There are some basic tenets shared by the various religions of the world; and, if only those clear common principles can be followed! Let’s consider the following common spiritual demands on humanity. One, Your body is a temple of God, so keep it clean and healthy out of appreciation for the creator and respect for one’s own self. Two, Leave the natural environment in a better state than you found it for our own health, and for the sake of posterity and the survival of those yet unborn. Three, Love your neighbour as yourself, or equally, Do unto others as you will have them do unto you, for mutual respect and societal harmony. Four, Go the extra mile for yourself and also for others for individual and collective social and material progress.
Alas, aren’t those common tenets spiritual enough to start with, for a lifetime of love, peace, harmony, and progress within and across Africa, and the nations of the world? Do we have to make life any harder or more complicated than this, without instigating hell to break loose on earth? Unfortunately, often, a good many of the so-called men of God – in the various religions – are the very anti-thesis of love, peace, harmony, and progress.
Deceits by the priests themselves
Years back, a worker came to me for a loan of three hundred and sixty five thousand cedis (C365,000). The following conversation ensued between us:
Me: Why 365,000 cedis? Why not round the figure off to say four hundred thousand?
Worker: That was the exact amount my wife requested.
Me: What does she need the money for?
Worker: Her priest demanded it.
Me: What does the priest want that money for?
Worker: The priest said he had foreseen some evil spirits hovering around her, and he will have to pray for her to exorcise the evil?
Me: Why doesn’t the priest go on ahead anyway and pray for her as priests are wont to do?
Worker: He said the prayer will cost one thousand cedis a day, for each of the 365 days in the year.
Me: Ask the priest to come to me for the money himself, and I will double the amount for him.
[That was the end of the matter. The priest in question never showed up, and the request died a natural death.]
Another priestly invocation
Let’s call this young person Doe. He came to me one day to confess something terrible he had done to his mother. He was a member of one of the mushrooming charismatic churches, and after a particular service, the priest came to him and said, “Do you know why you’re struggling so hard, with your life still going nowhere? It’s all because of your mother. She is a witch, and intends to destroy every good thing that may come your way.”
After the service, Doe had rushed to the house where his mother lived, confronted her, and in the end slapped the woman in her face. He had come to me now, feeling terrible about the ordeal, and didn’t now know what to do with himself. I asked him to rush back to the mother, get on his knees, kiss the poor mother’s feet, apologise without end, and tell her the source of the bloody lie, and about the wondrous priest that had turned her son against her so bitterly.
At a public hospital
I was in the busy waiting area at the hospital when a man was wheeled in flat on his back on a stretcher for emergency care. He was gasping for breath from what seemed like a heart attack. He was a bulky obese fellow, and the little nurse who was pumping on his chest with feeble hands finally gave up, leaving the poor man to his fate.
Pitched on the wall – right above where the sick man had been deposited and abandoned – was a colour television blurting out the proceedings from a loud church service. Leading the service was a lively prophet dressed in a red hat, red jacket, red pants, and red shoes. He had called a young boy of about 12 years old to the stage. Tears were pouring down the boy’s face. The attention of the congregation was focused on the boy. The prophet asked the boy why he was crying so much. The boy kept mumbling things through the tears.
In the end – after deliberations in tongues – the prophet affirmed to the huge gathering that the boy’s grandmother was a witch, and she had planted a live cobra inside the boy’s skull, and that was the reason for the boy’s misery. The incantation in tongues continued to exorcise the cobra from the poor boy’s head. The TV blurted out at a fevered pitch for the climax and the resolution.
‘Tis mad idolatry
At that point in the hospital, it was possible that the sick man had finally succumbed on the stretcher from a cardiac arrest. The whole episode was heart breaking as all attention in the area was riveted – not on how to save the dying man – but on the idolatry on the television screen. It was too much for me to take.
I accosted one of the medical officials parading the corridors and asked, “How come the hospital doesn’t show TV programs that teach clean healthy living; for example, the prevention of obesity, the proper diets, avoiding fatty and fried foods, excessive salt intakes, and the rest?” I said, “A patient has probably just passed on and you’re showing religious programs about witches and superstition?” As it’s often said, The only thing necessary for the triumph of chaos is for good people to do nothing.