Mountain of Fire Ministries and The Redeemed Camp for 9hours.
Their dreadful experience in the traffic jam forced me to sit up one more time and take notice. Impunity cuts across every facet of our national life even in places of worship. That is why the Redeemed Christian Church of God and to some extent the Mountain of Fire and Miracle Ministries hierarchy despite their reach, power and influence pretends not to notice the pain they inflict on travelers at their frequent gatherings.
The teachings of Christ has been perverted. Transactional theology and feel-good Christianity has fed into the slothful narrative of who we have become. It is the reason why millions throng the “camps” looking for their own miracle.
Growing up a Methodist; I was fed on a Christian tradition obsessed with sin and suffering, the death of Jesus on the cross as the only salvation for a wicked race yoked by the infernal original sin.
That was the nature of Christianity until American style Pentecostalism filtered in.
Before the Pentecostal invasion, Christians in Nigeria were developing their own Protestant Ethic of faith, work and reward. Like all things new, we barely understood the long term implications of the “Amen” Churches, we lost sight of its appeal to the majority until the country was overtaken and its moral foundation shaken.
As Methodists, Anglicans, Apostolics, we liked the idea of talk no sin, focus on the positive messages of God’s love doctrine as alternatives and powerful antidotes to the vengeful God.
Little did we know that the bodacious pastors’ feel-good message of God of infinite promises is as antipodal to Christianity as the angry and punitive God of the Evangelicals.
We loved cool stuff, the bombast and oratory of the pastors sucked us in.
Pentecostalism spread like bush fire poaching Evangelicals and Catholics almost into extinction. Each time I try to understand how we got to this dark place we are in, I always conclude that Nigeria’s emergence as a nation seemed fated like the famed Titanic ocean liner.
On April 15, 1912; every natural element in the North Atlantic including the fatal error of not having enough lifeboats conspired to sink the ill-fated ship.
In Nigeria, oil, population, religion, diversity, culture, history etc converged negatively to get us where we are today. Religion has become our albatross in just a generation.
Our pulpits are long on swagger and ostentation but short on activist clergies who are incorruptible, ascetic and unaffected by material possessions.
Other than priests of the Catholic Church in the mould of Cardinal Okogie, Bishop Kukah etc, what we have are leaders of occults, esoteric con-artists and entertainer pastors preaching the gospel of miracles, healing and prosperity.
It is true that the Jesus of miracles does exist but he did say in Mathew 16:4 that ” An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign”.
No where in the Gospel did I find the banker Jesus or the Jesus of Lexus Jeeps and private jets. I appreciate the business sense of hanging out with the banker Jesus instead of the angry Jesus but their banker Jesus is very disdainful of the self regulating ethics of free enterprise and corporate responsibility.
The banker Jesus is what you get when the poor fund the Christian Universities for the rich to attend. When they pay tithes for the pastors wife to wear diamond necklaces.
The rot in our polity festers, the body of Christ in Nigeria has lost it’s way, there is no rectitude. Church service is now a social gathering of songs, networking and high fashion and less of Bible reading, exegesis and ever fewer calls for repentance and salvation.
Who will reorient Christianity back to the scripture? Who will stop our New Age pastors, prosperity preachers, miracle peddlers and healers from advancing a vision of God that is transactional? No one will.
Quality education, equal opportunity for citizens and government accountability and responsibility is the answer.
Lord Henry Brougham in his speech to the House of Commons on January 29, 1828 said “Education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern but impossible to enslave.”
Belief in the transactional God is ruining Nigeria. We have become a religious nation without a glimmer of righteousness, a nation tethered to the ATM God. The God that does this if you do that. The God that responds to each individual according to their prayers because a verse in the Bible says so.
The God of redemption has been demoted in favor of the ATM God. This is not what religion is and certainly not what faith is about.
Mounting several night vigils with prayer to get what you want, believing really hard in the miracle of getting, are not true to the Christian story – it is illogical.
To imagine that the universal God bows to the whim of every he, she or I is to believe in magic.
The transactional God does not exist, He is a phantom, a creation of jeunjeun (chop-I-chop) pastors; it is a theological falsehood. The concept runs contra to the experience of faithful Christians the world over.
From the beginning of time and into the future, many people of faith will die from incurable diseases, will be childless, will be poor until death overtakes them and many will be visited with afflictions of varying degrees despite their faith in God through a lifetime.
If it is not your portion, whose portion is it? It is the nature of things and the nature of life; life and its many variables are random. The cards are drawn at random and you play the cards you are dealt.
Many people have been plunged into crisis of faith because their pastors told them if they only had enough faith, their problems would be taken care of. They wonder how much faith must they have to push their transactions through.
My favorite question for these pastors is: “what sin did John the Baptist commit to justify his beheading?” And a follow up; “Had he no faith?.”
Unfortunately Christianity has gotten enveloped by the powers and principalities of materialism, primitive wealth acquisitions and individualism. If the issue of sin is ever discussed, emphasis is laid more on communal and structural sins than individual morality and redemption.
You want a house? Pray, no mention of work. You want money? Pay your tithe, have faith and God will give it to you.
The leash of religion on money and temporal things is broken. General Overseers give religious sanction to get rich, be powerful by every means possible ignoring the the example of a life of humility, simplicity and modesty lived by Christ.
Jesus didn’t preach wealth, possessions, or prestige; his teachings shuns the trappings of worldly things, and his life was lived in poverty. His life was lived in faith, in concord with God’s will leading to his painful death on the cross.
Why should we imagine God will give us what we want by saying a few words of prayer when we have only a fraction of Christ’s faith? Did Christ not pray enough or was his faith too little?
Faith only makes life a lot easier to live. God is not transactional, He is not an ATM.
Believers and people of faith must accept pain and suffering as part of life, “there can be no human dignity without it”.
Let no one fool you that believing in God can free you of diseases, poverty, failures and various afflictions. Bad things happen to good people.
It is bad theology to tell people if you pray and you do this, God will do that for you. Faith in God guides through adversity and helps manage success.
Do not confuse the happiness, hope and love God dispenses materially. It has ruined many faithfuls’ faith. Read your Bible and understand its teachings and rely less on “my pastors says”.
Prosperity preachers and miracle peddlers are enemies of faith and purveyors of deceptive theology. Emancipate yourselves!
Kindly follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo
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