I Am a Catholic Priest, But I Wish “Nigerian Christianity” Dead & Buried.
Rev. Father Emmanuel Ojeifo
As I lay on my bed in the early hours of today, the tears continued to pour steadily and uncontrollably. From the side of my eyes, they found their way into my ears. I’d use my hands to wipe them, and they’d start pouring again. This has never happened to me. What is the matter? The more I tried to check what was happening to me, the more the tears kept pouring. Maybe I brought this upon myself. Who sent me to Jane Akwani’s Facebook wall to read her one-sentence analysis of each of Buhari’s ministers? What took me to Professor Pius Adesanmi’s wall to read his short but brutal thought on a prayer point he found on RCCG’s Twitter handle? Prof. Adesanmi is not used to writing short pieces, but this one was really short, and yet so brutally true. I thought to myself: If I hadn’t gone to Facebook that early morning, perhaps my sanity would have remained intact.
I will not be the one to tell you what Jane wrote about each of Buhari’s ministers. Go to her Facebook page and read it up yourself. Even the ministers themselves will find it hard disagreeing with her. About Prof Adesanmi’s post, I will give you just the summary, but still go to his Facebook page and get the real stuff. He started his short piece with this prayer point tweeted by Pastor Enoch Adeboye’s RCCG: “Any relative or anyone blocking your way, if they don’t repent, they won’t see the New Year.” Yes, you can go and check! That is what a Christian church is wishing people. Prof Adesanmi advised: When you get to church today, look at the front rows where thieves and looters are given VIP seats and protocol treatment, you will see the people blocking your progress. Start hating and cursing them but leave your relatives and witches in the village out of it. Your real enemies are those who sit on the front rows of your church.
You can ask yourself how we got to this point in our nation where religion has been so bacterized, where big public thieves are ushered with fanfare and pageantry to the front seats in the synagogues because they pay their tithes in millions and keep the pastors and priests well-taken care of in their churches. The pastor recognizes him and prays for him that all will be well. The sermon is literally praise-singing of the thief. There is nothing in it for the thousands of worshippers who have come to church. It is the big thief’s sermon. He has paid his tithe; he has bought the sermon. Every other person in the church must listen to the eulogy. Before the end of the service, the pastor calls him forward and asks him to say something to the brethren.
He collects the microphone, arranges his ‘agbada’ and shouts ‘Praise the Lord!’ And all of you respond, ‘Alleluia!’ He shouts, ‘Praise Master Jesus!’ All of you respond with a louder acclamation, ‘Alleluia,’ waving your hands unto the Lord. He bamboozles you with his sermon about how God has blessed him; how Daddy and Mummy have been interceding, praying and fasting on his behalf, and how God finally heard their prayers. In the end, he shouts ‘Praise the Lord’ again, and all of you respond, ‘Alleluia.’ The cheque is given later. It is for the pastor’s eyes only! As he majestically descends from the sanctuary to his seat, all of you start clapping for him.
Then you say you don’t know who your real enemy is? You must be an idiot! You’re the greatest enemy of yourself. Receive commonsense! So, if you want to throw stones and hurl curses, leave the poor, old wretched-looking grandmother in your village. Your witches and wizards are in the front pews of the church. Start throwing the stones from there. But I know that many Christians love that religion of vilification. So, they will be blind to the truth. They will continue to shout, ‘Holy Ghost fire destroy them! Holy Ghost fire consume them! All my enemies in the village who want to stop my progress die by fire!’
The first time the Holy Ghost came in the form of tongues of fire was on Pentecost Day. I can bet you that fire did not consume anyone. It was a fire of purification that cleansed the hearts and minds of the Apostles and gave them courage, power, authority and enlightenment to minister in the name of Jesus. In his sermon on Pentecost Day, Peter the head of the Apostles spoke out and invited those who killed Jesus to repent. He did not invoke death and destruction on them. He instead presented them the Good News of salvation. Behold, 3000 people became Christians that day (see Acts 2:1-41). How Nigerian Christians succeeded in turning this holy fire of purification into a ‘fire-for-fire’ spiritual battle of conjuring death and destruction on their enemies is what still baffles me today.
Religion has so groomed and programmed us today to become collective children of anger, hate, retribution, bile vituperation and verbal spiritual assault.’ In the name of prayer, all that comes out of our mouths are death wishes to imaginary enemies that do not exist anywhere, but in our minds. Not only has Christianity become a charade, a charlatan’s trade, a mad man hustle, a noise-making business, it has also ultimately become a blasphemy. Our priests and pastors and evangelists have not only taught us how to insult the hell out of our enemies and pray to God to kill them, but they have also ultimately taught us how to command God, decree for him what he must do and tell him how to curse the children he created in his own image.
God must surely be weeping for Christianity today in Nigeria. Tell the Christian that Jesus did not teach us to pray that way, tell him that Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-45, ‘You have heard how it was said, love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.’ He will ignorantly tell that the Bible says in Matthew 11:12 that, ‘From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of God suffereth violence and the violent taketh it by force.’ Not only is he ignorant about the context in which Jesus made that statement, but he is also specious in its interpretation, with 16th Century English of ‘suffereth’ and ‘taketh.’
In the course of my public writings, I have come very hard on religion in Nigeria. I have been most critical of the banality of organized religion in Nigeria. Lest I be accused of trying to protect the interests of the religious establishment in the cocoons of privilege, I have published several articles deploring the tragedy, farce, and charade that has become Christianity in Nigeria today from ‘The death of Christianity in Nigeria’ (Daily Trust, August 28 2016), ‘Religion, corruption and blood money’ (The Guardian, April 11 2016) and ‘The religious matrix of a corrupt society’ (Daily Trust, October 23 2016) to ‘Religion, spirituality and national development’ (Thisday, June 19 2016), ‘The corruption of religion in Nigeria’ (InfoTrust, October 5 2015), ‘George Ehusani and old-time religion’ (The Guardian, January 18 2016) and many more.
Sometimes, people come round and tell me, ‘You are a Catholic priest. You are a religious establishment man. How come you’re criticizing Christianity this way?’ And then you go on to tell you how – ‘Those who live in glass house should not throw stones.’ I tell them that I do not want to be a part of the mess going around in the name of religion. God will ask me on the last day what I did when I saw the rubbish being peddled around in His Name.
I will continue to protest against this nonsense religion built on corruption, fraud, oppression of the poor and the mad rush for riches. In the Parable of the Rich Fool, Jesus warned his disciples about the dangers of hoarding wealth, greed and avarice. Sadly today, religion has come to reinforce those very sharp practices that Jesus criticized in his days. Surely, the Lord must be weeping about what we have done in His Name. Religion should liberate and emancipate people’s souls, minds and bodies. But sadly Nigeria’s version of religion rather enslaves, corrupts and oppresses. It blinds men and women who should otherwise have common sense. When you talk about their religion, about their pastor and their churches, they get on the offensive and launch a vicious attack on your person.
It is in matters of religion that you see how emotive Nigerians can be. They throw common sense and reason out of the window and put on primordial sentiments. They leave the substance of your argument and verbally attack you. They defend the hypnotizing dexterity of their man of God and tell you why he is entitled to collect the entire tithe. Alas, with all the degrees they have acquired, they have lost their common sense. They celebrate their oppression in the hands of those who capitalize on their gullibility to swindle and dupe them in the name of God. The pastor is not the enemy. It is you who is the enemy for telling them what the truth!
I am a Catholic priest, but I want to see this type of Christianity dead and buried. The type of Christianity that uses our national stadiums more for revivals and crusades than for sporting events; the type of religion that builds more churches than promote industries; the type of religion that makes educated people lose their common sense. Every passing day, I get really afraid for Nigeria. I know what happened during the French Revolution, how brewing public resentment against the excesses of political and religious leaders led to a deluge of blood that consumed many lives.
In those days, Paris was a society of spectacle and glamour. Kings, nobles, aristocrats and high clergy lived in opulence, grandeur, grotesque pomp and corrupt privilege. The excesses of the old regime were turning Parisian social life into a destructive menace, yet the royals and aristocrats continued their ostentatious and opulent spectacle. France was busy ‘making paper money and spending it. Under the guidance of her Christian pastors, she entertained herself, besides, with such humane achievements as sentencing a youth to have his hands cut off, his tongue torn out with pincers, and his body burned alive, because he had not kneeled down in the rain to do honor to a dirty procession of monks which passed within his view, at a distance of some fifty or sixty yards.’
On the countryside, it was an entirely different scene. Cold, dirt, ignorance, idleness, sickness and want prevailed upon the poor people. Streets were full of offense and stench. Britons traveling in France habitually remarked on how much poorer the French population seemed compared to back home. Hunger was prevalent everywhere. Poor people toiled unceasingly and worked tirelessly with little reward. With many people roaming the streets without jobs, crime was on the increase. Nobles and priests were wealthy, lived in lavish contempt and enjoyed great luxury and expense. ‘Military officers destitute of military knowledge; naval officers with no idea of a ship; civil officers without a notion of affairs; brazen ecclesiastics, of the worst worldly – with sensual eyes, loose tongues, and looser lives; all totally unfit for their several callings… Doctors who made great fortunes out of daintily remedies for imaginary disorders that never existed.’
France at this time was a broken country. ‘All its people were poor… Expressive signs of what made them poor were not wanting; the tax for the State, the tax for the Church, the tax for the lord, tax local and tax general, were to be paid here and to be paid there, according to solemn inscription in the little village, until the wonder was, that there was any village left un-swallowed.’ Joseph Francois Foulon, who was a counselor to King Louis XVI, was even known to have told the poor people to eat grass if they were hungry.
Such was the sad situation of France that brewed public resentment, formed a brutal mob of the people and gave birth to a maelstrom of war, bloodbath, pitiless violence and political upheaval. After enduring ‘unspeakable suffering, intolerable oppression and heartless indifference’ the rioting masses of the people stopped at nothing until they had presided over the revolutionary deluge of blood after storming the Bastille in 1789. In the end, both politicians and high clergy paid the price for their corrupt privileges. No religion that asserts its power in the form of public exhibition can guarantee control of its audience’ reaction.
If things do not change, someday, that kind of revolution will consume us. It took one vegetable cart pusher to set himself ablaze in protest for the Arab Spring to start. The disgust of the people had been brewing steadily until that day when a common vegetable seller said, ‘Enough is enough.’ Nigeria is a country of great potentials and possibilities, but our destitute politicians, rogue traditional rulers and corrupt pastors have colluded to turn it into a vale of blood and tears. We must start the journey of Nigerian emancipation by rescuing our minds and souls from the hypnosis of what has become a Christ-less Christianity in Nigeria today. Only then can we collectively move on to rescue the drowning religion from itself. It is a war of mental liberation fought with intellectual stones. If you have gone to school, go into your refrigerator and bring out your degree certificate. De-freeze it and drink the water of common sense. Then pick up your own ‘stone’ and shatter the glasshouse!
If Nigeria is to get better soon, Christianity, as it is practiced today, must be brought down!