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Opinions of Sunday, 10 November 2013

Columnist: Amenga-Etego, Sacut

Church & state in bed – where stands the people?

Has the non - denominational church in Ghana ever heard of liberation theology? Are there no ‘men of God’ in Ghana who have listened to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount? Did they not understand that to be a man of God means to be an avowed defender of the poorest people in the society? If they did, how come we have the church hierarchy offending the poorest people in Ghana and rooting with the prosperous in the class war?

Well, I know about the church in Latin America and in other parts of the world where it is actively involved in liberation theology whereby the teachings of Jesus Christ have been interpreted in relation to liberation from unjust economic, political or social conditions. This is where the church and it's leaders interprets the Christian faith through the poor’s suffering, their struggle and their hope. This form or version of Christian theology also actively and with consecrated determination, work against the oppressor’s establishment just as Christ preached and lived - that which led to his crucifixion on the cross. In those countries, at least, some men of God side and work with the poorest masses.

The Peruvian priest and strongest advocate of liberation theology, Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez says, ‘’God is revealed in the historical ‘praxis’ of liberation. It is the situation - economic, social or political – and our passionate and reflective involvement in it, which mediates the word of God’. Today, the true word of God is mediated through the cries of the poor and oppressed.

Liberation theology has arisen principally within the church first in Latin America, and now universally, as a moral reaction to the massive levels of poverty in our society caused by social injustice which is perpetuated by our political, religious and business leaders. The Vatican has openly criticized liberation theology- which started in the Catholic Church anyways – because the priests and laymen of the church - such as the Peruvian father Gustavo - who identify with this theology know, and have openly said that the hierarchy of the church in our society, our ‘Osofos’ and bishops, cardinals and deacons – all these people fall under the same privileged class with the oppressive politicians and business men of our society today since our so – called independence from colonizers. The advocates of liberation theology have criticized the church for its refusal to root for the poor in a class struggle. I have joined that movement for a while now.

In Nicaragua, the priests of the church in the late 1970’s took liberation theology even to a revolutionary point of armed struggle by joining the Sandinistas to form a poor people’s government in 1979. In Haiti, liberation theology brought Jean - Bertrand Aristide, a catholic Priest of the salesian order to power as first democratically - elected President of that country. In Mexico, Peru and many other countries in Latin America and Eastern Europe, liberation theology – taken to the extreme - has led to the formation of various political parties based on a theocracy which has further led to popular political and armed struggle over the years although we know that Christ advocated non – violence in any social, political or liberation struggle. This is where true men of God’s church root for the poorest people in society’s ongoing class war.

So: liberation theology says the church can get involved in politics as long as the church and its hierarchy will be on the side of the oppressed, the poor people.

In this regard, the ‘men of God’ of our nation Ghana, have no moral reaction to the ongoing injustice, characterized by pure squalor, which has led to a general apathy among the people. Our ‘men of God’ are unable or rather are incapable or even uninterested in interpreting the Christian faith through the poor’s suffering, their struggle and hope simply because they are in a clique with the politicians and business men – or perhaps, because they are politicians and business men themselves.

These days, names of pastors and their respective political party affiliations have been published for all of us to know what we long suspected. This means it is no longer a conspiracy theory – they are indeed in bed with the politicians here in Ghana – since there has not been denials of these publications.

A relevant question to ask at this point in my books, is whether or not; these ‘men of God’ know that they are part and parcel of the group of people responsible for the mass poverty of our people? I thought that Jesus Christ identified with the poor during his ministry? So why are they claiming to be preaching the teachings of Christ whiles acting the complete opposite of the Christian messiah’s teachings? Did Christ ever wined and dined with the King of the Jews? Not that I have read of. However, I have read and heard of Christ’s wining and dining with the poor people in Galilee. So are we talking about a different Christ here in Ghana?

Others keep saying we are a former colonized people. Granted that to be true, and we know that the colonizers oppressed the indigenous people in colonial times. Are we indigents of this nation going to pretend that we are a formerly oppressed people too? I cannot imagine that.

Again in my books, we the indigenous people – not the foreigners residing in Ghana - are currently oppressed with public utility prices and services, we are oppressed with public bureaucracies and bottle necks, we are oppressed with discrimination and patronage, with the total lack of meritocracy in our commonly created opportunities as a nation, we are also oppressed by the ‘majestic egalitarianism’ of the law. We are oppressed with church collections, donations, festivals, rituals and offertories. Indeed, we are oppressed with unjustifiable and exploitative taxes and levies. public office Corruption is the greatest tool of oppression here. And what do we hear? a mute church unashamed of their complacency in this social injustice.

This time, the oppressors are not white men. They are our own brothers and sisters - who by the way are even more brutal than the white colonial oppressors. For example, the white colonial administrators in the colonial governments were less corrupt with public resources than the current indigenous administrators in our governments. In similar terms, the white priests and ‘men of God’ in colonial times took less collections, no special donations and offertories from their colonial congregation. This should rationally make the colonial oppressor more preferable to the indigenous ones - if we are to choose the lesser of two evils.

As if this sort of oppression is not enough, our ‘men of God’ who we expect to stand with us in this situation, according to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the theology of liberation, are on the side of the oppressor. They have completely abandoned liberation theology – that is if they have ever embraced it. The church hierarchy in Ghana is prosperous and stand with the prosperous so they are preaching prosperity. They abhor poverty, so they dissociate from the poor masses and their poor and meek aspirations.

Or do these ‘men of God’ in Ghana want us to give them a biblical bases for why they must interpret the teachings of Jesus Christ in relation to liberation from unjust economic, political or social conditions as well as from sin? That has already been long established. Let them refer to Isaiah 61:1, Matthew 10:34, Luke 22:35-38 where one will discover that the mission of Jesus Christ brought a sword which stirred controversy and civil strife and not peace. For there shouldn’t, and cannot be peace in the midst of poverty and social injustice in a mass scale such as we have among our people.

If our ‘men of God’ understood this, the non – denominational church and its men and women in Ghana today may stop being a hypocritical bunch pretending to be neutral, or even on the side of the people, when indeed, they form part of the oppressor’s regimes that we have past and currently enduring as a people. Rather, they will interpret the Christian faith through the poor’s suffering, their struggle and hope.

Amenga – Etego Akaabitono SaCut – The writer is a political journalist, broadcaster and ghost writer