By Babatunde Jose
Last week, a reader concluded in exasperation that: “The passivity of the 180 million Nigerians, young and old, is largely due to our faith in divine intervention as indoctrinated by our various religions. LET NIGERIANS CONTINUE TO PRAY whilst NIGERIA continues to …” His conclusion is germane to the discussion under review. Our people are lost in the ‘Lord’s Vineyard’. Like Quest in the maze, we are searching for salvation, wealth and prosperity in the ‘prayer-house’ instead of through gainful economic pursuit. No nation is as prayerful as Nigeria. We pray to God to intervene in every aspect of our life, even in those things we ought to have laboured on our own. We see God as a magician who will contradict the laws of nature on our behalf; by resorting to miracles in our lives. We pray for deliverance from known and unknown sources, we pray for money to descend unto us like manna from heaven; we pray for cars and sometimes houses when our salaries cannot buy us a bicycle or rent us a room at Makoko. We ask God for children we cannot cater for because, we believe that Allah will provide; in the process we exacerbate our economic woes. We spend quality and productive time in prayer and worship at the expense of the search for daily bread. While honest men are going about their quest for daily bread, the multitude, in search of spiritual shortcut to prosperity, congregate in mosques and churches; especially those churches of syncretistic nature such as the Pentecostals, white garment and their ilk. Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the prosperity gospel, the health and wealth gospel, or the gospel of success) is a religious belief which holds that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth. Prosperity theology views the Bible as a contract between God and man: if humans have faith in God, he will deliver security and prosperity. The teaching, made popular by influential leaders in the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movement in the United States has spread throughout the world. Prominent leaders in the development of prosperity theology include E. W. Kenyon, Oral Roberts, A. A. Allen, Robert Tilton, T. L. Osborn, Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Kenneth Copeland, Reverend Ike and Kenneth Hagin: The theology is often based on non-traditional interpretations of Bible verses, with the Book of Malachi often being given special attention. On a good day you will see a hoard of able-bodied souls putting on human signposts of different hues, proclaiming one religious activity or the other. Crusades, revivals, conventions, deliverances and holy ghosts, have taken our time rather than hard work. Yet, the good book tells us that faith without work is dead: James 2:17 “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” No matter the amount of Grace you receive, without work, UPS will not deliver a parcel of money to you. Meanwhile, the con-artists who now go by the name ‘men of God’ are busy ripping off the congregants and living it big, in superlative splendour; posing with Rolls Royce’s and private jets; with palaces on the hill tops to match. These are not the ingredients of a serious people or a nation that is aspiring to evolve and escape the vicious cycle of poverty. Prosperity theology has been criticized by leaders from various Christian denominations, including within the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, who maintain that it is irresponsible, promotes idolatry, and is contrary to scripture. According to Philip Jenkins of Pennsylvania State University, “poor citizens of impoverished countries often find the doctrine appealing because of their economic powerlessness and the doctrine’s emphasis on miracles. One region seeing explosive growth is Western Africa, particularly Nigeria.”
While the Europeans and North Americans are making giant strides in science and technology, we are busy congregating at ‘waasi’ and Asalatu. We are not ashamed of being labelled stupid and gullible specimen of Homo sapiens. We would never copy the right attitude from those who have managed to escape the poverty trap. Malaysia and United Arab Emirates are also Islamic nations, but boast superb economic achievements. China is neither a Christian or Islamic nation, they have crossed the Rubicon of poverty; the same could be said of India, which has a majority Hindu population: And on festivities, the crowd would put to shame the population of pilgrims of the largest Hajj: Once in every 12 years, tens of millions of Hindus gather in Allahabad for what is thought to be the largest religious meeting in the world — the Maha Kumbh Mela. In 2013, the gathering drew from 30 million to 80 million people, who camped on banks of the Ganges. Despite this, Indians have dominated the IT world and they now export knowledge to the United States and other nations that require the services of software gurus, including Nigeria. Most of our banks depend on software developed in Bangalore, India.
We are noted only for the export of spiritualism in the form of ‘Redeemed’ churches in Europe and America; including Brotherhood of the Cross and Star in Elephant and Castle in London. From America the message has permeated the whole world, most notably Nigeria where two of the biggest promoters are David Oyedepo, whose Canaan land church seats 55,000, and Enoch Adeboye, who’s Redeemed Christian Church of God claims branches in over one hundred countries, 14,000 branches in Nigeria, and 5 million members in Nigeria alone. In 2008 Newsweek magazine listed him as one of the 50 most powerful people in the world: Our own version of Einstein. Useless people; while other nations pride themselves as making strides in technology, we are busy debating collection of tithes: Five of our pastors are constant fixtures on the Forbes list of the ‘World Richest Pastors’.
In 2005, Matthew Ashimolowo, the founder of the largely African Kingsway International Christian Centre in southern England, which preaches a “health and wealth” gospel and collects regular tithes, was ordered by the Charity Commission to repay money he had appropriated for his personal use. In 2017, the organisation was under criminal investigation after a leading member was found by a court in 2015 to have operated a Ponzi scheme between 2007 and 2011, losing or spending £8 million of investors’ money.
The sad part of this is that of our Moslem brothers and sisters, who now ape the churches by their convocation of what they now call Asalatu on Sundays. Islam recommends five daily prayers which at any time does not last more than 5 to 7 minutes with the Friday prayer lasting 30 minutes. You are also encouraged to wake up at night to talk to your God and make supplications. Islam does not tax its adherents. We now waste valuable time competing with our Christian brethren in the time wasting pursuit and search of a God who is not lost. The Holy Quran, Chapter 62; Sura Jumuah specifically tells us:
“O ye who believe! When the call is proclaimed to prayer on Friday (the Day of Assembly), hasten earnestly to the remembrance of Allah, and leave off business (and traffic): That is best for you if ye but knew! And when the Prayer is finished, then may ye disperse through the land, and seek of the Bounty of Allah: And celebrate the Praises of Allah often (and without stint): That ye may prosper.” (Quran 62:9-10)
The idea behind the Muslim weekly “Day of Assembly” is different from that behind the Jewish Sabbath (Saturday) or the Christian Sunday. The Jewish Sabbath is primarily a commemoration of Allah’s ending His work and resting on the seventh day (Gen. 2:2; Exod. 20:11): we are taught that Allah needs no rest, nor does He feel fatigue (Sura 2:255). The Jewish command forbids work on that day but says nothing about worship or prayer (Exod. 20:10); our ordinance lays chief stress on the remembrance of Allah. Jewish formalism went so far as to kill the spirit of the Sabbath, and call forth the protest of Jesus: “the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mark. 2:27). Our teaching says: `When the time for Jumu’a Prayer comes, close your business and answer the summons loyally and earnestly, meet earnestly, pray, consult and learn by social contact; when the meeting is over, scatter and go about your business’. In short Allah is asking us to go to work. There is no food for a lazy man! Unfortunately for us, faith does not grant man prosperity; only hard work does. The purpose of faith and belief in an ‘unseen God’ is to shape and nurture our moral values and spiritual upliftment. Let us not be deceived, even if your faith is as big as Mount Kilimanjaro, it cannot move a mole hill; only knowledge and technology can. We should stop wasting our faith in the pursuit of a God who is not lost: It is we who are lost and God has sent his prophets and the ‘books’ to guide us and lead us to the right path: If only we knew.
Barka Juma’at and happy weekend