This was not the article for the week. I had wanted to run notes from the 52nd anniversary celebration of our nation, but had to change to what you are reading, in anger, about what citizens can do to each other. In the families, companies (corporate world), government settings and even in religious circles, I have seen what brothers and sisters (relations), persons of same blood or races can do, the extent they can go to pull down a successful and thriving relation.
I have seen wives go for the jugular of their husbands just to bag appointments in high places. I have witnessed brothers sell-out one another with the sole objective of gaining unsustainable advantage. I have seen best friends and business partners tear at one another apart just for a mess of pottage. I have asked why this is so and the answer I often get is that it is normal with the human personality. Is it really normal? Where this trend is the main character trait, progress is difficult to access.
This seems to be the main attitude in the black world; and the result is what we see in the peculiar kind of backwardness that plagues these areas. The Nigeria problem, I have told friends, has a deep root in wrong spirituality. The cut-throat competition, kill and go mentality, selfishness, deceit, hedonism, hardness of heart, stealing for tomorrow, mediocrity and absence of vision has its root in what wrong spiritual inclination can do.
Where you find idolatry, no progress can be found there. I was telling somebody few days ago that our troubles have grown worse because of ignorance. Every challenge has an already made answer, because no problem is new under the earth. Many have passed the path before, and were confronted by the same issues for which they found answers. But for us here and the black world in general, every challenge looks novel, because we don’t have time for research, and those entrusted to take this responsibility do so, but put the outcomes under the table. In the end, we never get to know if anything was done.
The Roman Empire did not blossom until Christianity gained ground there, the same for Great Britain. The struggle to have Anglican Communion was not without reason for sustainable progress by the British nation. What about the industrial age? How did it come? The Church spearheaded printing revolution, for instance, two-third of those who discovered America were ruffians. But when they got to America and touched the soil for the very first time, they did not call themselves names, what they did as they disembarked from the ship was to kneel down to thank God Almighty and to hand over the land to Him.
Before they made their constitution, it was generally accepted that they have the inscription, “In God We Trust”. This article will not take the place of the Church and State, which I intend to do very soon. In that piece, I will, among other things, look at whether the Church is actually teaching in detail what they should be teaching. Today, however, I want to concentrate on the attacks on Bishop Oyedepo by Eddie Iroh in his column in “THISDAY Newspaper on Friday, November 2, 2012.
My interest on the issues raised by Eddie Iroh does not arise from any close relationship with Bishop Oyedepo; it is motivated by the fact that I am naturally allergic to any attempt aimed at unjustly pulling down any of our best ambassadors. Shining lights in our midst are few, and if I had my way, they should be adored, cherished, and protected at all costs. Is David Oyedepo one? By my assessment he is more than a national icon, he has grown to be a world star. He is not a politician neither has he held any public office, yet, from what God has given to him he has grown into a pillar that is positively shaping the destinies of millions of individuals across nations of the world.
This is a great feat by any standard. Mr Iroh, by picking on Oyedepo, has the right as a commentator on public affairs. Bishop Oyedepo, by working himself up the ladder of huge success and fame, has by that token become a public figure. Yet, in taking the right to free speech, it is important that we recognize that others too have their rights, both natural and legally guaranteed; among them the right to self-esteem and dignity. You don’t just wake up and run a man or business concern down, just because you don’t like his face or whatever it is they are doing. It is also part of the deal that a commentator understands clearly the issues at stake.
In this instance, Eddie Iroh began his treatise on Oyedepo by placing inverted comas open and close, on his appellation of Bishop. What this connotes to the ordinary reader is that he does see the man of God as qualified to be a Bishop, or that he is a fake one. Mr. Iroh relying on a write-up in the British Mail newspaper, indirectly labeled Oyedepo an extortionist, who was extorting huge sums of money from vulnerable Africans and Caribbeans in Britain on account that if they did give, God will give them back.
He displayed jealousy when he said there were pictures of Oyedepo “luxuriating” in London in his private jet and that his London Church makes returns of huge amount of money monthly. I was infuriated when Mr. Iroh said he could not understand what Christianity, which in his view, is a religion that made poor and taught people to live poor, was turning into. According to Iroh, Jesus had nowhere to lay his head and rode on donkey, the dirtiest animal at the time. For Iroh, this is a prescription for poor living, the “true” Christian must live poor, drive rickety cars, own no houses, much less own planes.
It no longer makes sense, in that even planes can be owned on the basis of necessity. It does not even occur to the likes of Iroh that the world has grown complex and so has become the daily demands of evangelism. The above just confirms the danger Christianity faces today. It is exposed to real threats when peripheral Christians (nominal Christians) and downright cultists take up the gauntlet to dabble into critical aspects of this encompassing faith without having a good grasp of what the issues are. Let me start from the first, Christianity is not a religion. It is a culture. It is a lifestyle. It is a relationship and a mystery, which only those deep in it would discover and appreciate.
Bishop-hood, which has attracted so much attention in our nation, is not a title, in Christianity, it is just an office. Any congregation can decide to name its officials by it. Secondly, and very importantly, Christianity is not a faith that promotes poverty; on the contrary, it is about beauty, fulfillment and glory. It is about God’s kind of success, which manifests in being the best in spirituality, health, fiancés, inventions, industry, power, family, intelligence, marriage and positive social relations. Christianity is about wholesomeness. It is not the plan of God that His true children lack anything or worship him by gnashing their teeth. Deuteronomy 8:18 says, “It is the Lord that has power to give wealth”; Psalm 24:1 says the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.
I will not talk and worship God, if after realizing His mightiness He allowed me to wallow in want, scorn, deprivation, to be defenceless against the many satanic agents masquerading as humans, and other dislocations that go with it. A true believer should be the head and not the tail. When Eddie Iroh alludes to poverty or austerity as symbol of Christianity, I am left to wonder what he is saying. Iroh was not representing the Bible correctly when he said Jesus had no place to stay; for proper education, he should read John 1:35, and see where He told disciples of John the Baptist, who wondered where such a great man could be staying, to come and see. You don’t tell people to come and see a wretched building: Jesus stayed in big buildings when He had cause to do so. Jesus fed multitudes frequently – John 6:26, this is evidence of great abundance even to the present. Jesus moved in convoy – Mark 4:36 – He moved in a big beautiful ship, and smaller ones followed on all sides. Only the big and powerful move this way.
He had a Treasurer (Judas Iscariot), who must have kept stealing without the master disturbing Himself about that. In John 19:23, at the Cross, Italian soldiers, the ruling world power at the time, struggled for His clothes. Do you struggle for rags or low quality clothes? Iroh should tell me! The truth is that early preachers gave emphasis to holiness, which is the most important goal: yet, this doesn’t remove the fact that there are other equally very important components in Christianity like well-being of the saints. Christianity, if Iroh must understand, is not against wealth (money inclusive), it is against the love of it.
You don’t make wealth or money a god for which you are ready to devote all time and attention to, or ready to lie, subvert, destroy or spill blood to have. Oyedepo and the Winners’ Chapel I know preaches holiness. It also teaches excellence as Christ’s Ambassadors on earth. If you ask me, Oyedepo via Winners Chapel is taking major responsibility and leadership in an area where government should be seen to be the undisputed leader. Christianity, like I observed earlier, brings out God’s mystery in the way no religion does. One of the cardinal operating strategies in God’s Kingdom as depicted by the lives of Christian patriarchs like Abraham and David and revalidated by Christ is that if you must receive, you must first give.
You give yourself and your resources; then God responds. (The ground does not need man, it is man who needs the ground. Nothing you give the ground makes it fatter). Those who give in Churches are not stupid. Many of them are well-trained, can reason for ourselves and have gone far in the things of this world. So, if they continue to give, it means there is something they gain. After all, the Bible has said to the earthly wise, the things of the spirit (Kingdom) are foolishness. Can Eddie Iroh explain why God must have His Son die before He can reclaim His children? Does it not look foolish? If a Nigerian led by the spirit can go outside to make money, legally, I think, it is in our place to encourage and commend him.
Developed nations are rich, yet many of our citizens stay long there only to return here looking wretched, with phony cigar puffing fingers and speaking English in terrible accent. This is not what we want. Oyedepo, for all I know, is building universities, creating jobs, offering scholarships, redirecting wrecked destinies and stabilizing spirits that were on the path to quick end.
Such a man deserves respect and honour and not vilification from mean persons. For Oyedepo, he must watch his back, for where there is great success; there the enemy lurks to wreak havoc. Once again, the likes of Oyedepo in our midst must be protected and encouraged, I insist.