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Opinions of Friday, 1 February 2013

Columnist: Emmanuel Nyatsikor

Men of God or devils in priestly garb?

There is this giant billboard of a Charismatic church in my neighborhood in a suburb of Ho. It has the photograph of the host Pastor and his wife, also said to be a pastor.

Both radiate ‘toothpaste’ smiles and boldly proclaim their Church to be the "LAST BUS STOP - WE SOLVE FINANCIAL, MARRIAGE, TRAVELLING AND OTHER PROBLEMS.”

Beauty, (not her real name) was enticed by the giant billboard and went to the church during one of its prayer sessions to consult the Pastor for prayers.

Her problem was difficulty in getting the wherewithal and documentation to go abroad.

Beauty came back and gave a graphic account of what transpired between her and the Prophet, 'Seer', Apostle and Leader of the church.

She said immediately she arrived, an aide of the Pastor came to meet her and asked her to remove her footwear.

Beauty said she obliged after which she was taken into a small cubicle and ushered into the presence of the "Man of God" about 20 minutes later.

Beauty said immediately the Man of God saw her, he started chanting, after which he gave her a message, perhaps a divination.

It goes thus: “You are being haunted by evil spirits bent on destroying your marriage and your mother is the leader of those forces."

The 'Seer' had a solution for Beauty - Prayers. Some items were needed to shoot the message to God. These include sea water, anointing oil, candles, a dove and salt from the Holy Land (Israel).

All the items the Man of God said were available in the Church for a fee of 500 Ghana cedis in addition to a consultation fee of 200 Ghana Cedis.

Venue for the cleansing and fortification was not given but time was at 12 midnight.

Beauty was a “roamer,” bent on getting spiritual support for her trip abroad and so had been to a shrine earlier and had heard about the supposed evil spirits standing between her and her dreams.

It was intriguing, her dead mother leading her enemies to fight her? May be she was leading them as a spirit.

Yes indeed, all the forces were spirits too, a confused Beauty, who was single, thought.

She was visibly incensed when she gave the other prerequisites for the war against her foe. The 'Seer' had divined that God wanted him (Seer) to “sleep” with her.

That way, all her requests were sure to mature fast and she will be spiritually transformed to become a Miss World, make her husband (which she did not have) to be at her beck and call and will “love you well, well."

Stranger things yet, according to the narration of Beauty. The “Man of God’s” ‘holy semen’ once in her body will fortify her against death and all attacks, spiritual and physical.

Indeed ‘holy semen” as fortification against the deadliest attacks which she could imagine whether physical or spiritual.

Beauty’s narration drew comments and observations from listeners and her relatives to the effect that one did not need to go through any rigorous training to become a Pastor these days, as cassocks and the Pastor’s accoutrements were on the open market to procure.

The designation for the Priest is a matter of choice, depending on personality. It could be a Reverend or Apostle.

This seems to have provided an open market for the “pastoral business” to blossom as many people with questionable characters cash in to feed on the genuine grievances of an increasing gullible public desirous of material successes.

No doubt, a day never passes without the media telling stories of such so called men of God engaged in acts that one could not associate with true shepherds of God’s flock.

Two gentlemen recently visited a farming community near Ho and introduced themselves as pastors who came to preach the word of God to them. They ended up defrauding the people of thousands of Ghana cedis. The cell phone number they gave to their victims was answered by someone in Tamale who had nothing to do with those pastors.

A few months ago, a Pastor was said to have taken a married woman to the sea shore at midnight to exorcise a demon which was haunting her and ended up raping her and inserting salt into her womanhood.

These and other stories reflect how deep such so called men of God have sunken the reverence attached to Christianity and Christian Priesthood in Ghana.

The Priesthood which used to be a noble and dignified profession, has lost its dignity and respect because of the influx of all types of characters who see Priesthood as a means of making money.

These self-ordained pastors use their ill-gotten money to buy air-time on Television and Radio stations to lambast each other in the name of preaching the gospel.

Today the charlatans have turned their churches into platforms where they use filthy and unprintable words against other churches.

They see the orthodox churches and their members as only good enough for hell.

There is this view that general morality in the country was better when there were only the few orthodox and Pentecostal Churches in the country, compared to present times of the proliferation of churches.

Today some so called pastors see nothing wrong in sleeping with women and children, claiming to be exorcising evil spirits from them or making them ‘holy.’

Prophet Emmanuel Akpanya, leader of one of the charismatic churches in Ho who was appalled by the infiltration into the priesthood by such men, said whilst some people use weapons to rob their fellow men of their possessions, the charlatans use “the Bible to rob others”, describing their attitude as an abomination and barbaric.

In his view, Reverend Lawson Dzanku, Associate Pastor of Evangelical Presbyterian (EP) Church, Elorm Parish, Ho Bankoe and a lecturer at the E.P. University College in Ho, said the behaviour of the charlatans had reached a crescendo and it was high time the Christian Council of Ghana, Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches Council and all well-meaning Ghanaians stood up in “arms” against them.

Brother Enoch Immanuel Agbozo of the Ghana Evangelical Society, speaking at the 2012 conference of the church in Accra recently on the topic "The church, the path and hope of glory", said as a result of a scramble for power and position, success, fame and glory in the rat race of a wicked and perishing world, many including some Christians have fallen prey to the historic deception and seduction of Satan, and advised that, “We must ensure that we do not bow to the pressures of human and service needs.”

He lamented that many wanted to be gods unto themselves by designing and working out their own desires and plans yet still deceive themselves into thinking they are servants of God.

In his epistle to the Roman Church, Apostle Paul predicted the emergence of these “greedy bastards” in Christendom of whom he said their stomachs are their gods, and warned Christians to be wary of them.

Jesus Christ also warned that we should watch out, for many will come in his name claiming to be the messiah and deceive us with signs and wonders.

Apostle Paul again admonished Christians that if they do not work then they should not eat, so why should Ghanaians waste precious man hours at the so called prayer centres expecting instant changes in their fortunes.

Even during the journey of the Israelites to the Promised Land, the manna God caused to fall for them did not drop in their mouths they had to go out and pick them.

If nothing is done to weed out the charlatans from the noble and respected Christian priesthood, Christianity will be a laughing stock in the eyes of other religions including traditionalists.

It is high time we take our destiny into our own hands and stop relying on these charlatans who profess to have antidotes to our problems.

They are not different from armed robbers, confidence tricksters and wolves in sheep' skins; their sole aim is to fleece people of their wealth.