Friday 4 March 2011

Thought Picnic: Debunking the myth of the man of God

Always a man first

Two very recent news stories should hopefully get Nigerian thinking about the “Man of God” syndrome that fill them with a vague dread of the supernatural as they abrogate their personal intellectual responsibility and sink into placid docility when interacting with such people.

Yesterday, we read of the sad news that an internationally renowned church leader had admitted sexual offences [1] one of sexually molesting a boy of 14 and another of sexually assaulting a 21-year old man.

I had written previously that the sexually molested as children face an almost insurmountable obstacle to bringing forward their accusations and making such allegations stick, in the case of the older man, the force of authority might well have numbed him into submission.

The myth of infallibility

In both cases, it can be argued that the victims only found the means of levelling these accusations after they left the congregation of the accused.

I do appreciate in the many heated conversations I had on Facebook on this matter, what was passing for giving the church leader the benefit of doubt was really disbelief that this could have happened and every other reason for this situation was thrown into the discussion but the fact that child sexual abuse is a problem that we are shy and reticent to address.

This ranged from the victims being completely invisible, through the “Man of God” being falsely accused to suggesting that institutional racism was still prevalent in the UK police establishment.

Now that the “Man of God” has admitted the offences, it was still interesting to read that some still had more concern for his ministry and congregation and very little mention was made of the victims of his abuse.

The need for earned trust

In the other story, a businesswoman had accused a pastor of defrauding her [2] of a large sum of money and that case is now in court.

I find it incredible that this lady being business savvy as she was broke every business logic known to good business deals by paying money upfront for services she was to provide just because she was advised that the new business partner she had acquired was a “respectable Man of God.”

In fact, I would dare say, a fool and their money are soon parted because it is unlikely that she built her business on being this stupid by not doing due diligence on the people she was dealing with and ensuring her side of the deal was fully protected before committing to the deal.

These are people like us

The epithet of “Man of God” should not be a blind-siding impediment to seeing as one status on Facebook averred, every “Man of God” is a man first and then has a vocation that is of God, if that is really that case.

The man is not superhuman, whilst being held to higher standards of principle and virtue, they are not infallible and they have not by reason of being “Men of God” suddenly metamorphosed from man to God.

They are like you and I, flesh and blood, filled with the same kind of desires and frailties; maybe with a bit more self-control, restraint and appreciation of the weight of responsibility that we have but they do not in that setting acquire extra heads, more limbs and perform feats of superhuman prowess like comic heroes.

We should believe the best of everyone, especially those that minister but with all the trust we repose in such people there is nothing wrong in verifying that trust, ascertaining they as individuals are of impeccable character and that they have earned the status accorded them not by the blanket “Man of God” moniker but by reason of building the particular relationships of trust that we do in our everyday lives with other people.

Character matters more than vocation

It is time we looked beyond people who used God to gain confidence, whose usage of God is to short-circuit the deep scrutiny they should be subjected to as we think attending the same religious entity or adhering to similar belief systems automatically means they are perfect and we allow the slightest doubt or premonition to go without research and justification.

We ignore that little voice to our peril and come a cropper because as the businesswoman has done and one can only imagine how much she would have dealt with her conscience and struggled with her faith before she took up the courage to report her business partners which included a respectable man of God to the law.

We need to search out the character of these people, the basic virtues of truth, honesty, integrity, probity and references from others who already exhibit such good virtues must always matter, first and always.

The hold of superstition

The inordinate fear of challenging “men of God” must come from our animist backgrounds, being schooled in superstition we learnt of the instant retribution of animist gods for breaking rules or breaching taboos, we have not carried this notion of instant retribution to monotheistic gods and their “so-called” representatives allowing our numbness and stupidity before such people to be taken for humility and respect.

If we place men far above where they are in their humanity, mortality and frailty, we only have ourselves to blame for not separating the man from God and seeing the man first, then the God in the man, if that really be the case.

It does not mean every “Man of God” is a crook, but every one of them is first human and then godly, the humanity never changes to deity – Not in this world, if there ever was such a hope.

It is time to break the myth of the “Man of God” and it starts with using our heads and intellect in dealing with people as everyday ordinary people.


[1] International preacher Odulele admits sex offences - Channel 4 News

[2] Woman accuses pastor of N6.6m fraud | Daily Times Nigeria

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