Not too long ago in southern Nigeria, hundreds of children were tormented, maimed, and killed because some “rogue” churches deemed them, witches. We heard silence from the collective Church Organizations like the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). This is how Christianity in the history of Nigeria has always looked like.
There were no overt and/or proactive actions from CAN or churches to try and deal with these “rogue” churches, or perhaps try and launder their image that churches are not in the business of deeming children witches and killing them. Nigeria dies minutely as a result of her government injustice; we see no action from churches. However, churches hold elephantine influence on the preponderance of the Nigerian populace! Should this be the history of Christianity in Nigeria?
It betrays the scriptures that the Christ supposed people (The church) in Nigeria keep silent while social injustice renders their flocks or should I rather say their sheep, supine. With the life and words of Christ and the many virtues the bible preaches, you would think the people who tout Christ and reference the bible would not sit idle and watch the inhumanities, dehumanization, and gross injustice meted out to Nigerian people daily. Where is the church outrage? Christianity, being a religion of love, should should not have such a silence history in Nigeria
The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people. — Martin Luther King
If Jesus was our benchmark and the person we strive to imitate, then why do we sock it to him daily in our actions toward our fellow men? Would Jesus have kept silent in the face of war against humanity the Nigerian potentates wage against their people? The silence of Nigerian churches is annoyingly loud and choking the life out of Christ’s people. “Oppression can only survive through silence,” said Carmen de Monteflores. MLK averred “the ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”
To hear the church apologists “Church is not meant to get involved in politics,” “the pastor is not meant to speak and act against negative actions of authority,” “the G.O/bishop/pastor cannot do everything” “the nefarious actions of Nigeria rulers are not the business of the church”, it convinces that these people only skim through the bible, or they are just simply disingenuous. The bible contains more than 300 verses on the poor, social justice, and God’s deep concerns for them. Few come to mind off the top:
- Prov. 29:7. “The righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor; the wicked does not understand such concern”…
- 1 John 3:17. “But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?”…
- Lev. 19:15. “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbour fairly.”…
- Prov. 14:31. “He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who is gracious to the needy honours Him”…
- Ezek. 22:29, 31. “The people of the land have practised oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice… Thus I have poured out My indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; their way I have brought upon their heads,” declares the Lord GOD”…
- Isa. 58:10. “And if you give yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your gloom will become like midday. And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones, and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”…
- Jer. 7:5-7. “For, if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practise justice between a man and his neighbour, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever”…
- Jer. 22:3. “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”
But these things are lacking in our churches’ actions, instead, our focus has become extremely narrowed to “prosperity theology”.
What do our churches do? Nothing but embraces inaction that is patently a bête noire to Christ’s gospel. Some would say but “our churches provide shelters for some poor, send some to schools;” however, I am hard-pressed to disagree that this is like taking a spoon to scoop out an ocean. Besides, this reasoning forgets that our churches embrace the root cause of people needing shelter or food in the first place—the rulers and the politicians!
History has shown what Christianity could do and the influence it can wield when oppression becomes unbearable. The 17th century saw the Quaker’s role against slavery, the 60s experienced churches playing a vital role in the Civil Rights movement; in the 80s, the Philippines, through a major help of a Catholic priest, were freed from the grip of deadly despot that pales in comparison to the current Nigerian oppressors. In the same 80s, the Latin Americans were experiencing what Nigerians are experiencing, but guess who stepped up to the plate, the church. The church became the rallying point of society.
Praying alone would not suffice and it is about time we start paying attention to the “…help themselves” part of the phrase “heaven helps those who help themselves.” Our churches should take a clue from history instead of being parasitic (via constant demand for the financial bequest from the congregation) on the society they so much captivating. Besides history, our bible behests churches to play a role in engaging with our politicians and rulers on the welfare of the country. According to a fellow villager, “when the activities of the political class conflict with those of the citizenry and the word of God, the church should be the vanguard of fighting for the oppressed.”
It is pure cowardice and sinful when our church leaders mingle with Kings and Presidents yet lack the intestinal fortitude to indict these people for their daily wickedness against justice. Where is our churches conviction to be like Samuel who was unafraid to tell King Saul that the Lord has rejected the King because the King rejected the word of God? Our churches contravene the scriptures when they cannot be like Nathan that chastised all-powerful King David for doing what was evil. Where, in our churches, is Elijah who boldly condemned King Ahab in his face! Daniel who cursed the mighty King Nebuchadnezzar is nowhere to be found in our churches today.
Ultimately, where is Jesus Christ-the quintessential justice warrior, in our churches today? Nowhere to be found! All we have in our churches today are nothing but Pharisees who keep meticulous account books, tithing on every Naira and Kobo, Pound and Pence, Dollar and Cents you get, longing to be ferried around in private jets. However, on the meat of God’s Law, things like justice and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!, our Nigerian churches maintain a dumbfounding silence! Christianity has surrounded us for so long but it has not gotten into our hearts.
Eleniyan is a legal practitioner in the Washington DC Metro Area.
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