The Nigerian Clergy, Politics and Violation of Moral Philosophy, By Bamidele Ademola-Olateju
The Christian message governs everyday living and the concept of justice. This same message should resonate and be the concern of politicians and form the cogent reason why a good person should seek power. It is also for this reason that a Christian must have concern for politics and for lay Christians to be involved in elections by bringing their understanding of the gospel to the political life of the nation. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s politics has not evolved past bigotry. Instead of framing the issues around moral philosophy, the Nigerian clergy are inciting their congregants, making vile political statements and claiming they are doing so in the name of Christ. In a bid to protect their privileges, Nigerian Pastorpreneurs are corrupting the Grace and perverting the Law; making Nigeria a living example of how political power has corrupted the Church’s role as the bearer of the gospel of Christ.
The Grace and the Law form the true basis for the welfare of the community. In human societies, generosity, compassion, trust, love, peace, salvation and all that is preached in religion are in the province of grace and faith while legislation and government guaranteed welfare constitutes the law. That is why nation states are restrained from the combined chaos of human selfishness and sinfulness by the grace and by the law. Bound by law, the government is expected to be the great provider of freedom, justice, employment and prosperity for all. The government performs these functions by providing external defence (the armed forces) to protect sovereignty, internal security (police, judiciary, secret service etc.), legislation to keep us from harming and exploiting one another and tax us to maintain central responsibilities and to provide education, healthcare and welfare for the needy.
Under normal conditions, a decent balance between the grace and the law is a prescription for an egalitarian society. The Church exists as a custodian of morality and its Clergy as messengers to remind us of our duties to self, others and country. In Nigeria however, the Clergy have abandoned the body of Christ for the love of money instead of the love of man; they lost compassion and embraced greed, they lost trust and hugged dishonesty, they abandoned peace to preach violence and opted for hate instead of love. Without love, compassion and generosity, the rich got richer by fleecing the poor and their country, making the case for more laws (EFCC, ICPC) and more taxes, mostly on the poor.
Faced by the threat of loss of waivers, privileged access and other indulgences, they have up the ante by calling for mistrust, suspicion and violence, knowing government can only make laws but they cannot make people love and trust each other. Unknown to their unsuspecting congregants, it is all about maintaining the status quo for exploitation, extortion and self preservation. Behind the speaking in meaningless tongues is the fear of clampdown on tax evasion, disrespect for human rights and enforcement of the rule of law. The call to violence and coercion is nothing but calculated manipulation for survival.
The Church has failed this nation. They are not providing the spiritual fabric necessary for a great Nigeria to emerge and exist. The Church with its rich history of confronting tyranny has lost its moral high ground in this country. In Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Karl Barth and others made courageous witness against Hitler and the Nazis when it was dangerous to do so. Desmond Tutu confronted Apartheid to world admiration. What is today’s distinctive message from the Church on our national life? What is the message for our rulers on the unprecedented plunder of the nations’ resources and the mass slaughter and destitution of its citizens? What clear message should the Church be sending to Jonathan for presiding over a government of hate, stealing and pauperization?
There exists a reformatory message from the Church to nations and governments that have been buried in material triumphalism as obtained in Nigeria; that must be preached. There exists the teaching that all nations, peoples and governments are accountable to God. There exists God’s will for humanity as known to us in the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. There exists the doctrine that God loves all peoples. It is from these teachings that human beings can have a sense of purpose and these teachings form the basis for common law for the government. It is from a derived sense of purpose from these teachings that we understand the value of existence and of life. It is the reason why there can be no meaning, no purpose and value for human life without these teachings. No morality, including social morality can survive without sufficient derivation from these teachings. Sadly, it is in this area that the body of Christ in Nigeria has failed the nation. The Church no longer preaches salvation, love, peace, compassion; the Church has become the tabernacle of prosperity. With anointing reserved for the very bad and brutal among us. The ‘salt of the earth’ has lost its flavor in pursuit of worldly riches and patronage; aiding the nation in deceit at its peril.
The trappings of designer suits, bullet proof luxury cars, private jets and the general gratification of material possessions have pushed our pastors into compromising religious zeal to curry favor from moneyed men, robbing their congregants and seeking government patronage. As a consequence, as the Church grows in Nigeria, the problems of the congregation increases. Tacitly, the church under active misrepresentation by their umbrella body has been promoting injustice, poverty, intolerance, strife, disunity and conflict under the guise of supporting a Christian president. Is it not morally reprehensible for a Church leader to tell Church members to continue praying under a bad economic, social or political system instead of calling the traducers to account? Jesus preached against the Pharisees of his time. Pastors should lead their congregation in speaking against issues that can bring woe unto their flock. As opinion leaders, they have to be circumspect when participating in the political process. They have no license to use Church members and resources to achieve their political objectives. If they cannot use their pulpit to unite the State and the Church towards national development, they have no right to use it to dismember the country. The clear question to all Christian men and women should be; What Would Jesus Do (WWJD)? Not what my pastor says.
Bamidele maintains a weekly column on politics and socioeconomic issues every Tuesday. She is a member of Premium Times Editorial Board.