COUNTERPOINT By Femi Akintunde-Johnson, Jan 2, 2021
Almost 10 years ago, in a moment like these (of course, unmatched by today’s pestilential atmosphere) I sought to poke the delicate fabrics of our religious totem trees… especially now that our religiosity is being challenged frantically on different fronts – from epileptic governmental reactions and restrictions in finding ways to deal with Covid-19; to hapless preachers and miracle”workers” confounded and speechless with the destructive vehemence of an invisible virus; to jostling on the cyberspace with vendors of all sorts of irreligious solicitations and blasphemies, even on “holy” Fridays and Sundays! As we reflect at the passing of a weirdly wondrous year 2020, ticking the innumerable absurdities and calamities that whipped our national heartstrings, it has become therapeutic for me to re-visit what once tickled or rankled me about the mannerisms and perceived influence of few “men of God” whom we have had the grace to observe fairly closely. Here we go…
One of the reasons I like the Bible so much is the fact that a good student will not be disappointed in relying on the O scriptures in the pursuit of doing what he or she considers God’s will – you can find passages or precepts to back-up your mission. At the same time, one major headache I have with the Bible is the capacity of an evil mind to find support and biblical bulldozers to “convince” the world about his counterfeit mission. After all, the father of them all “found” copious scriptures to intimidate Jesus Christ. Of course, he failed. This is just to illustrate that everyone has a good side, and a bad one. Except, of course, Satan. Thank God; he is not a person I will likely meet on Nigerian roads. However, few people have claimed to have seen the dark one sometime, somehow. Well, that is not our focus here.
If we know our shortcomings, it then means we know our “long-comings” (good attributes). The problem is that those of us who are immature pray that God should reduce drastically our negative tendencies, if they cannot be completely eradicated. However, I assume, mature people and some of those title-loving messengers of God (I wonder why all the titles if you will still be called “messenger”) have a higher level of communication routine with God. I guess they pray that God should hyperventilate their positive attributes such that through natural means of systemic elimination by volubility, the bad genes are choked out.
That is why good-natured people are genuinely surprised when we hear or read that one man of God has committed one act of indignity or the other. To protect their blood-soaked, heaven-bound, hoping-to-be-holy heart from cardiac seizure, Nigerian Christians have learnt to dismiss or strongly ignore any negative reports against any man of God. “Whose report shall you believe?” They ask their minds. And the response is quick and straightforward: “I shall believe the report of the Lord!” Oh, they may also be quick to shout: “Touch not my anointed and do my prophets no harm…”
As for me, mainly because my profession has trained me to be cynical of impressions and scenarios, until they become facts or otherwise, I do not succumb to religious numbness or sacrilegious saber rattling… because a man, possibly of like passions (that is like me), is accused of one moral failing or the other. Yes, I have also learnt that not all exposé, published in newspapers or along church corridors, are true or even sensible. Which is why in almost all situations, I use my head to look around the aprons of whichever pastor is feeding me the current spiritual meal. I recommend it to any one who seeks after maturity. Or else you will follow your man of God unthinking, and zombie-like, until both of you meet in hell!
That is why I have two “eyes” whenever I take a good look at some famous men of God. Few of them I will be treating here I have met one-on-one, in the line of work; and others only through keen observation. And like any ordinary man with little or no spiritual gift beyond sleeping and having all kinds of dreams, I may be wrong in some of my conclusions, or even baseless in my logic. Who cares? I’m entitled to my opinion; and so do the pastors, and their followers. My focus will be on Pastors Enoch Adeboye, David Oyedepo, Tunde Bakare, Chris Okotie and Chris Oyakhilome.
Let me expand my position on the issue of “Good” and “Bad” a little, before we go too far. All emotions, I believe, are subjective; but to every virtue (a positive enduring attribute), there is a potential for its negative twin, a vice. Only God has the capacity to polish us to such a shine that we can unconsciously express only the virtues embedded in us. A meek, humble man may come across as a cog in the wheel of progress, an irritant that is easily flustered by change. With God, he can become the mainframe of stability and great achievements; he can overwhelm every negative potential of his virtue. He can get the job done, sustaining the flow, because of his listening ears and cautious lips.
On the other hand, a boisterous man with great motivational gifts can end up being indignant of dissenting views; growing aggressively irascible and dictatorial, if the world around him does not ‘see’ issues that appear clear to only him. However, with God, he will become a champion of the youth and the voiceless… a leveler of inhibitions and discriminations… a surefire inspiration to his generation.
One more: a liberal-minded person may inadvertently give off fumes that drive majority of people away. People of low self-esteem will gravitate towards him as their anchor to create a deluge of morally bankrupt activities, which can easily drown any iota of goodness in the man. But with God’s molding, he will turn out like a mighty David, the warrior-king who turned a rag-tag team of disgruntled elements into what became a great army (illuminating, inspiring and encouraging the entrenchment of godly values).
In all these, only God can fully declare a human being ‘bad’ – and there will not be any further conjectures (remember Job and his three miserable friends who ended up pilling dirt on the poor man’s misery when their intention was to console him). In that fashion, I will avoid the misadventure of Job’s friends, and simply confine myself to WHAT i really LIKE about these big guys of a Great God? Next time. Happy New Year!