By Ugoji Ebgujo
The church says it is the light of the world. The acting president has begged the Nigerian church to do something about the darkness of corruption that has enveloped the country. Professor Osinbajo is a pastor. He is not out to mock the church. But he has asked for too much. The fight against corruption won’t be won by eloquent sermons. It will take a bit more than the Nigerian church can offer. The church in Nigeria treats the Bible as an impossible ideal for a past age. What the church lives is yet a travesty of even its watered down sermons. The church, however, is not altogether useless. It can do many other good social works. But it is nobody’s moral standard. That’s the painful but stark truth.
Professor Osinbajo should know. How can the church lead a fight against the very corruption it has fostered and furthered? The church can help with adult literacy campaign. The church can help with building schools and universities. The church has money. The church can actually help with public health enlightenment against HIV and communicable diseases. The church has enthusiasm. What the church lacks is that which is needed to lead a moral regeneration. The church lacks genuine discipline and moral courage. The fight against corruption needs self denial, true modesty and contentment. The church can’t buy those, and can’t feign them. The church has philanthropy, the ‘notice me’ variety. But it has lost the values and practices that discourage and anathematize corruption. The Nigerian church can’t fight corruption.
The Nigerian Church is morally overweight. Christian ethics and doctrines have since been corroded by materialism. The rot that ravaged the society has been to church. When it came, the church didn’t expose and clean it. It wrapped it with a foil of superficial righteousness. So the rot remained and festered. And it made church lose its sense of smell. The church grew familiar and comfortable with it. It made church easy, conducive. The church came to resemble social clubs.
The infected church has bogus ambitions. It thinks restlessly, like Coca Cola. It wants to have the biggest buildings and the highest number of customers. The loyalty must be to the brand. The devotion can be superficial. The infected Church struggles to be appealing, attractive. It panders to the senses and tastes it was established to reform. It substitutes substance with sugar, every thing is honey coated. It makes commercial sales pitches. With eyes on fame, it launches recklessly into controversies. The infected church is always under one self inflicted pressure or the other. It is almost always stretched financially, and almost perpetually beggarly. Delusions of grandeur become its visions. Money is enthroned, inevitably.
A spiritually thirsty congregation is fed with engrossing carnal challenges. They are consequently infested with a ravenous appetite for material acquisition . Values are thrown to the dogs. Recognition is reserved not for Sunday school teachers, but for multimillionaires who help the pastor travel his route of fantasy. The idea that works—donations and offerings—can atone for sins, becomes entrenched. Such a church can do many other good works. It can help wax gospel records and produce Christian movies. It can organize youth empowerment programmes and organize motivational talks. It is still useful to the society. But a church that has discarded the bulwarks Christ built against worldliness cannot be the light of a corrupt nation. The church must understand its handicaps. The Nigerian church has chosen to be like the world.
The ruin of the church could be quick. The Church emulates Coca Cola Company. It envies its successes. But it has rejected the processes which coca cola employs to sustain itself. Pentecostal churches have substituted plans and policies with whims and caprices and sentiments. They abuse the Holy Spirit. Coca cola audits its accounts and reviews its decisions. Pentecostal pastors hide under the banner of the Holy Spirit and refuse proper administrative and financial accountability. Coca cola is publicly quoted. Many denominations run like sole proprietorships. The churches are embodiments of opacity and arbitrariness, the very demons that have perpetuated corruption in the society. How can the church fight corruption?
Christ was selflessness, simplicity and charity. The Nigerian church is self aggrandizement, frivolity and exhibitionism. The church cannot affect the rot because it denies its own rottenness. I have grown tired of saying that Pentecostal pastors behave more like Obas than missionaries. Their temper and attitudes are often those of children. If you are in doubt, check what fascinates them. Cars , houses, Jewelries, first class tickets, prodigal parties, empty religious rituals. Vanity and arrogance have chained the church to the flesh.
The church has nothing to teach the society. Materialism has crippled the church. But the church’s greatest enemy is that which has its future in a choke hold. False, watered down and counterfeit doctrines. A church that is engrossed in earthly ambitions must dilute the gospel. Prosperity is good. But the Bible makes no mistake in saying that meekness, kindness, gentleness of the spirit and brokenness are the fruit of the Spirit.
The church cannot fight corruption until it returns to its values. The return has to be both theoretical and practical. The restoration of the essence of Christianity must be the starting point. The privatization of the church must end. The church must be structured along the selflessness of Red Cross rather than profit seeking mentality of capitalist entrepreneurship. Self denial, abasement and self effacement must be the guiding principle of church leadership. The church must lead by example. The Church must espouse truth and exemplify transparency and accountability. The concept of instant gratification, return on investment, must be discouraged amongst the followership.
When the Nigerian church becomes a church again, then it can lead the fight against corruption by inviting others not to listen to it, but to emulate it.