Different parts of the world seem to understand and experience religion differently. In Western parts, it appears to be more about whole well-being, inner peace, self-esteem, being an asset to the larger society and being driven by purpose. But you see, in these parts, the major religious sects seem to be a lot more about grabbing what you can from God. Now. Because…. Hello! You deserve it! You are a regular Sunday, as well as mid-week (BONUS points) service attendee, even if you hurl insults at the raving mad Okada guy (and his ancestors) who seems to have no value for his life or yours as a matter of fact. You go to The Redeemed Camp every Monday; even Satan himself couldn’t stop you of he came up and stood in front of your gate. You pray more than the average Muslim every day, even though the rest of the day you’re gossiping about Brother Mike’s Friday night escapades with women in the service industry. But all that does not matter! We do what we think we need to do, to get what we want from God.
You see that is the problem. Why? Because of what is preached in these parts; prosperity. It is the main driving force of a multitude of the worshippers in Nigeria. Blame it on our socio-economy? Yes, that’s fair enough. But the point is that the average Nigerian today would do nearly anything to be wealthy… to drive fast cars, and spend lavishly, and basically act out all what he sees in Davido’s music videos. So can you blame a man or woman for this I-Gats-Make-Am attitude and this unshakable hope, when it is mostly preached to him or her?
This message is preached by people who are in a position to take advantage (and in many cases, do) of the vulnerability of millions of Nigerians who cannot and will not stop striving for a better life; by people who fill them with volumes of hope when the good intentions are not there; by people who encourage you to be a “cheerful giver” and promise a “bountiful flow of blessings from Above”, just so your tithes and offerings can fund lavish lifestyles. FOR HOW LONG WILL WE BE BLINDED BY RELIGION (NOT FAITH) IN THIS COUNTRY? Religious men and women mask themselves as people who truly care for us, care for our needs, are there to help us, but underneath it all, a lot of them are not sincere.
According to Mfonobong Nsehe, a blogger for Forbes business magazine, “Preaching is big business [in Nigeria]. It’s almost as profitable as the oil business.” Desperate, needy, result-seeking people constantly flock from near and far to churches, and camps, and conventions, to sleep on floors and sometimes go without food for a couple of days just to seek the faces of these ‘powerful men’. And what do they get? “We have Nigerians who are desperate, looking for solutions to their problems. They go to church for salvation, redemption and healing and pastors sometimes take advantage of them,” Mr Nsehe commented. In no way, am I suggesting that every pastor, bishop, or reverend or is ingenuine or out to benefit themselves; there are truly some respectable ones out there. BUT we need to beware. Even the Bible talks about “many coming in His [Jesus’] name.” Many leaders in churches are out to exploit – materially, and even physically in certain cases – those who truly do not know where else to turn. For a lot, satisfying their own desires is the main agenda (some even set up mini prison camps in the name of education). I believe the first step is opening our eyes to this reality and being wiser about the people we look up to and trust in. This does not mean distrusting them or criticising their every action; rather it means understanding that not every man who calls on the name of God is honest. Yes, they are there to help and guide people in the right direction, but we need to be less deceivable and more focused on the main reasons why we go there in the first place.
As my father says (at every opportunity he possibly can, to anyone who cares to engage him in a debate), “Church is a booming industry in this country”, and with our insatiable desire to be prosperous as a nation, I’m afraid of the effects this may have on millions of people. What do you think about this?
Am I the only one who feels this way about religious exploitation in Nigeria? Is there no way we can stop this?
There has to be a way to exercise faith with the right balance of consideration and restraint.
Photo credit: yourblackworld.net