This write-up by Douglas Anele, a Philosophy icon in the University of Lagos and first published in the Punch newspaper. Anele opines that Bishop David Oyedepo of Winners Chapel is very derogatory and demeaning. Let’s jointly analyze and give our respective opinions.
Tin gods, Holy dictators and Anointed tyrants (2)
Now, Nigerian pastors have taken their arrogance, aggression and presumptuous megalomania to dangerous heights. Aside from cruel infliction of physical pain on the faithful who came for “deliverance” in the absurd belief that doing so will exorcise their demonic powers and witchcraft, some pastors actually assault worshippers physically. Recently, a video recording of David Oyedepo of Winners’ Chapel went viral on the net. In it, the pastor was apparently conducting a so-called deliverance service on some young girls alleged to be witches. The girls had to kneel submissively before Oyedepo, in order to be delivered from “spiritual affliction.”
One of the girls angered Oyedepo by claiming that her own witchery is for Jesus. Oyedepo responded: “You are a foul devil! Do you know who you are talking to?” He then gave the girl a hard, dirty slap and thundered: “Jesus has no witches. You are a devil. You are not set for deliverance and you are free to go to hell!”
In another video, “the man of God” boasted about the incident, claiming that the girl he assaulted later came to apologise to him! Now, what can we make of this incident? For me as a humanist and hater of all forms of authoritarianism, Oyedepo’s conduct embodies all that is hideous, despicable and irrational in contemporary Christian clergy.
Belief in witchcraft is one of the wicked delusions which have been used for centuries to maim and kill innocent people who happen to be different in some way from the average person in the society.
It seems pretty obvious that Oyedepo did not understand that perhaps the girl’s claim of being a witch for Jesus was a metaphorical way of conveying the depth of her devotion to Christianity, just as one reads in several passages of the Holy Bible where Jesus allegedly took on negative roles for the redemption of believers.
Furthermore, his response is a total negation of spiritual maturity and genuine love for humanity, which is the hallmark of true spirituality. Indeed, that Oyedepo asked the girl whether she knew who she was talking to, and bragged that she later came to apologise portrays him as a person who likes to exercise absolute control and power over those who look up to him for spiritual guidance.
Hence, irrespective of the impressive material successes recorded by his church, the deplorable act of slapping and cursing someone who came to him for “spiritual deliverance” disqualifies Oyedepo as a trustworthy spiritual guide — his conduct is not in line with the attributes usually associated with enlightened spirituality such as humility, compassion, empathy and love.
It is very disappointing and demeaning, in my view, that the girl in question apologised to Oyedepo — in fact, the apology ought to have been the other way round. I think that by apologizing, the victim further dehumanised herself, instead of doing the right thing by reporting Oyedepo to the police for assault: after all, no one — not even the pastor of a big wealthy church — is above the law. Her cowardly behaviour is fallout of the worshipful, self-abnegating, and irrational respect accorded to the clergy in Nigerian society, which is a worrisome manifestation of cognitive and existential dissonance connected with contemporary Christian worship.
But come to think of it, what gives pastors the audacity to wield enormous powers over members of their churches? Why are pastors boastful, arrogant, ostentatious and aggressive nowadays in their approach to Christianity? What has happened to the virtues of tolerance, patience, humility, forbearance and love extolled by genuine spiritual leaders like Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, Pope John Paul II, and the Dalai Lama, etc.? My answer is that contemporary Christianity has substantially deviated from the original mandate ascribed to Jesus in the New Testament, which was to prepare believers for eternal life in heaven.
Most denominations of the religion have mutated into business concerns. Consequently, pastors have very little to offer those genuinely interested in spiritual growth. The new Pentecostal churches are “factories” for “manufacturing” Holy Ghost fire, instant miracles and material prosperity on an industrial scale. The fearful and gullible, those desperate for quick results and others misguidedly seeking spiritual enlightenment fall prey to the soap-box histrionics of bombastic preachers.
Pastors commit atrocities in order to win more converts and increase the quantum of tithes and sundry donations they collect regularly. In my opinion, the outlandish doctrines preached by pastors are clearly unsuitable for rational humane living. Take for instance, the notion that man was not created to be sick, but the devil uses sickness to torment unbelievers and sinners. What about the stupid belief that by the mere act of praying, making a decree or pronouncement, all the existential problems of born-again Christians will be eliminated miraculously, or that the challenges of life such as poverty, childlessness, sickness and death are due to the machinations of the “enemy,” the devil?
By teaching their followers to rely on incoherent gibberish masquerading as the impartation of Holy Spirit, pastors are actually discouraging their church members from creatively deploying their productive powers in handling the vicissitudes of life, which is the only way the good life, one inspired by love and guided by knowledge, can be actualised.
What our pastors and imams are doing in places of worship is utterly reprehensible. Therefore Nigerians, especially the youths, should stay away from these centres of self-deception and delusion to avoid material, psychological and spiritual manipulations of the worst kind by tin gods, holy tyrants and anointed dictators.