WHEN RELIGION IS NO RELIGION
At every corner in Nigeria, there is a church, a mosque or some form of religious organization. At every hour of the day (Nights inclusive), there is a religious service taking place. Streets are constantly dotted with different shapes and shades of religious edifices that serve as centers for prayers and other related religious practices. Varied statistics from different fields have rightly pointed out that, ours ( Nigeria )is quite a religious environment that is greatly dominated by the Christian and Muslim religion (not excluding other forms of religious practices and beliefs).
Recently, after being away from home for quite a long time, I was shocked to discover that a shop very close to where I reside at Owerri has been converted to a “Gospel Center” with loud megaphones emitting pollution to the environment. But when we think deeply about all these one will discover that religion is meant to shape the moral, physical, intellectual and spiritual conduct of its worshippers. With the alarming rate at which every person goes to church on Sundays and the mosque on Fridays and the uprising of churches, I expect a decrease in the percentage of evils and social vices that characterize the Nigerian Environment. Probably, the words of Isaiah 29: 13 still appeals to us today “ these people draw near with their mouths but their hearts are very far from me”.
Coming down to the Christian religion which I am somewhat abreast with, there is a constant bastardization. The unhealthy spring of healing ministries, deliverance sections, miracle centers, God of prosperity centers, Holy Ghost Fire Ministries should really be a source of worry for all Christians in Nigeria. Has the Catholic Church here in Nigeria done enough to deepen the Faith of her members who are rushing in droves to seek the so called succor in a God they feel is more pragmatic and progressive? ( we are no more interested in tradition but rational progress)
We return again to the Nigerian environment filled with the religious air. I dare say that Nigeria is one of the countries in the world where religion has lost its essence and values. Why is this so? One needs no crystal ball to see that we are divided by power tussle even amidst religious circles, corruption and excessive pursuit of wealth rents the air, injustice, lack of Faith and the belief that Changing and erecting private churches at our own whims are signs of deep faith and being Born Again. The moment a particular church cannot meet our needs, then it becomes a sign that God is no more present. He has to be sought in a place where he can meet our needs. A God that has become a means to an end.
In another dimension, we see those who claim to follow Christ and Allah cling to a sit tight mentality of power, refusing to let go, refusing to retire when exhausted and seeks to attain prestigious position at all costs. It is in this climate that people are ready to kill and cheat because of Money, tell all sorts of lies and cut corners in order to gain wealth. After, they are seen in churches and mosques giving thanks to God and Allah. Perhaps, we have too long rested on the belief that God is rich in mercy forgetting also that he is a God of Justice.Whither Religion? It was in such a climate like ours that Marx stated years ago that religion is the opium and his brother Nietzsche avowed that God is dead and the church has become its graveyard.
Dare I stress further at the alarming rate at which Churches sprout like grass? To establish a Church today is now a lucrative business venture (people now talk about the Jesus Business), an enterprise of its own. It is now very common to establish a church where independence, lack of checks and balances and self will remains supreme. I could go on and on.
A lot of work needs to be done on the psyche of the Contemporary Religious Man. I have an inward conviction that if we continue on this path, we might have nothing to bequeath to the generations next to come. What can be done to make religion religion again? For religion to become religion again and permeate every fabric of our existence, there must be a correspondence between what is preached and the values that are lived out. The preacher must not be seen acting in contradiction to what he is preaching. A religion that is not lived out authentically is no religion at all. We all must share in this collective responsibility. I must also admit here that there are few convinced and practical Christians and Muslims who worship God(Allah) in spirit and in truth.
Nevertheless, a good number of us are responsible for this either through our actions or even our Great Silence over this. We are like rain drops that have filled the ocean of irreligiosity today. We all must make that personal resolution and a recommitment to the teachings of Love, truth and justice that our varied religions profess. Our faith must go with good works. Show me your faith without good works and I by my good works will show you my faith (James 2: 18). Unless we live up to the standards expected from us and allow our religion to renew the face of our Nigerian environment , probably when the son of man comes, he may not find any faith on earth.