*Fr George Adimike*
The craftiness of the devil is well stated in his methods of operation. He chooses his tactics and strategies well and applies them to particular circumstances. Two streams feed these strategies, namely excess or defect. In his attack on religion, he employs both methods. The broader ramifications of these strategies include religious indifferentism, ungodliness and scepticism on one hand and fundamentalism, mercantile spiritualism and religious charlatanism on the other. The evil one sustains and corrupts the religiosity of the faithful and lets them derail by inappropriate use of religion, exploitation and manipulation. He rarely tempts the faithful ones with indifference or agnosticism because it might prove a hard nut to crack. Instead, he corrupts their zeal and sells the quest for money, power and fame to them. Seconding that, he changes the purpose and product, leaving alone the principle and practice. The result is a full-scale corruption, exploitation and abuse of religion in which worship changes from God-focused and centred doxology to affirmation, glorification and aggrandisement of man.
This situation is evident in the understanding and practice of prayer. The evil one leaves the principle largely untouched. That is, prayer is necessary, valuable and potent. He ignores the practice; that is, people pray and request prayers, and alters the purpose by the emergence of prayer merchants and contractors whose stock in trade is prayer. They learn the art of prayer, accentuating its consolatory and awe-striking paraphernalia. They employ prayers as an amulet and object to curse, conjure, retaliate, manipulate and exploit but never as a relationship. To such persons, prayer is not communication with God but something we make that draws its potency from our skills. Thusly, they place emphasis on man and never on God through grace.
These prayer contractors are hired with exorbitant prices in kind or cash to visit families, towns or Christian communities. They give priority according to the attendant lucre. These contractors prevent the Abba relationship of each baptised with God and outsource our divine filiation, the sonship, to so-called specialists. In any true prayer, intercessors are of second value because they are like Aaron and Hur, who supported Moses on the mountain during his hour of prayer while the battle with Amalekites lasted. Real intercession does not obstruct the filial relationship with God because it is not a substitute but support and an expression of fraternal spiritual solidarity. Let’s face it, which father will be enamoured by son or daughter’s outsourcing of relationship to another?
What goes on in the name of ministry is unconscionable exploitation of the flock in the name of God. And it is nothing short of pastor-preneurship, through which so-called men of God or rather ‘gods of men’ feed fat on the fears, piety, ignorance and religiosity of the people, thusly profiting through manipulation. Simply, many of the religious ministers’ activities have no better explanation than the spiritual Ponzi scheme in the name of the Gospel. Just like the ‘yahoo boys’ ply their business with a sophisticated application of intelligence in order to hoodwink their victims, many in religious garbs and under cover of religion prey on the flock. They milk them dry to their self-aggrandizement, often to the praise of their victims. Here, religion acts like opium, metaphysical tramadol, and a reality narcotic that prepares, disposes and sustains their incarceration, grip and slavish surrender to the fraud, without an atom of an idea that such happens not in God’s name. Indeed, they act their agenda in which fear is an investment, reaping so much mundane dividend.
The craze to succumb to the god of mammon’s allure and idolise material possession that accentuates making money, irrespective of the means, portrays religion as an exploitative and manipulative superstitious system that serves the privileged and the establishment. As such, charlatans under the pretext of religion perpetrate noonday robbery and daylight fetishism in the name of the Gospel. While many of these men and women are proprietors of their so-called religious groups, many are found in various Christian denominations with varying degrees of preponderance. The situation makes many young people rethink religion and pay attention to the false and misleading anti-religious narratives of the indifferent, atheistic and agnostic religion’s bashers. The commercialisation of ministry and the Gospel contribute to the erosion of the noble values of faith and its grip on the people.
The broader ramifications of the spiritual Ponzi scheme through which the religious blackmail entrepreneurs hoodwink the pious into parting with their money with the hope of getting spiritual benefits are worthy of note. Through their activities, the abuse of religion advances a notch. Instead of forming the faithful in the proper understanding of the faith and its attendant attitude, they reduce it as an instrument for profit. Apart from the evil of the monetary and material exploitation, these prayer contractors and merchants make the believer neglect his or her relationship with God, the ‘Abbafiliation’.
Christianity needs to be rescued from its bad marketers, bad advertisers and opportunistic ‘egolators’, who constitute obstacles to the faith and scandal to the weak. However, bad behaviours of key members of the faith cannot serve as enough warrant for the abandonment of faith. Precisely, no one abandons his/her mum because of the abuses meted out to her. Instead, the unjust treatment and rapacious abuse on her are supposed to ignite the fire of love, passion and compassion in any true child for the mother. Indeed, the religious yahoo men/women and prayer contractors have disfigured the beautiful and caring mother Church and no true children should abandon her. Rather, they should renew their love for her because we all are co-responsible for her wellbeing. No one should abandon the Christian faith because of some bad representatives since it is our patrimony. Our matrimony with grace gifts the gift of the Christian faith, and we can never abandon it because of the sin and misdeed of any person.
Fr George ADIMIKE