Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Nigeria: Nigerian Religious Junk and Hedonist's Constitution

Nigerian Religious Junk

As I rode my bicycle home this evening I began to turn over in my mind the article I read earlier in the about a perversion of the Christian Gospel that a Zambian Baptist pastor termed Nigerian Religious Junk.

Conrad Mbewe wrote Nigerian Religious Junk! [1] in February but I came about it through a tweet that led to a whole scale dump of that blog on the NairaLand community forum.

The pastor addressed some well-defined themes that appear to be common to evangelical or more particularly Pentecostal church branches exported out of Nigeria in what he called a personal-to-holder construct.

Witch doctors in the shrine

He noted most of these establishments had become personality cults to the founders with church taking second place to the conglomerate of the ministry with the moniker “International” appearing to give those arrangements more credence.

Interestingly, he showed similarities between the African witchdoctor in animist religions with that of pastors whose related activity was to offer deliverance, the articles of ritual were not too dissimilar with money being common.

Then he lamented the suspension of reason and intellect of followers who in adulation and subjugation to the leader who appears to be answerable to no one as a Sangoma holds power to the dread of the people.

By the time he ends the piece, he has addressed the obsession with titles, the milking of the flock, the tolerance of corruption, the hedonism of the “clergy”, the absence of the gospel and no grounded Christian teaching.

The hedonism of religious leaders

Now, as he said, this was not to say that all Nigerian missionaries were planting churches of this perverted ilk of the gospel, but a trend and pattern had emerged that was being copied by those with connections to Nigeria.

A few days ago, I wrote a blog titled Nigeria: The spectacular gospel of Mammon [2] which pertained to a documentary on The Making Of … Nigeria’s Millionaire Preachers [3] aired on Channel 4 in the UK about Dr Sign Fireman whose mesmerising services mimicking a form of Shamanism featured his outlandishly ostentatious tastes leading a people that appeared vulnerable rich pickings to make the leader rich.

At one point, ladies of the “shrine” since church would be too generous an artistic license danced to welcome him as he cruised in with his Yellow Hummer calling him “Daddy” where it was clear that he probably was closer to their son – now, there is nothing wrong in according religious leaders respect and reverence but fawning obsequiously in the display of false humility and hyper-respect has to be altogether sinful.

The Hedonist’s Constitution

However, the more concerning part of this matter is the underlying fundamental that drives these movements called the Prosperity Gospel though it is closer to the Hedonist’s Constitution which carries the refrain that Jesus Christ was a rich man, he had a treasurer, he wore special clothes and all other contrived interpretations to support this call to wanton ostentation.

So, as I meditated on my way home, I decided to check every reference in the Gospels where Jesus Christ used “rich” in His utterances just to see if there was any alignment with what teachings we have today.

Jesus and the rich

There are 18 occurrences of “rich” in the Gospels, 3 in Matthew, 2 in Mark, 13 in Luke and none in John, off all these, using the red letter edition of the King James (Authorised) Version, Jesus uttered “rich” in 13 verses all of which appear below. My comments are in parenthesis.

Mat_19:23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Mat_19:24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

[Here, Jesus expressed the view that the rich will have difficulties towing the Christian path, there must have been reason why He felt he should repeat Himself on this topic.]

Mat_27:57 When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple:

[This was after the Jesus was taken down from the cross, this rich man provided the burial place for the body of the crucified Jesus Christ.]

Roping a camel to a beam

Mar_10:25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

[This common saying does have certain scholars in dispute about the translation from Aramaic which was the tongue of Jesus Christ in His day, the Aramaic word gamla means camel, a large rope and a beam – contextually, it would appear rope is the more appropriate thing to go through the eye of a needle. Study]

Mar_12:41 And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.

[This was Jesus observing the offertory just before the widow put in a mite, which was all she had and in context, Jesus suggested she had given more than all.]

Luk_1:53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

[This was the Virgin Mary prophesying when she visited Elizabeth, her cousin and the mother of John the Baptist.]

The rich in earth and in hell

Luk_6:24 But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.

[Here, Jesus suggests the rich seem to have no need for consolation.]

Luk_12:16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:

Luk_12:21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

[In this parable, Jesus talked of how a rich man had schemed out things for his life only to be told he will die that night.]

Luk_14:12 Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.

[Doing good deeds for the rich is not seen as selfless or generous.]

Luk_16:1 And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.

[The power of the rich to endow, reward and punish on earth was illustrated in this parable.]

Luk_16:19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:

Luk_16:21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

Luk_16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;

[Jesus uses this parable to illustrate the realities of heaven and hell, indicating the poor man went to heaven and the rich man went to hell.]

The rich and charity

Luk_18:23 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.

[When Jesus advised a rich man to sell all his goods and become a disciple, but it showed how attached to his riches and status, this gave rise to the statement Jesus made about it being easier for a camel to go through the needle’s eye.]

Luk_18:25 For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Luk_19:2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.

[Jesus went to dine at Zacchaeus’ house, he give up half his goods to the poor and offered to restitute fourfold those he might have defrauded.]

Luk_21:1 And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.

[This was just before the widow cast her mite in the treasury]

Jesus had sufficiency

From the foregoing, it appears the labour to be rich is a distraction from following the Gospel, they find it hard to part with their riches and because they are more mindful of money matters that Jesus called Mammon, some never lived to enjoy their riches and some died and ended up in hell.

There is no doubt that the rich are comfortable and powerful in life, in the case of Jesus Christ, I believe He had sufficiency with contentment. As an itinerant preacher and prophet there were people who would have supported his ministry; so it would have been necessary to retain one of the disciples as a holder of the bag that just happened to be Judas Iscariot.

2Co_3:5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; [That aligns with the real prosperity concept.]

2Co_9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: [Sufficiency is there for us to distribute not hoard for show.]

The love of money

Is it any wonder than the guy in charge of the money was the same that was ready to take a bribe to betray Jesus – but it is pertinent to note that it is not money that is the root of all evil, rather it is the love of money that is the root of all evil.

1Ti_6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. [Being driven by the love of money, people have erred from the faith and the gospel and encountered many misfortunes in the process.]

The need to return to the tenets of the Gospel is pertinent, there is a pervasive perversion out there and many are being led down the path of great error. I am sure we all have the discernment to see if these are issues in our religious communities and we should have the courage to divorce ourselves from such settings and seek teachers of the true gospel.

Sources

[1] Nigerian Religious Junk! Conrad Mbewe

[2] Nigeria: The spectacular gospel of Mammon

[3] The Making Of … Nigeria’s Millionaire Preachers

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