Monday, March 14, 2016

Christianity and Nigeria’s Miracle Pastors

Nothing – absolutely nothing – will change if we refuse to act wisely or back our prayers and fasting with positive and proactive actions. Nothing will change if we refuse to speak truth to power or demand for accountability, responsible and honest services from those who manage collective resources on our behalf, and who are already handsomely rewarded for these services…Sometimes, I wonder how the followers of these so-called men of God take their flamboyant leaders seriously! How can this year be your year, when all you see on the streets are hopelessness and decay?

A prophet was preaching to his congregation sometime ago. At a point he started denouncing people who had accused him of living a flamboyant lifestyle and who also said that he was a false prophet who cannot suffer and die for the sake of the gospel. In his words, “I will not die for Jesus because Jesus already died for me. I don’t need to suffer because Jesus already suffered for me – and I will not be poor because Jesus lived and died poor so that I would be rich”. He told his followers how he had bought several expensive cars, and how his admires had donated tens of thousands of dollars to
him during his birthday. On another occasion, a prophet was narrating to his congratulation how a heavy traffic had delayed his convoy, which made him to contract the service of a motorcyclist who took him to the venue of his crusade. He gazed at his audience for a while and then asked, “Did you see why I have been saying that we needed a private jet in this ministry?” Then like a replay of one of the scenes in George Owell’s Animal Farm came an implosion of “Yes daddy, yes daddy, yes daddy”, etc. Finally, he reminded them of a Bible passage which says, “Do not touch my anointed or do my prophet any harm”. “You see why you should not say anything bad against a prophet, no matter what he is doing, just leave him to God”, he concluded.

In Nigeria today, Christianity has passed through tremendous transformations in both its content and the delivery of its message with the emergence of televangelists and miracle pastors who have made prophesies and prosperity preaching the core of the Christian values they promote. Nobody preaches holiness and righteousness anymore. Although some of these pastors are largely deceptive, but due to the abject poverty in the land, caused by government corruption, our people nevertheless visit them for prophesies on issues such as marriage breakthroughs, employment opportunities, success in examinations or even to get information on their enemies who might be planning to kill them etc. In fact, some Christians today no longer go to church to worship God as these men have built personality cults around themselves and have become the objects of worship. They fly in private jets, live in mansions, drive flashy cars, wear foreign suits and then preach Jesus in style, telling their followers that poverty is a disease. So for the fear of being killed by the disease of poverty, their poor followers are mandated to do anything possible in order to sustain the sumptuous lifestyles of these pastors. They have been warned that miracles are for those who pay tithes, sow seeds and who challenge God with big offerings always!

Owing to the consistent failure of leadership in Nigeria over the decades, and the attendant hardship the situation has foisted on the polity, many people tend to look elsewhere for succour and relief. But we cannot, however, continue to pretend that prayers and fasting alone are the answers to our problems or that the church has become the alternative to government whose primary responsibility is to provide employment opportunities, affordable healthcare services, qualitative education, infrastructure and other basic needs, as well as to meet the honest aspirations and dreams of the citizenry.

Now, when these crooked governors approach our religious leaders with cheques or gifts such as SUVs, private jets and mansions, rather than confront them on behalf of the poor who go to bed every night on empty stomachs due to their misdeeds, these church leaders will instead praise them before their congregations. What a joke!

An average Nigerian miracle pastor is something else. He doesn’t need to be humble because Jesus was humble throughout his stay on earth. He doesn’t have to perform a free miracle because Jesus already did so much for free, hence people now need to sow seeds before the pastor’s prayers can work miracles in their lives. He offers categories of anointing and anointed materials at different prices. He is not of this world. He constantly reminds his followers that they have remained poor because they either do not pay enough tithes or do not pay at all. “Those who don’t pay tithes are robbing God and therefore cannot prosper”, he emphasises. The miracle pastor is not interested in the wellbeing of his followers. He owns multiple cars, a series of aircrafts, a large retinue of assistants, and frequently travels abroad. In fact, his monthly allowances can put food on the tables of thousands of his poor followers, but he couldn’t actually be bothered about this, after all Jesus had suffered for the poor already. Some of our miracle pastors enjoy the comfort of their corrupt donors such that rather than fight for the wellbeing of their impoverished followers by challenging the injustices in society, some of our miracle pastors simply compete with each other for opportunities to pray for those in authority. They will tell you that it is not good for them to criticise our unrepentant corrupt leaders because if they do so, they would be engaging in politics. I have no problem with our religious leaders praying for those in authority, after all, it is good, especially if the prayers are for them to change and become better leaders.

Let us take Nigeria today as an instance, you find governors who collect over N600m every single month as security votes that needn’t be accounted for, and who also collect and squander tens of billions of naira from the Federation Account meant for their local governments every month, just to mention a few of such. And, this is within the context that these governors have blatantly refused to invest adequately in the education and wellbeing of the poor in their respective states, but have instead converted public resources into building personal industries and shopping plazas all over the country. Now, when these crooked governors approach our religious leaders with cheques or gifts such as SUVs, private jets and mansions, rather than confront them on behalf of the poor who go to bed every night on empty stomachs due to their misdeeds, these church leaders will instead praise them before their congregations. What a joke! And, are these church leaders not making caricatures of themselves before God who is watching in heaven? Did the biblical prophets Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Ezekiel do so in their times? No! They rather spoke truth to power and warned the powerful to repent of how they treated the poor and their evil ways, and that they should turn to God. Not even Jesus Christ would have prayed for blessings for a corrupt leader, except it were a prayer for repentance and the embrace of Godly wisdom.

There are religious leaders who today tell their miracle-seeking followers that everything will be fine as long as they keep patronising their churches. “As long as you keep coming here and you keep continuing to challenge God with your tithes and wonderful offerings, you will make it no matter what the economy is saying; whether the economy is good or bad, whether there is poverty in the land or corruption in the government, this is your year”.

Miracle pastors should stop deceiving the people with their so-called prophecies and miracle job offers, which simply do not exist. They should instead be enlightening people about participating actively in democratic processes, and in the governance of their various communities, as a way of changing corrupt governments for the collective good of the society. Otherwise, why haven’t our fasting and prayers transformed Nigeria over the years?

For these men of God, life on earth, Christianity and even happiness is all about financial prosperity and the mindless acquisition of wealth. They say that poverty is a decease and then preach Jesus in style; after all, Jesus lived and died poor so they could live an unimaginable opulence and waste at the expense of tithe payers. So the poor people keep fasting and praying. They also keep paying tithes and sowing seeds for miracles, though sadly, often with borrowed money. Most church congregations have been brainwashed into believing that the reason they are poor is because they have not been paying their tithes. But while they are waiting endlessly for miracles after giving out so much money, some of these religious leaders are building mansions across the globe for themselves and flying in private jets to all parts of the world with their contributions. These miracle seekers have unfortunately abandoned their commonwealth to the corrupt political leaders of state only to embrace miracle pastors for the resolution of issues that are not even spiritual. There have been instances where some of them had even stolen from their work places in order to pay tithes to the greedy men of God who apparently do not care where such monies come from.

Miracle pastors should stop deceiving the people with their so-called prophecies and miracle job offers, which simply do not exist. They should instead be enlightening people about participating actively in democratic processes, and in the governance of their various communities, as a way of changing corrupt governments for the collective good of the society. Otherwise, why haven’t our fasting and prayers transformed Nigeria over the years? Why haven’t our prayers and those of the miracle pastors rehabilitated our refineries and power stations, dilapidated roads, ailing industries, and more significantly, our country’s decaying education system? Today over seventy percent of Nigerian youths are unemployed in spite of prophecies and miracle prayers. Nothing – absolutely nothing – will change if we refuse to act wisely or back our prayers and fasting with positive and proactive actions. Nothing will change if we refuse to speak truth to power or demand for accountability, responsible and honest services from those who manage collective resources on our behalf, and who are already handsomely rewarded for these services. In fact, they are grossly overpaid! Sometimes, I wonder how the followers of these so-called men of God take their flamboyant leaders seriously! How can this year be your year, when all you see on the streets are hopelessness and decay? Decaying human and physical infrastructure; poor power supply, with industries closing down every day; skyrocketing unemployment levels; decades of a corrupt and ineffective fuel importation/supply system; violent crimes and insurgency; violent corruption and widespread looting of our commonwealth by those in authority etc. With all these issues not being adequately addressed and resolved, how then can this year be your year?

Written by: Chris Chukwubuzor Azuka, National Coordinator, Save the Dream Nigeria Project.

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