The business and men of God 1
The business of worshipping God or some other god, that is, monotheism or the worship of several supposedly supernatural beings as represented by idols, sculptures etc has always been profitable. This is not to suggest that making money is the main reason why people worship or why we have priests, prophets, other spiritual leaders. From the beginning of time, priests have been rich and have supported richer kings and vice versa, pious poverty was seldom an attribute in religion. Ascetic religious leaders were a rarity.
The Christian religion and its practitioners was soon full of riches, Zoroastrianism’s riches were legendary. Muslims acquired great wealth; so did Confucius and other Japanese and Chinese religions. The wealth and riches of those worshiping Buddha can be seen throughout Asia. The different religions in South America, Asia, everywhere else are not ashamed of displaying their riches, which encouraged continuous raids of foreigners for their gold and silver.
All Muslim, Christian, Chinese empires were conspicuous displayers of opulence in Constantinople, Peking, Persia, Arabia, Rome, etc. Poverty was almost never found. In fact, in some religious orders, one took the oath of poverty, but that did not stop other sects within that religion from making money: printing money, minting money, trading etc. The opulence was sometimes nauseating and prophets preached against practices and excesses that the rich indulged in.
Religious organisations and the various segments within each religion have always sought large lands, such as monasteries, bishoprics, emirates, and caliphates etc. Indeed, it is not for nothing that when kings needed money they raided churches, which have continued, over the years to remain one of the richest organisations in the world: the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church of Greece, Russia etc, or among Muslims in the massive Mosques – where there are riches to be found and where the Caliph is in charge of the money from the coffers of the believers, and the faithful.
Modern religions have not fared any worse. The Mormons remain one of the wealthiest establishments within the United States and outside. The Moonies worshippers (followers of Rev. Moon) in Korea were also exceedingly wealthy. Other evangelical establishments have continued the tradition.
Wherever there is money, Nigerian is not far behind. Our evangelical churches have a lot of money. They often quote that “God is not a poor God”. The English have a saying – as poor as a church rat. The evidence before us is that the rats in Nigerian churches are not poor. I believe that the church has been good to Nigeria: it has given us some moral compass, a place to meet; a place of hope and salvation, a place of forgiveness when we have been bad. Our educational system is in large part due to the churches and its influence.
Churches, especially the evangelical ones, are great motivational institutions. Moreover they are highly organised and have a detailed intimate knowledge of their members. The Nigerian government, which apparently does not know how to package its programmes, should recruit supporters for them. Governments have a great deal to learn from churches. They can teach the governments how to reach people the way no other organisation or institution can. They can translate, initiate, monitor governments’ policies in agriculture, taxation, urban development, collection of data – births, deaths, marriages, social progress; they teach codes of decorum and acceptable social behaviour. They are educators with zeal and a mission. So do many of the leaders of the mosques. Where parents fail to inculcate moral values, Churches and Mosques perform these functions.
The church teaches inspiration, grooms and grows inspirational speakers and even orators who excel in power speeches and expertise and can motivate their audience through recitations, music etc. The church has always produced great musicians of exceptional genius such as Handel, Beethoven, Wagner, Sibelius, Mozart etc. That tradition has been followed throughout history; the lamentations of the slaves in the U.S. is responsible for the negro, spirituals, blues, jazz; nearly all the black singers in the U.S. and in Nigeria started singing in church choirs.
The church knows how to package messages like no one can. Their members are motivated for success, because they believe that the God they serve did not bring them out to be failures. They are moved to succeed and each success is a confirmation of their purpose here on earth – as the chosen ones of God, who does not let His chosen people down. This mindset is a mighty, powerful motivation and has been proven to be true, whoever practiced it – in the United States, UK, and Korea etc. If churches make money – there is nothing wrong with that, it is traditional. So we now have churches that own expensive schools and universities etc. They feel superior because they are God’s chosen. They feel inferior if they do not achieve – they have let God and their parents down. Their faith gives them impulse control, a necessary prerequisite to success.
I am, however, suspicious when too many Nigerians do one thing – for instance, 419 was a small matter until Nigeria went in on an industrial scale. Judging by the millions who go to church every Sunday, no nation is more church going than Nigeria especially from a special class. This is a great story of success and perhaps we should excuse the few miscreants who hide among the multitude. However, it would seem that Christianity is practiced in Nigeria as a smorgasbord – a Scandinavian method of eating: the table is full of a variety of foods: you pick and choose what to eat and you leave the rest. Many Nigerian Christians do precisely that – they choose what they like in the religion and leave the rest. Whereas one thought of Christianity as a faith – a belief that Christ, through love, came to save our souls – he prescribed a number of things which Christians must do – believe in Christ, the savior, practice Christianity as he taught us in everything we do, day and night.
To be continued tomorrow
Dr. (Ambassador) Cole is an Officer of the Federal Republic (OFR).
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