By Dia Zamani
Blasphemy. This is one word that often gets thrown around by Christians to caution inquisitive minds who dare question certain tenets pertaining to Christianity. Another phrase which is so hasty to come out of the lips of Christians is “touch not my anointed and do my prophet no harm” (1 Chronicles 6:22). But are these just mere cloaks of gullibility? Religious immunity clauses? Mere excuses to avoid pointing out glaring ills in modern day churches today? I would say all of the aforementioned.
The 21st century ushered in an upsurge of religious gatherings going by different names and perfecting unique methods of outreach, anything to fill up their pews. Filled up pews equals large returns at the end of each gathering. This has no doubt become one of the most profitable business ventures in Nigeria, and can be seen in the exotic lifestyle of the shepherds of the flock. From gold wristwatches, to expensive shoes, universities, private jets and “Jesus pieces”.
One successful technique used by some of these shepherds is what I love to call ’emotional fraud’. They prey on the gullibility, emotional desperation and good ol’ devoutness of their flock in a bid to amass wealth for themselves. A visit to some of these religious houses will leave a sour taste in the mouths of logical minded people, who have seen beyond the religious veils. From ambiguous and popular phrases like “sowing of seeds”, “first fruits” used by some of these “men of God” which have been proven to be very effective in nudging members into digging deep into their pockets.
A significant number of the congregation in these churches struggle each day to survive, only to give it all away in a faith-drived mission to receive more from God. They “sow seeds” right into the pockets of their shepherds, who in turn use these monies to enrich themselves. In a country where about 70% of the population live below poverty line, one would think a Rolex wristwatch should be the least important thing on the minds of some of these church leaders. God would not send or anoint anyone whose main purpose is to steal the last dime from the poor to enrich himself, this is simple logic. Logic most Christians would dismiss as blasphemy or desecration. Why must the “sowing of seeds” be monetized? Is this a bribe of sorts to God or a means of plain extortion? What happens when these “seeds” don’t yield fruits?
In the case of newly employed members, they are almost obliged to give up their entire salary in the first month on the job to these churches. This leaves them penniless, struggling and some even resort to lending money just to survive pending their next paycheck. I see this as cruel and senseless, while some may call it faith. There is a huge difference between faith and plain stupidity. I bet these “men of God ” did not give up their first paychecks to the church. Instead of stuffing the already bloated pockets of these men, why not directly help those in need in hospitals, orphanages, prisons and even your poor, struggling neighbour. This form of extortion may not be a crime in our legal books because people give of their own freewill, but it is an injustice nonetheless, meted out on emotionally gullible individuals.
Churches are tax-exempt for some reasons, one of which is so they are capable of helping the needy without restrictions. But some churches today are full-fledged business ventures, too focused on generating profits for personal enrichment, thereby ignoring the needy. Maybe it’s high time this free ride is stopped, and these churches get taxed like every other similar business entity.
Modern day “Men of God” have become idols in no small way, with so much reverence attached to their names by members of the congregation. Framed pictures of these men hang idly on the walls of members who use them as a medium of prayer. If this isn’t blasphemy, then that word isn’t fully understood.