Feature Article of Tuesday, 18 April 2000
Columnist: Maxwell Oteng
With our country on the cusp of economic depression, and after two decades of self-denial that J.J. did not stand for the moniker "Junior Jesus", a group of religious people think that we should take to the streets and march for God's favor rather than march to denounce those in leadership position whose non-performance have culminated in all these problems most Ghanaian are enduring. Desperate situations, they say call for desperate actions indeed!
Religious matters do not lend themselves to easy commentary at all, especially by an ordinary folk of my measure. It is a slippery slope on which even the Angels show scruples to thread. Having said that, however, a news item carried in most of the major Ghanaian newspapers and on the internet at some of the Ghana-related websites about the "March for Jesus 2000" cannot be allowed to pass without a comment.
According to the said news item, the "March for Jesus 2000" is slated for June 10 and its organization is under the aegis of the Central Planning Committee (CPM) of Christian Churches. The chairman of the CPM is one Dr. Asore, who incidentally happens to be a member of the Council of State (I still do not know the role of this Council in national politics, though I think I know the potential role such a council can play in national affairs). At a news conference, Dr. Asore is reported to have said that the June 10 event "is aimed at evangelizing through prayers and publicly declaring the lordship of Jesus over the country." In this connection, Dr Asore "called on all Christians from all denominations to come together and use the June 10 forum to pray for an end to the decline of the economy of the country. The news item continues that "he said considering the current state of the economy, IT IS ONLY GOD THAT CAN SALVAGE IT AND THE PURPOSE OF THE MARCH IS TO OVERCOME THE FORCES THAT ARE FIGHTING AGAINST THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE NATION [emphasis is mine]."
I have nothing against any religion or any religious group [any for that matter any group] going on a public march to express their belief systems and pray for our dear country because such activities offer avenues for highly oppressed people to find solace, after all Karl Marx said that religion is the opium of the masses in such circumstances. But I get highly disturbed by such statements as above that tend to imply that our problems are beyond our capabilities and abilities and thus we can only solve them through spiritual intervention of a sort. Such statements make one wonder what role God plays in the economic development of countries. Is it really true that some [evil] forces are fighting against the development of our country? How come those forces fight against the development of our country and mostly African countries? Why are these forces not fighting against the development of a non-Christian country like Japan (with only about 1% of the population as Christians)? How come a country like the United States keeps on becoming more powerful economically, even though it is home to any conceivable "evil" thing one can think of?
I think we make God sad (and maybe angry) by such pronouncements because not only do they make God seem discriminatory (by allowing evil forces to inhibit the development of some countries while protecting others) but also they are counterintuitive to the whole purpose of the creation of man in the image of God.
God is generous indeed, and in His (Her?) generosity and infinite wisdom, He/She created us (human beings) in His/Her own image and gave us the ability to have dominion over all of His/Her other creatures. As Genesis 1 26-31 says 'then God said, "Let' us make a man - someone like ourselves, to be the master of all life upon the earth and in the skies and in the seas." So God made man like his maker. Like God did God make man; Man and the maid did he make them. And God bless them and told them, "Multiply and fill the earth and subdue it; you are masters of the fish and the birds and all animals. And look! I have given you the seed-bearing plants throughout the earth, all the fruit trees for your food. And I have given you all the grass and plants to the animals and birds for their food." Then God looked over all that he had made and it was excellent in every way." (From The Living Bible). What else do we need from God? Being made in God's image means that we have the intellectual capabilities and capacities to improve our lots using all the resources, both human and non-human, that have been placed at our disposal by a very caring and generous God.
To have faith and pray for spiritual guidance is all good, but as the adage says, "God helps those who help themselves." In a similar tone the good Bible says faith without deeds is dead. James declares in James 1:14-17: "Dear brothers, what's the use of saying that you have faith and are Christians if you aren't proving it by helping others? Will that kind of faith save anyone? If you have a friend who is in need of food and clothing and you say to him, "Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat hearty", and then don't give him clothes or food, what good does that do? So you see it isn't enough just to have faith. You must also do good to prove that you have it. Faith that doesn't show itself by good works is no faith at all - it is dead and useless" (The Living Bible).
There is no question at all that the problems facing our country are human-created and thus would require human solutions which are not beyond our ken contrary to what people like Dr. Asore seem to imply.
If anything at all, our problem is that all too often we give in to fatalism and fail to make use of our God-endowed faculties - we are too quick to resign ourselves to fate; our problem is that we are too obsequious and too passive to a fault; we are too hesitant to register our indignation against the evils in our societies especially at the levels of government and leadership; our problem is that there is too much "fama Nyame" in our social and political relationships and dealings; our problem is that we are unwilling to assume responsibilities for our own failures - for most of us it must be some evil forces that are pulling us down; and our problem is that we are willing to turn a blind eye to corruption and put up and dine with corrupt and unjust leaders, especially if doing so puts food on our tables even at the expense of our country.
If Christians are going to March for Jesus, we not only would like them to pray for the country but also more importantly follow Jesus' example when he whipped a group of gamblers in the church. Thus, we would like to see the March for Jesus 2000 on June 10 protest, among other things, against:
(1) Corrupt leadership as well as corruption at all levels of society, which is the bane of our economic woes;
(2) Politics of retribution, vindictiveness, intimidation, exclusion and ethnic division being practiced by a small group of politicians led by our First Lady and which has the potential to cause a lot of political and social damage in our country
(3) Timocracy being practiced by members of government while the vast majority of is squeezing blood out of stones to eke out a living;
(4) Cronyism and nepotis
(5) The ever-widening gap between the haves and the have-nots
(6) The rapes, murders, lies and deception, abuse of macho powers and all the other evil deeds the draw us back in our development endeavors and to which we glaringly turn blind eyes.
If we do not speak against these evils, then no amount of prayers or wizardry can help us overcome our economic predicaments, and God may turn as away saying, "Go away you hypocrites!" When you saw evil you didn't speak against it," much in the same biblical parlance as is told in Matthew 25:40-46.
Our problems are our own human creation so let us seek human solutions to them by using our God-given intellects. Otherwise, irrespective of our supplication in prayers and public display of our Christian beliefs, if we do not use our God-given faculties and resources, we would not make any progress. As of now we are behaving like third man in the parable Jesus told in Matthew Chapter 25. We seem to have dug a hole in the ground and hid our "money" (given us by the Master) for safekeeping. What did the master tell him on the day of reckoning? "Wicked man! Lazy slave!..For the man who uses well what he is given shall be given more, and he shall have abundance. But from the man, who is unfaithful, even what little responsibility he has shall be taken from him. And throw the useless servant out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 25: 26-30, LB). Is it any wonder there is weeping and gnashing of teeth in Ghana - because we have failed to make good use of our God-given resources?
God has done his/her part. Let us do ours.