PASTORS, JETS AND MODESTY

Jon Chikadibie Okafo

The Christian religion purportedly founded by Jesus the Christ aims to eternally encourage its adherents to be Christ-like; to live a life packed with humility, chastity and modesty. It calls its members to live a life of service that will impact positively on others while building a better society that celebrates the brotherhood of man; Christianity preaches love which Jesus allegedly demonstrated when He died on the cross to save His followers. The Christian Jesus was a meek and gentle fellow who was famously portrayed as a regular traveler/wonderer that was not known to own any material property but depended and survived mainly on charity and other people's goodwill.

Lately, it has become too glaring that we in Nigeria are into a brand of Christianity that appears to be at variance with what Jesus established-from all indications, the sore economic nature of Nigeria has thrown up a brand of Christianity that is solely capitalistic and a vicious capricious leech. This is clearly attributable to the upsurge in a radical form of this religion known as Pentecostalism. This is a brand of Christianity that believes that by engaging in amongst others a loud and persistent form of prayer, mountains will move and valleys flattened. To its credit, a once hopeless population that is daily feeling the strangulating grips of our bad economy appears to find solace and succor in prayers. Unfortunately, this is coming at an enormous price; pastors are enjoying here on earth while church members are advised to "wait on the Lord".

I find it extremely distressing that pastors like Mr. E. O Adeboye, Mr. David Oyedepo and Mr. Sam Adeyemi and many more do not see anything wrong in acquiring private jets for private use while boasting of having millions of followers who are really very poor. I find it equally nauseating that intelligent Nigerians will come out to defend these men while admonishing people like me to "judge not so that thou will not be judged". What nonsense! The great Fela captured this beautifully when he sang about Pastors having a swell time on earth while encouraging their wretched church members to pray for a blissful after life in some heaven. For all it stands for, the role of pastors of Pentecostal churches in Nigeria looks exactly like that of leaders of organized crime outfits; there is so much glamour and grandeur oozing from their quarters. One thing that is lacking in the lives of these pastors is exactly what early Christianity stood for-modesty and humility.

It smacks of stupidity of the worst order when otherwise intelligent Nigerians troop out to use the barbaric "touch not my anointed and do my prophet no harmÔÇŽ" line to stop people like me from exposing the treachery of modern day pastors. This is pure hypocrisy! Pastors that owe their sustenance to the mites of hapless church members are boasting of owning private jets, some even gloating about having four whereas the level of poverty ravaging the lives of church members continue to spiral. This is immoral, wicked and an attempt to perpetuate the evil of exploiting believers who are enjoined to give, and give and give because "the lord will replenish abundantly..." Smart pastors are using all forms of strategies to promote their ministries like a merchandise and are reaping the fruits-abundantly. A situation whereby a pastor spends up to $30m [thirty million USD]to acquire one private jet while

ministering to millions of followers that are daily being hacked to death by the vicissitudes of life is simply too wicked and a mockery of the teachings attributed to Jesus. Where do these men draw the moral strength to engage in this type of treachery and deceit?

Though we sometimes find solace in heaping all blames on the discrepant leadership we have in Nigeria, I strongly believe that Pastors of Pentecostal churches and other religious leaders stand shoulder to shoulder with our leaders in sharing the blame. Take a cursory look across Nigeria and tell me what you see; a deceptive scenario of churches opening at every nook and cranny while businesses fold at an alarming rate, young men and women roaming about armed with a copy of the Bible threatening Armageddon, Apocalypse, Rapture and all that nonsense. There is nothing as profitable as preying on a peoples' fear and exploiting them thus-this is exactly what modern Christianity stands for and clearly stands out to be recognized as. We all are witness to the spurious claims of a deluded American preacher sinfully known as Harold Camping who caused so much heartache and chaos with his mad predictions that the Christian God would destroy the world on the 21st May, 2011. It is utterances like this that hold frightened Christians spell-bound and prod them to give out hard earned money to pastors to splurge on private jets and sundry toys.

In developed nations which we try to copy in many ways, churches are seen as charity organizations. In that spirit of charity, churches in these countries engage in lots of charity works- especially in developing nations; people donate money, clothes, computers and other materials to be sent to places around the globe that are known to be suffering from the negative effects of poverty, deprivation and want. Surprisingly, members of these churches donate to charity not because of any divine injunction and a promise of a place in some heaven, but because it appeals to their human nature to do so. But what do we have in Nigeria? A situation whereby rogue pastors and similar preachers use the threat of hell fire and eternal damnation to cajole members into parting with their hard-earned cash, a classic case where people donate money and materials to churches not because they want to but for the simple reason that heaven so commanded. This is wrong and pastors that extort money from Nigerians using this method should be out-rightly exposed and condemned.

Private jet-flying Pastors are no different from the modern day capitalist that fixes his eyes eternally on making more profits and stashing same away for his sole amusement. Today, the Chris Oyakhilomes, Adeboyes, Oyedepos, Adeyemis, Lazarus Muokas etc are all owners of numerous business outfits that churn out millions in profits. These men and their organizations have investments in expensive status-symbol private schools, TV stations, estates and other business interests; the vexing part of the arrangement is that the millions of poor and wretched members of their churches cannot afford to send their wards to the schools run by the churches! Is it against any Biblical injunction for any pastor to build and equip a hospital and donate same to his community? Think of the difference the amount of money spent in purchasing one private jet would make if deployed towards charity in a Nigerian state, think of the kind of hospital $30m could build, think of the difference it will make if a pastor runs his private university as a charity school where students study for free!

It is rather too unfortunate the amount of damage done to the psyche of Nigerians by the antics of modern day charlatan pastors; this is why you see demented fellows coming up to argue that "...it is not

easy working in the Lord's vineyard...And whoever so works should reap accordingly". The Lord's vineyard? What the heck is that? Is it any wonder that apart from Pastor Tunde Bakare, every other notable Nigerian pastor finds it exceptionally comfortable keeping mute while our leaders plunder our resources with a reckless abandon? Have you ever bothered to find out from Pastor Enoch Adeboye why he appears to find it convenient engaging in some sort of weird romance with notorious politicians whose atrocities are well known? Pastor Adeboye's Redeemed Camp is now some kind of Mecca where our kwashiokored leaders and politicians go for "pilgrimage" and gets the much needed Divine Nod before embarking on a rigging spree that ensures they thwart our collective wish as a people for a credible leader? Are you not troubled that Erasmus Akingbola, that disgraced former MD of Intercontinental Bank Plc is a senior Pastor in Adeboye's Redeemed Christian Church of God? This is man who stole billions of Naira belonging to depositors just to engage in his deluded affluent-amusement. One could go on and on, but the fact remains same; our pastors are not getting it right.

It has been the argument that Pastors continue to rip people off because of the alarming poverty rate in Nigeria-I agree. But I will make haste to add more; our pastors are able to feed their greed because ours is a society littered with so many human beings that are still clutching tightly at the expired belief system that spreads the wicked lie that it is better to suffer on earth and enjoy in heaven. It is wise to make ridicule of any fellow that comes to you with that warped "what shall it profit a man to enjoy the world and lose his soul?" Our pastors are the ones who should be suffering that indignation because they are the ones having a ball here on earth while preaching the evil sermon of a better life in an imaginary heaven.

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