ometime ago at a public forum, a well-respected acquaintance of mine made a rather shocking disclosure: "I go to church with sieves." For a long time, I kept asking myself this question: What's the point going to "the ground and pillar of truth" with mental sieves? The answer was elusive. But now I can hazard a few guesses.
It is apparent that the caption of this piece is counterintuitive. I guess it has prompted a few questions in your mind. Why will someone want to be guided into error? How can someone muster the audacity to suborn a well-meaning custodian of truth to deal in delusion? Aren't pastors in catbird seats, so how can they be influenced to become misleading yea-sayers? Is there a single ideal-typical form of pastors? These are reasonable questions. If we can answer them, then it will be clear why some people go to church with sieves to filter half truths. Before then, let me make one or two points that are tangential to this subject.
It is apparent that religion is increasingly becoming a hot-button subject for public scrutiny. It seems as if writers inadvertently dig their vocational grave when they turn their searchlight on religious issues. This is so, even when they write from a pedestal of clinical detachment and objectively present facts about issues. In this clime, we gloatingly conflate issues and persons. Even when a writer makes the distinctions crystal clear, we muddle them up.
God gave us Ten Commandments. It is my suspicion that Nigerians invented the eleventh: "Thou shall not write about our religions." Well, there is a proviso to it: Thou shall only from a proselytising or interest-protecting stance. Let me make it clear upfront. I will break the eleventh commandment and canvass opinions that do not side with popular beliefs.
The animating gospel of liars has come to stay. There are many reasons for this. One, there are more lie seekers today, than before. Two, religious lies meet some needs in our society. They are ostensibly suffused with cure-all qualities. Also, they are a cheap way to live a stress-free life. It's one way many people find seeming wholeness in a broken world. Three, it is now comparatively easier and cheaper to invent, proliferate, propagate and perpetuate deceit than in past eons. Four, it is a money-spinner for the band of religious renegades.
The prevailing widespread fascination with the lairs' gospel did not come as a thunderclap. It took ages to brew. It did not take the spiritually farsighted by surprise. In fact, everyone could have noticed it at its incipience. It was foretold by Apostle Paul in plain language: "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths."
People create teachers that peddle their fancy notions with a leaven of wit. It is an active process. It does not just happen.
In this age of seeker-friendly church, there is a two-way avalanche of subliminal persuasions. The pulpit persuades the pew and vice versa. In some ways, this is good. However, if it sets the stage for the tyranny of the popular or of the superrich, pastor may receive Satan's megaphone as love offering. This will lead to a tragic replay of Micah's depiction of the lying preacher. "Here is God's Message to the prophets, the preachers who lie to my people: "For as long as they're well paid and well fed, the prophets preach, 'Isn't life wonderful! Peace to all!' But if you don't pay up and jump on their bandwagon, their 'God bless you' turns into 'God damn you.' Therefore, you're going blind. You'll see nothing. You'll live in deep shadows and know nothing. The sun has set on the prophets. They've had their day; from now on it's night. Visionaries will be confused, experts will be all mixed up. They'll hide behind their reputations and make lame excuses to cover up their God-ignorance." (Micah 3: 5-7)
We are deceived by choice. We beg to be deceived. We pay for it, because it is an essential aid to overcoming existential demands. When life's circumstances conspire to make us serial defaulters facing possible ejection from our houses, who do we turn to? Of course, pastor. What do we tell him by our eye-language? Something close to this: "Pastor, please, perform a miracle or lie to me. Tell me I will experience the miracle of debt cancellation in nanoseconds. Tell me I am next in line for a twenty-four-hour financial miracle. I am dying to hear it. Say it, pastor! Yes, I believe. I will sleep as a debt-ridden tenant in Karimu and wake as landlord of a multi-billion naira property in Asokoro."
We cherish illusion. The prevailing socio-economic conditions of our nation make the abundant life a seeming mirage. The only place we now effortlessly bloom to fortune and fame is the never-never land. From experience we know about its emptiness. Yet, we cannot stop those fantasy-trips. They are thrilling. So we seek those who will affirm with divine authority that our illusions are lasting realities. Our search leads us to pastor's haven.
We live in a get-rich-quick culture. We love wealth. But resent work. We are desperate to wear the crown, but unwilling to bear the cross. We long for gain without pain. Everything around us keeps screaming: Get rich; if you can't break a bank, bribe God. So we start sending "telepathic" messages to pastor: "I want Dangote to envy me. Please, organise who-wants-to-be-a-billionaire communion meetings more frequently."
We live in a "now" generation. We want everything to happen now, now. We want to meet Mr. Perfect. Get married. Just about the same time it takes to prepare Indomie instant noodles. So we mount pressure on Pastor to organise a marriage programme. Did you ask what the theme is? "I must marry this February." Shortly after the programme, Olowo comes. But he is a superrich husband of three wives. Yet, we exclaim: "God is at work!" Then rush to Pastor. And say: "Pastor, you are a man of God indeed. He that will come has come. But... Pastor, please, tell me God has changed His mind. Tell me His will is fickle. Tell me God will bless my decision to marry Olowo even though I will become his fourth wife. God understands. It is difficult to get a rich husband-o."
We love to deny unpleasant realities. We are likely to say we don't belong to pastor-please-lie-to-me league even though we consider him worth hearing after he taught "we cannot sin since we are born again." Let me ask you a private question. I am just curious. Isn't it after that message it started looking "not so morally objectionable" for you to rape your daughter, wash up, go to church and have Holy Communion?
We know it is almost foolproof that pastor is Satan's mouthpiece, if he stops proclaiming truth and is always interpreting biblical footnotes. We know he has embraced the spirit of error, if he uses Greek lexicon to fierily interpret, reinterpret (should I say misinterpret?) plain text in ways that do not generate light, but emotional heats. We know something is wrong, if he starts mystifying knowledge. We know we are slouching at the precipice of jeopardy, if pastor becomes the only man of God on earth that hears heaven's whispers, particularly, those that their verity is extra-biblical. Yet we scream, PREACH IT PASTOR!
Don't tell me you are not in pastor-please-lie-to-me club when you are about to start casting stones at me for violating the eleventh commandment.