The moment you therefore break those norms by behaving a manner that may appear like what “people of the world” do, you have not only broken the protocol around you, you have equally opened yourself up for scrutiny and second-guessing. This was the issue Tope’s social cruise at her father’s burial brought about.

Evangelist Tope Alabi cuts the depiction of a “prim and proper” woman of God.

She sings about the mighty powers of God and the benevolent grace of Jesus Christ. She always does this wearing the Yoruba traditional Iro and Buba, if not an all-covering flowing gown. Through this, she won converts, and a lot of them purchase her CDs and download her gospel music from YouTube. With this identity, she passes a message out there with a posturing and branding, that she’s a model of sorts for “responsible women”.

In the Christian spiritual industry where she plies her trade and where she refers to herself as an Evangelist, there are certain definitions for certain provisos.

The google meaning of an ‘Evangelist’, which Tope Alabi goes by, is as follows: “a person who seeks to convert others to the Christian faith, especially by public preaching”.

In Tope Alabi’s case, she seeks to convert through gospel music. She’s carved her niche there and “converted” a huge following.

But this huge branding also comes with certain Rules of Engagement, or if you like, House Rules that a “Christian” must abide with. I shall attempt to quote these in the believe that the Bible is Tope Alabi’s “Constitution” as an “Evangelist”. The Bible shall be utilised here, strictly in an intellectual research context, for the purpose of this analysis.

One of the house rules in the Christian faith is stated in the 1 Corinthians 10: 32. An Evangelist, or anyone for that matter, is admonished as follows: “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God”.

The next rule in the “industry” where Tope belongs, and is doing the job of a woman of God, through which she oversees a large following, is in the book of 1 Timothy 1: 1-3 and it reads, in part:

“This is a true saying, if a man desires the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless”. Blameless in English can also imply, “without fault, impeccable, unblemished, without reproach”. In Yoruba, it will come as “Oo gbodo hu iwa ti awon eniyan a maa fi wo enu si e lara”.

Without mincing words, this means you should necessarily desist from conduct that can bring you under public criticism or reproach. Once again, by stepping out to put on the “Coats of an Evangelist”, Tope Alabi must have inadvertently “sworn to an oath” to abide by the dictates and rules binding on Evangelists.

The moment you situated yourself within the context of religious branding, which has greatly earned you respect, honour and, of course, money, you have also collaterised a certain freedom that comes with “getting off guard” once a while. Those you have “converted” are not only watching you, you have unwittingly told them you have a standard by which they can measure you.

The moment you therefore break those norms by behaving a manner that may appear like what “people of the world” do, you have not only broken the protocol around you, you have equally opened yourself up for scrutiny and second-guessing. This was the issue Tope’s social cruise at her father’s burial brought about.

As I shared with a good friend as this controversy raged, Tope’s dance was not the problem. The problem is that Tope Alabi has already created out there the image of a prim-and-proper “Woman of God”. This is the community within which she positioned herself. This is the branding she has built for herself. This is the typical tool she deploys to sell her evangelism.

Those in this community who hold her in awe and esteem are the ones feeling “betrayed” by a woman who, before now, they rated “above others”. This may be an uncalled-for judgement, but it is what Tope put in process against herself from the moment she chose the priestly path in self-branding.

Some in public, especially on social media, have stood in commendable defence of Tope Alabi. They have come from the angle of liberalism, feminism, social freedom and an unchained mentality. This is all good.

Nonetheless, there’s a compelling imperative to deconstruct the principles enshrined in the same Bible that Tope predicates her lyrics of evangelism upon. If that same book should matter, then, the Bible strictly places certain boundaries upon the freewill we seek to embrace. Tope, for instance, must have read 1 John 2:16, which declares expressly that: “because everything in the world — the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life — does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world”. The father being referred to is God, and the God that I am referring to is the same God Tope usually holds in awe and idolises. The list is endless in the phrasings of the scriptures that Tope Alabi’s evangelism is set upon, and which she may appear to have seemingly deviated from, in the view of her constituency.

There is a certain way the world is ordered. There has to be a clear distinction and understanding of the sociological insights which provide explanations for how a person who always treads the ecclesiastical pathway cannot suddenly wake up and wiggle her body to the beat of perceived “sinners”, in a nation where religion still remains an offshoot of a probing, almost judgmental culture.

The pentecostal revolution has radicalised worship, but it has not eradicated our near-conservative assessment and appraisal of social issues. This is the culture that bred a policeman who tells a complainant that her husband can never be guilty of rape because “nah him pay your dowry”! This same policeman is probably one of Tope’s fans. No amount of intellectual or social explanation to justify Tope Alabi’s off-caution dance will assuage him. And hey, he cannot be discarded, because he remains a member of Tope’s fan-base, and a critical stakeholder within the critical mass of her following.

Now, let me state that I don’t have an issue with her dance at her father’s burial. What may be the issue here is what appears like a momentary loss of control and lack of capacity to stick to the identity she has put out there. That has no other definition than inconsistency, and this is what has landed her in controversial waters, because those who judge her now cannot seem to place her within the social context of a “modest, self-controlled and well-ordered Christian Evangelist”.

While I understand genuinely innocent Christians who truly mean what they say, hypocrites who also tongue-lash Tope Alabi for going overboard are dishonourable. Many of them do worse things. They covet, they cheat, they circumvent the law to suit their vacuous predilections and some of them are, as we speak, plotting to murder somebody! Such ones have no place in the jurisdiction of moral debates, just as they have no right to judge Tope!

Their sanctimonious indignation against Tope Alabi may not be a true reflection of their actual, behind-the-curtain proclivities. At best to me, they represent the ‘noise’ described by Kilroy. J. Oldster that, “A pensive personality and ambivalent attitude towards power and money can cause other people to take a high production or creative person for granted.” This quote appropriately describes why Tope Alabi is eing btaken for granted, and should religion not be our measuring standard here, Tope would probably not be in this dock for public scrutiny.

Same Kilroy. J. Oldster, in the Book, Dead Toad Scrolls opined that, The mental mist of ambiguity and the fog of ambivalence hamper human existence.”

It is this burdensome encumberance that Tope Alabi has to deal with. She is not just a woman around the neighbourhood. She is known, she is followed, she is somehow revered. She therefore cannot waive this aside and explain it away as a mere ‘duty to my father’s exit rite”. No, it is not that simple!

Tope Alabi now owes it to herself to redefine and rescue her brand from public reprimand.

No matter how we attempt to stave this crisis off for her, something has gone messy.

If she desires to throw off all guards and dance shaku shaku, fling her sensitive body bosoms in the air in physical erotic expressions, it is within her rebranding prerogative. This way people know what to expect, and her fans who cannot accommodate this would likely excommunicate her in their psyche and reckoning, so as to avoid “stumbling”.

It is the same way that some religiously inclined parents, who have always instructed their equally religious teenagers, would be free to now issue a counter-instruction to their grown-ups to “kindly stop following Tope, because she is no more the role model” they hitherto presumed.

If she however wants to remain modest, MODESTY in the Evangelist mode she propagates would be clearly spelt out as demureness, a deportment, which in the Latin word means, “modestus“, and which is about “keeping within measure”.

Swinging in-between the two socio-religious divides is a contradictory exercise, a garbling in hazy optics, and an ineradicable ambiguity.

The dance at the father’s burial, if strictly defined within the confines of Tope Alabi’s ecclesiastical community, falls short of “keeping within measure”!

Akin Fadeyi is founder and executive director of  Akin Fadeyi Foundation.