Thursday, 25 September 2014

Must Read: The Religion Called Nigeria by Zeal Akaraiwe



A friend of mine called to ask why I hadn't written about all the nonsense going on in the Church today. I told him I hadn't because I was upset and still was and didn't want to write with the kind of anger I was feeling. Well, Zeal has saved me the stress and written what most of us would be afraid to say, for fear of offending the powers that be. Enjoy.
I've held back from writing this for a while, but the events in the last few weeks and comments from Nigerians on radio and social media have made me rethink that stance. I find it humorously exhilarating that people are generally on the same page when it comes to what our dear country's problem is NOT.

Most agree it's not the man at the top as we are aware that many of the major problems dominant today pre-existed him. It’s certainly not the poor men at the bottom, at least not in any mind boggling financial capacity. Many (I wish more) agree it's not even the widely blamed corruption as this is more a manifestation and a symptom of a major sickness.

Most, if not all, Nigerians would list at least one of the following as our biggest problem, which they believe if solved, would fix the entire nation: (1) power, (2) security, (3) education, (4) employment, (5) road-network/transportation and (6) poverty (7) corruption. What we all fail to realize, is that all of these things are merely symptoms of a much deeper issue. Compounding this problem for us, is the fact that the longer a symptom is left to fester, the more it takes on the characteristics of the problem and would almost certainly need a solution of its own. Unfortunately, our ogas-at-the-top seem, or at least pretend, to concentrate energy and resources on tackling and fighting one or more of the symptoms without ever addressing the root causes. 

I believe that most human beings, and of course Nigerians, are generally driven and motivated by their belief systems, be it faith or fear. Our character as a nation is now largely dependent on these, and the questions must be asked of faith: What is our faith? Where is our faith developed? Is our faith being developed at all? Whether you worship on Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday, is your faith being developed in such a way that your character is growing positively towards being your brothers’ keeper?

Of fear: What do we fear? Are we taught the punishment of The Almighty exists at all? Are we afraid of the laws of the land? Do we have a conscience that berates us for wrong doing? Do we even know what is right and wrong anymore?
I’ve been thinking about it and I’m now convinced that I may have identified one of our “ROOT” problems. Please note I said “root problem” and I also said “one of” so feel free to add yours. The problem? Religion! The institutions and the leaders.

I do not write this to critize the churches, nor their pastors, nor those who attend. I write this in the hope that all those of us who call for accountability within our government,  who call for responsibility within our political class, who abhor the decay in our society and country, see that we need to task ourselves by searching out truth within ourselves first. And where more to start, than in the institutions whose primary responsibility is to teach and propagate truth, honesty, love, kindness, decency etc.

For a start, I grew up in a society where your MORALS and VALUE systems were well built up largely in one of 3 places: home, church and school. On the home front, your parents’ morals were really built in church. In school, your teachers’ morals were also built in church and at home. So, elementary mathematics states if x=y and y=z then x=z i.e. the church plays a significant role in shaping our values, our morals, our conscience and most importantly, when we do go astray, in correcting us and reeling us back to where we ought to be.

I recall during my NYSC in the late 90s when my cousin said he wanted to go to Bible school, I was like “Dude, can you even spell Bible?” But his logic was simple, “It’s a good business to go into - easy money and tax free.” He said this despite the fact that it was sacrilege at that time to even think that you would want to start a church without a calling from The Almighty!

In my younger days in church, we were taught about right and wrong; but today I look at my generation and those following and, the truth is, nothing is ever wrong. It’s all ‘relative’ and about what is ‘convenient’. We were taught honesty and it didn’t matter if you were caught or not. Today, it’s about what you can get away with and if you get caught, it’s your ‘enemies’ plotting your downfall and if you don’t get caught, then “God himself must have orchestrated your getaway”! Just make sure you bring back the requisite 10% of the loot to appease Him and it’s all good.

I recall a friend who bought a BMW in 2001, but took “young-shall-grow” night bus to see his folks for fear that they would set the car ablaze as he couldn’t explain where the money for it came from. I can picture that scenario today in many homes – blessings and prayer would follow without a question as to how the money was made. The end justifies the means.

We were taught about kindness. I still recall that it was seen as awkward to get to church with only one occupant in a car; we used to stop at bus stops looking for people to give a ride. Do I hear you say “Nigeria was different then”? It definitely was, but who and what has made it different? US! You and I!!
We were also taught about working hard and working well – ‘going the extra mile’. These principles eliminated the cancer we have today called mediocrity – but let me not digress.

I look around today and realize, the answer to many (if not all) of our woes isn’t very far-fetched; not too hard to think about if you consider the parable our Lord gave about sowing seeds that fell amongst thorns, it’s short-lived because worldly cares choked the life out of it.

We criticize the politicians and leaders for surrounding themselves with sycophants who merely tell them what they want to hear and let the truth go to blazes; and yet, I just imagine how quickly we would abandon a church/pastor/imam who dares tells us the truth that we have erred and need to make restitution. Oops, did I say “restitution”? I can hear some ask “What is that?” Are we really any different from the so-called evil politicians?

Nigeria is plagued with liars and thieves, self-willed individuals and the blind leading the blind; we are plagued with churches and pastors (note small ‘C” and small ‘P”) who are businessmen!

Don’t get me wrong here, I have nothing against men of God who have a calling to be Pastors and lead Churches (capital P and capital C). My problem is the fact that a lot, if not all, of those who fall into one or more of the symptomatic categories above spend all day on Sunday (or any other day their religion dictates) going to listen to a self-titled CEO, who heads a tax-free enterprise, who’s well versed in motivational speaking, gone to a theological school and stands on a pulpit with a microphone. {Not sure what you are trying to say here.}. These are those that I refer to as businessmen, though they stand on a pulpit and preach.

We are a generation of prosperity preachers and believers! I have nothing against prosperity; however, I have a major issue, when it is preached at the cost of the true gospel – honesty, kindness, hard work, being your brothers’ keeper etc. We preach that if you are making money, of which no one cares the means anymore, then The Almighty must be happy with you and therefore whatever you do/did to make the money is ok. And again, please do not forget God’s share of 10% to launder your conscience.

Ask yourself in silence and honesty, when last did you hear from a pulpit, the words holiness or kindness; fairness or equity; humility or service? Then think about the last time you heard the words prosperity, blessing, abundance, promotion. How can we sit back and believe that bad things are “not our portion” when we do nothing to prevent decay in our society; we sit and condone illegal behavior, celebrate mediocrity and even wickedness.

So, it’s neither politics, nor bad politicians; it’s not corruption nor undisciplined officials; it’s not the lack of good workers nor is it poverty. All these are certainly major problems we have, but are all symptoms of the real problem and have, with time, become so core in our system it is now hard to recognize as symptoms; hence we attack them wondering why there are no results not realizing that a symptom may dissipate, but will only manifest somewhere else as something else.

Forgive me as I attempt to link a lot of psychological and theoretic dots here – May have been sitting in a church Sunday after Sunday, for years on end, obeying, whole-heartedly, what we hear from the pulpit. This then forms into a habit. We are unable to recognize nor follow the TRUE teaching of our Faith that requires us to have a PERSONAL relationship with our creator in a way that He can speak to you. We sit under the tutelage of people who sometimes are as clueless as us, and worse, sometimes even pretenders. They give instructions for us to act upon and tell us that The Almighty has spoke through them – we believe – hook, line, sinker. We believe because we are either too lazy, too brainwashed or too scared to search the Holy Book and verify what we hear. We believe because we are too guilt laden to object. We believe because we feel that blind obedience is a small price to pay even if we are wrong; we believe because we lie to ourselves that it is better to be safe than sorry. What safety? We become like slaves to a hard master; we are in a mental state akin to drug addicts.  What does all this habit then do to us? We become psychologically intimidated and it makes us refuse to ask questions.

Expand this growing attitude a little and you will then understand why a large majority of the church-going population have formed a habit of not asking questions; of not holding accountable those in authority; for not verifying the blatant lies we hear from the ogas-at-the-top; for having an aloof attitude to our being raped, plundered, mauled emotionally, financially and psychologically  - for we have gotten used to all this and we have formed the habit of accepting, as Fela put it, sorrow, tears and blood – and I will add, torture, theft and death.

We now believe we have no option but to wait for the CREATOR to come from heaven, wear a suit, contest elections and rule us!

Can we, as a people be this na├»ve and idiotic……I don’t know, but I look around and I believe the answer is abundantly clear.

Nigeria isn’t a bad country, it’s the inhabitants that make it what it is.

To be continued...

1 comment:

Di'Otun Strut® said...

I agree with you 100%, even Jesus himself said judgement will start in the house of God. Thank you for writing this piece and please continue in this stride until change is visible. Our current crop of spiritual leaders have failed us. They care more about financial revenue than the souls of men.