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Opinions of Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Columnist: Yeboah, Kwame

Rev. Anaba, what do I do to inherit the kingdom of God?

Last week as part of his promotion for his so called “Love Revolution Conference 2013” at the Accra International Conference center, Reverend Eastwood Anaba, the famed head of the Eastwood Anaba Ministries, “charged Ghanaians to stop idolizing pastors and other public figures as that is detrimental to the growth of society and the PEOPLE’S RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD”. He said “It is sad to note that people, EVEN religious folks, always want to elevate religious leaders and public figures to cult status. Virtually, they want to worship us. That is the hypnotizing power of man’s personality”

Oh no, Reverend, your attempt to close the stable door is too late, the horse bolted long time ago. Private Christian (charismatic) churches and present day Islam have not only made us slaves to the church and its dogmas, they have succeeded in rendering us incapable and afraid of questioning the word and practices of the priest and the church. It is not the people, it is the church. How on earth, do you expect me to question the word of God coming from the mouth of the priest? You see, you guys have succeeded in making the path to God go through not only your churches but through you, the Men of God. How on earth do you expert me a poor sinner not to idolize the man of God? How do you want me to relate to “His Holiness, the Right Reverend, the Apostle, the Primate, Odeefo, the Father, the Archbishop, the Pope and Alhaji”, how? In Jesus and Paul’s time there were only elders, what about now? The despotic monarchs who keep Arab and Moslem states in the pre-historic age in this modern era do so on the claim that their authorities are on the grounds of direct blood relations with the Prophet Muhammad.

Reverend, I am an African and I respect the elderly, leaders and priest. My father told me once that the reason why in Africa, elders are respected is because all things being equal, those who were on earth before I came know more about this earth than me. It is still a taboo for a child to be seated while an elderly person is standing. Children are not to be too opinionated in the presence of leaders. We are named after successful leaders and ancestors so we will emulate them.

All over the world people idolized heroes and great ancestors. We idolize our sportsmen and entertainer. We are proud to call them Divas because they work hard to make us enjoy their work. I wish Kwame Nkrumah were alive today, I don’t know what I will do in his presence. We bow before Nelson Mandela and sing songs about Osei Tutu and Yaa Asantewaa. We recount the heroics of Askia Mohamed and Mansa Musa. We revere our ancestors and recount their heroics in libation so every community member will know their contributions to our lives. We were proud to be Asantes, Dagombas, Walas, Akims, Ewes and Gas. We idolized our heroes but never elevated them to cult status. Then the foreigners came with their religion. When we were hospitable to them and gave them seats and our usual welcoming gesture, they thought we were doing that because they were whites or Christian priest. They took our hospitality to be our subservience to them and took advantage of us. They refused to live amongst us in the community. They built their bungalow on the mountain tops and replaced our shrines with cathedrals. Our straw wearing priest were replaced with people who wore foreign big uniforms. Cassocks and coats from the West and gowns from Middle East. The Catholics changed the names of their priest to “Fathers” and we became their children and servants who must obey. Love your neighbor, be a good wife or husband, do your duty to your fellow man who is the same as the man in the next village became the word of God that can be found only in the bible and spoken by priest during service. Neither the missionary nor their trainee priests imitated Jesus, the wandering preacher who walked on foot preaching love and service to his neighbours as the word of God? Can the modern day Pope, Right Reverend and Apostle ride on a donkey to Jerusalem? The work of God or “Nyame dwuma” became associated only with service to the church or pastor. My mother was a strong church goer and “Christian”. When I was growing up we had seven other people living in my house whose schooling was funded by my mother. She never went to school but sponsored me to the highest level of education. Neither she nor her priest considered all those efforts as “God’s work or Nyame ndwuma”. From her “Christian” teaching, God’s work is when she paid her tithe, contributed to pay the priest and built a mission house. When she went on church sponsored conventions that was God’s work. What about when she visited me on campus with money and food? No no no, that was doing her personal work of visiting her son. Why?

Since the inception of religion, it had always been the attempt of man to find God based on his culture. So religions have always been the deification of cultures. No religion has emerged in abstract and has always sought to make the pillars upon which cultures are set as instruments to praise and worship God. But modern day Christianity has exported to Ghana, foreign doctrines and the traditions and practices of the founding cultures and has indoctrinated the followers to abandon their own traditional values. The missionaries and the subsequent priesthood just took over where the slave owner and colonial masters left off, and the members of the congregation are continuing the very behavior they showed their former masters. You need a proof? Check your church. The modern day church has succeeded in labeling everything African as backward or savage. If you want salvation from your sins and primitive African ways, you have to run to the holy mother church and to the tradition and practices of the church and her “Men of God”. We are baptized with foreign names, we clamour to marry in foreign traditional weddings and when we die, we are buried by the church. If you do well in this new life, you will be called “Brother and Sister in Christ”. If you want to be a good Moslem, you have to sell your possession and travel to Mecca, to visit the birth place of Mohamed and you will be called Alhaji.

My point is the message of God has changed. The answer of Christ to Nicodemus’s question of “what do I do to enter the kingdom of God” is now preached as “sell all your possessions and give the money to the church” and the leadership of the church knows it and are taking advantage of it. The churches have harvest every Sunday to rake in money. Look, Ghanaians are highly religious and in times of desperation, they appeal to their priest to pray for intercession. In Ghana now, apart from a few privileged and worthy people, everybody is desperate for intervention in their lives. What we have in abundance in the rural areas and on the streets of our cities is poverty, frustration and superstition. Coupled with underdevelopment and illiteracy, the majority of our people are living without hope and look to their Men of God to lead them to God for blessing. Now this Men of God have created the impression that there is blessing for chop money, blessing for visas to seek greener pastures, blessing for trading, blessing for winning elections and blessing for getting wives and husbands. All you need is prayer and intercession from the priest. The people did not get these messages from dreams or from work, they were told in the church. I have come to know that genuine repentance and confession of sins is a very serious resolution. It is not done haphazardly. People really become desperate for change and to seek God. The structure of the church is such that, this is not done in private but in the church. The only representative of God in the church is the Man of God. So the desperate sinner who needs atonement goes before his holiness the man of God to pour out his sins and seek forgiveness. This is where the “idolizing” and the worshipping of the priest starts. Being active in the church is the answer to all your problems.

But when I was growing up my father thought me what prayer in Africa is. He said, in Africa, there are three forms of prayer. The first one is the normal conversation with God where we praise him and ask for help. The second prayer is a community conversation with God in the form of libation where the whole community participate. During this prayer, we worship and adore God, tell our history from creation to the present day, praise our heroes and ancestors whose contribution built our society and nation and who are mentioned in the prayer so the future generations will have idols to look up to and emulate. But the best and greatest prayer was a life of responsibility and righteousness. He told me that, if you are a farmer, your prayer is to ask for strength and resources to till the land and plant your crop when the season comes. What is expected of God is to give you the strength and provide resources such as rain. At the end of the season, your harvest is the answer to your prayer. In order words, good old hard work, responsibility and service to mankind in the form of your family, society and country are prayers and services to God. It was and is still not empty faith and oral prayers but faith grounded in works led by respectable and honest leaders and priests. In ancient times we did not have full time priest who were paid by the church members. At least I know Jesus was not neither did Paul and Silas.

In the old Ghanaian society, if you are student, it is expected of you to study hard and at the end of the course when you pass your examination and earn your certificate or license that is the answer to your prayer. Your prayer was doing your homework, burning the candle at night and attending classes. It was not all night prayer meetings with the man of God. An answer to a mother or father's prayer is a well taken care of, cultured and successful children. A politician's answer to his prayer is to enact laws and create programs that will ensure prosperity to the electorate that will get him re-elected, and a priest or mallam's answer to his prayer is to explain the word of God and lead his congregation to prosperity so that their lives will be enriched through a life of righteousness. But go through rural Ghana now-a-days. Some of the most imposing buildings you encounter are all church buildings and mission houses for priests. But just outside these imposing buildings are the squatters of the people whose weekly contributions built these Chapels and Mission houses. The rains are coming and many people may be sleeping outside because of leaking roofs and crumbling mud houses. The only successful people in the country side outside the cocoa season are the priests. Look at the Moslem world today. The priests have used the word of Muhammad as an excuse to establish tyrannical rule. Almost all their leaders and Ayatollahs are life president or Kings to be succeeded by their children. And all the Presidents and Kings are Imams. With the exception of the 'Royal' family, council of priests and off springs of the Presidents, the total population is living in poverty and absolute oppression. Within the last 30 years, the Arab countries have earn hundreds and thousands of times more money from oil exports than all the earnings of the rest of the world combined. What do they have to show for this? A mass of poor people with no personal, constitutional and human rights living on Saraka from the mosque. Most of the Kayayos in Ghana are children of Moslems who are living in the streets of the cities because they were denied education, and had to run away from forced marriages to old and senile Mallams. So reverend, the people are not such stupid fools that by nature worship and elevate anybody to cult status, they are maneuvered into it by messages or “words of God” from the church. Our traditional respect for leaders is being taken huge advantage of by your fellow priest all in the name of God and salvation. The typical Ghanaian source of inspiration is the “Gye Nyame”, the symbol of our reliance on the omnipotence of God and we take our religion seriously. That has become our bane.

In Ghana now, if one wants to overcome one’s problems and to receive blessing from God and become a true human accepted by society, you have to run to the holy mother church and to the bosom of the anointed man of God. As a result the standard for salvation is one’s status at church in relations to the priest or the ability to rattle tongues during praises and worship. We have become so heavenly minded that we have forgotten we are on earth and wallowing in squalor. We do so with the understanding that we will inherit the kingdom of God AFTER WE DIE. The poorer and more Lazarus-like the better. All one needs is humility and life of service. Watch and pray for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. As a result we have a people who see the Christian priest as worthy of worship and idolization, a complete deviation from our former self. What has happened to us is your “word of God” and “Men of God” The African spirit based on our over reliance on the power and omnipresence of God has sustained us throughout history. We survived the destruction of Nubia and Egypt. We survived the destructions of the empires of Western Sudan (Ghana, Mali and Songhai) by the Moslems hordes. We survived slavery after more than one hundred million of our able bodied men and women were forceful taken away from us at the time we were settling down in the forest belt of West Africa after long migrations. We survived direct colonial rule and fought for independence. We survived the cold war and apartheid when our countries were used by the United States and the Soviet Union as theaters for war rehearsals. I don't know of any group of people, race or culture that could have survived such calamities and still have the kind of population explosion we are experiencing now. We are a very resilient people, and did not idolized, worshiped and completely became slaves to the men who say they are leading us to salvation.

So Reverend, if you have any revolution conferences, start with your fellow priests. They are solely responsible for the decadence our people find themselves. And if you are truly a man of God, set the innocent naïve congregations of yours free from the mental bondage they find themselves now. Don’t blame them for idolizing you, because people under mental bondage become self contained. Not only will they idolize the priest and fail to challenge the pattern of thought and behaviors that control them, they will defend and protect them virtually with their last dying effort. Under mental bondage, the priests don't need to do much to get the congregation to worship them like kings with the hope of getting riches and salvation overnight without any effort. So reverend, if you are the messiah, save us from our church before we rapture.

Kwame Yeboah