Is Prosperity-driven Christian Evangelism a Variant of 419?
Traditional African cultural practice propounds that bad people and evil spirits have the power to inflict hardship on the lives and wellbeing of their victims. Ill health, be it of physical and psychological nature, are often deemed to have resulted from the machinations of evil people and those who have come under the control of evil forces/spirits. Christian evangelists, particularly those who freelance under the aegis of Pentecostalism, preach God as the miracle worker with the omnipotent power to cure all human infirmity, no matter what might have caused the given ailment or disability. Such Pentecostal churches are crowded in today’s Nigerian mega cities which hordes of chronically ill patients who are brought there so that the usually famous evangelist in-charge would invoke God’s miraculous powers to cure them of whatever ail the congregants. The sick, together with their family supporters and well wishers, are made to offer tithes in anticipation of the impending miraculous cure or as thanksgiving for whatever relief that would have been experienced by the infirm before being brought to the evangelical preachers.
Even the well-to-do still flock to the Pentecostal churches in search of a promise of wealth and earthly possessions. The trick is straightforward; tithing 10% of one’s annual income is usually sold to the congregants as a reasonable expense for the anticipated bountiful returns from a miracle-working God being invoked by the evangelical preacher. The scheme has all the features of advance-fee fraud a. k. a. 419 where one pays one’s money upfront in anticipation of a massive windfall; a vacuous expectation which, most often, never materializes as promised. Since religion is involved, the duped are made to understand that God’s time is the best and therefore, must remain patient, albeit, indefinitely. As the YouTube video aptly notes, the those who offer 10% of their income, irrespective of their current financial status, are made to fork out what they can hardly afford on regular basis while the evangelical preacher and usually the sole proprietor of the church enterprise routinely smiles to the bank at end of each worship session.
One would have opted to look the other way simply all the transactions within the church congregation are supposedly voluntary since no one is being dispossessed at gunpoint. There is, however, multiple societal consequences clearly enunciated in this video. Perhaps, the most consequential is the brainwashing of ordinary folks to pattern their lives and expectations based on anticipation of magical enrichment from a fair and enabling God as routinely marketed by the evangelical preachers. Rather than rely on focused thinking, planning and dint of hard work, upstart hustling artisans and traders are made to while away their time dreaming of miraculous enrichment from the miracle-working God as promised by the Pentecostal preachers. The church owners live lifestyles of the super rich with mansions, luxury cars, high-class mistresses, private jet planes and overflowing bank accounts while the congregants, who are being fleeced on regular basis, steadily decline in their net economic worth with each passing day.
If this is not sheer 491, then it is very hard to ascertain what else is. The paradox of our legal system is that the mainstream advance-fee fraudsters are sought after, arrested, prosecuted and even jailed for their economic crimes. The Pentecostal preachers, who are equally guilty of utilizing same means to acquire personal wealth are often hailed by power that be as the “holy men of God” who are given special privileges in society to enable them to do more of what they are already doing – ripping off the gullible in their congregation.