· False prophets
Years back, I found myself in a busy waiting area at a large hospital in Accra, waiting for the results of an x-ray, when a man was wheeled in on a stretcher for emergency care. He was flat on his back and gasping for breath from what seemed like a heart attack. He was a bulky stout fellow in yellow shorts, and the feeble little nurse pumping on his chest finally gave up, exhausted, leaving the poor man to his fate.
Pitched right up the wall – exactly 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, ed shirt, red pants, and red shoes. He had summoned a young boy to the stage. Tears poured down the boy’s face. The attention of the congregation was glued on the boy. The prophet asked why he was crying so much. The boy kept mumbling through the tears.
Tongues of deceit
In the end – after incantations in tongues – the prophet affirmed to the mega crowd 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 invocation in tongues continued to exorcise the cobra from the poor boy’s head.
At that point in the hospital, it was possible that the sick man on the stretcher had finally succumbed, probably dead from a cardiac arrest. The whole episode was heart breaking as all attention in the waiting area was riveted to the adoration 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 proper diets, avoiding fatty foods, excessive salt intakes and fried foods, and the rest?” I said, “A patient has probably just passed on and you’re blurting religious programs about witches and superstition?”
Sometime back, a worker came to me for a loan of three hundred and sixty-five thousand old Ghana cedis (₵365,000). 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 bad spirits hovering around her, and he will have to pray to exorcise the evil?
Me: Why doesn’t the priest go on ahead and pray for her anyway 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 settled the matter. The priest in question never showed up, and the request died a painless death.]
Another prophet’s invocation
Let’s call this young worker Doe. He came to me one day to confess something terrible he had done to his mother. He had gone to church, and in the course of the service, the prophet 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 church, 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 wonderful prophet that had turned her son against her so bitterly.
Basic spiritual tenets
There are some basic tenets shared by the various religions of the world; and, if only those 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 survival of those yet unborn. Three, love your neighbour as yourself, or simply, 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 others, if you can, for the 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 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, the so-called “men of God” in the various religions are the very anti-thesis of love, peace, harmony, and progress.