It is rare to meet an African atheist. Africans generally believe in something. A lot of Nigerians I know are “Christians”. I would included myself in that number, but I am a little unusual in that I don’t attend a church pastored by a megalomaniac, who struts up and down a stage shouting and sweating in front of a congregation who sway, swoon, and ultimately empty out their pockets to fund the profligate lifestyle of the said megalomaniac. In other words I don’t attend the ever popular charismatic church.
At times I find it mystifying that so many Africans do attend such churches. In the days I used to attend, the pastors would have the cheek to declare that theirs is the spirit filled church, and the more conservative and traditional churches are “dead” churches. It was a similar story at home, after I left the charismatic church. Whenever my mother would be watching Supernatural on the God channel, and I would decline to join, informing her that I do not believe in such things (as people being transported to Heaven and back), she would declare that I have no faith. On the contrary I do not need to witness lying signs and wonders in order believe that God exists.
In the end I’ve concluded that the reason there is so much delusion in African churches, is that African people are just too superstitious. I know Africans that don’t like it if a black cat passes by in front of them. Or apparently if you’re pregnant you should not look at something scary or unpleasant, otherwise your child will be born ugly, to cite but a few examples.
In many parts of Africa herbal doctors, or “witch doctors” still operate and are heavily relied upon. I’m almost convinced that many African pastors are nothing more than “Christianized” witch doctors. Witch doctors will tell you to bring personal items to be prayed over; so do the African pastors. Witch doctors tell people that if they do something, or neglect to do something, a curse will fall upon them; so do African pastors. Witch doctors profess to possess special powers, and command respect and authority; so do African pastors.
It is just so annoying that so many African pastors are able do all these things in name of Christ, with no biblical precedent or authority. It is just so frustrating to see people in their thousands being sucked in. When African churches are caught up in a particularly peculiar folly, the secular media have a field day. I wonder if the members of those churches are aware of just how… for lack of a better word… utterly idiotic they look. Did any of the Rabboni Centre Ministries members who obeyed instructions to eat grass feel a little embarrassed when they saw pictures of themselves sprawled out on a field like goats, printed in international press?
What aggravates me the most is when superstition has destructive impact upon peoples’ lives. It can range from a person marrying the wrong spouse because a pastor “had a vision” that it was meant to be, to a sick person throwing away vital medication because they’ve been told that God doesn’t want anybody to ever be sick, and they should there “receive their healing”. Church goers can see their life savings depleted by believing the lie of the pastor, that as they sow (financially) they will reap blessings.
But perhaps one of the cruellest results of blindly following people who claim to men or women of God, is the suffering of children. Just today I read in the Evening Standard of a woman named Helen Ukpabio, who is currently in the UK, from Nigeria. Campaigners want her to be deported because she accuses children of being witches. She has been quoted as saying that any child who cries at night or is feverish is “a servant of Satan”. Her preaching has led to many children in Nigeria being abandoned, starved and abused. It is appalling that this disgusting practice of labelling children and babies witches still continues. Lessons still have not been learned since the Victoria Climbie case that shocked the media all the way back in the year 2000.
One of things that I can’t help but find slightly amusing though, is different names given to various “spirits” or “kingdoms”. Ms Ukpabio or “Lady Apostle” claims to deliver people of “ancestral spirits” and “mermaid spirit”. Many will also be familiar with the terms “enemy of progress”, “spirit husband/wife”, and “household wickedness”. A more sobering thought is of the endless prayers, or rather energetic chanting, uttered within superstitious churches. With so much time and energy dedicated to these supposed dark forces, do those prayer warriors realise that they are actually idolising those dark forces, and so in effect worshipping them? Wouldn’t it be a miracle if those worshippers in their thousands, devoted the hours they currently spend chanting, into to actually studying the bible and finding out what it really says. Maybe that would help to avert the problems mentioned above, and perhaps avert the greatest tragedy of all; false conversions.