(The first part of this article appeared in an earlier post).
Forth, perception is key. If Nigeria remains a secular, multi-religious country as recognized by the constitution, nothing must be done to give a counter impression, even if in reality the government sees itself as neutral. Within a particular administration and general politics that are dominated by people of a particular religion, being sensitive to the feelings of those in the opposite camp is a matter of common sense. Perhaps some decrees are necessary, but are they expedient? I can draw a correlation between the reluctance of any Nigerian government to increase fuel prices as rightly dictated by the economic dynamics of the supply chain. Why continue to bear billions of dollars yearly on subsidy where other nations would not brook an eyelid in effecting the price changes as they became necessary?
In a season when official amnesty is being extended to captured Boko Haram fugitives, where the rampant killings and kidnappings in parts of the country that forced out the old government still remain unabated – with some local and foreign media alleging, rightly or wrongly, that a particular religious group are the main target of these attacks, you cannot blame any citizen who wonders why exercising control over the ownership structures of religious bodies has suddenly superseded all the myriad of problems plaguing this nation.
Fifth, we sometimes overlook the role of religion in general and the church in particular in a nation like ours. Like it or not, issues of faith and religion keep the larger populace in emotional check. For millions of Nigerians, it is their faith and the spiritual succour they obtain from churches that keep their minds off government’s inability to meet up with their essential needs. I stand to be corrected, but majority of the congregation in any of our assemblies are dependent on the church not just for spiritual but other needs. Remove the shelter, educational scholarships and general financial support systems available in the churches to millions of their worshippers, and people’s compliant nature would have been exerted beyond endurance. Fela Kuti called it “suffering and smiling’
Interestingly, there are voices within the Nigerian Christian circles which didn’t see anything wrong in the government’s stand. This is to be expected, of course. People have different reasons for supporting or distancing themselves from any particular issue. However, you are guaranteed not to find among the cheering lot those who sit atop the so-called megachurches whose monumental net worth are understandably a source of perennial envy of many, even within the Christian fold. In other words, if you see any pastor on national TV applauding the government and taking a different stand to CAN’s, go and check his fold. There are those whose entire congregation remains a little more than a home fellowship in spite of several years of toil trying to raise followership.
In closing, so what is it about mega churches that attracts such virulent condemnations? Hartford Institute for Religion Research defines megachurch as any Protestant Christian church having 2,000 or more people in average weekend attendance. Here, we have churches with 50,000 or more capacity, along with the ownership of a variety of educational institutions and social services. Even from a free enterprise perspective, successes recorded in Ministry work are not automatic and would never be on the same scale. Laziness, lack of inventiveness or proper management of men and resources do leave their toll on men of God too. If it were that easy to start a church from the scratch, without any public funding whatsoever, labour through the days of few reluctant worshippers to become a city where everything works, attracting willing adherents in their thousands from near and far within a decade or two, there are still enough lands in our cities to accommodate more pastors, with or without any divine calling.
Certainly, it cannot be true that the attraction to the government in these megachurches are their stupendous wealth. If our governments have a rich history of multiplying fortunes, mega corporations like Nigerian National Shipping Line, Nigerian Railway Corporation, Nigerian Airways, NITEL etc would not all be defunct today.
Finally, If all of the above arguments have not addressed the matter at hand, perhaps we can check the propriety of those section of CAMA 2020 that CAN is rejecting through the lens of Rotary’s 4 way test. Is it the TRUTH? Is it FAIR to all concerned?. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS? Will it be BENEFICIAL to all?