‘Religion has been described as ‘the opium of the masses’ .....and I do believe that this statement is particularly true of Nigerians and Christianity.
Why? ....Because I believe most Nigerian Christians seem to attend church just to appear sanctimonious or to satisfy societal expectations.
First off, let me just say that I am a Christian so my comments here are not borne out of mischief or dislike. I am just saying it as I see it. I would now like to give you some examples of the types of Christians that have shaped my negative opinion:
For example, a friend of mine – Tracy - was desperate to get pregnant after 6 years of marriage so she confided in her aunt about her worries. This aunt took Tracy to her church where Tracy was told that the ‘forces’ behind her childlessness were her own family.
They then asked Tracy to (a) minimise communication with her parents and (b) always wear specific white garments to bed. However, Tracy was not comfortable with this especially as she comes from a close family of three siblings and parents who have been married for over 30 years.
So, while she thanked her aunt for her help; she ignored the church’s advice. Her words to me were ‘I have served only one God since I was born and I have never visited any juju man. I am not comfortable with wearing white garment to bed because I will become tied to this practise. I cannot ignore my parents also. If my parents are really plotting against me..... my hands are clean - so I know that the God I have always served will fight for me.’ Needless to say her aunt was not happy when she did not return to church.
With prayers and medical care, she is now the mother of two healthy children. I do wonder what would have happened if she had followed the church’s advice. Most likely, my friend would have become psychologically tied to wearing specific white garments to bed and she would probably have turned against her elderly parents. *sigh*
2. ‘Comfort-zone Christians’
Do you really have to be in church four times a week for God to hear you? Do you really have to centre all your activities around church to be a good person? I don’t think so.
I have a young niece who came from Nigeria to study here two years ago. While she is a lovely girl, I do find her exceedingly boring because I don’t think she’s a well rounded person. This is because she uses church as her comfort zone.
Every week, she is in church for four hours on Sunday; attending cell group meeting on Tuesday; volunteering there on Thursday and attending ‘Encounter service’ on Friday night. Again, she takes part in outreach work on some Saturday afternoons.
She is now in her final year of study. Recently, I asked her a few questions about what she had done since she arrived here - 'Had she gone sightseeing in London since she came?’......... No!......'Had she been to a cinema to watch movies with her friends?’......No!......'An art exhibition?’......No!......'A live music concert’.....No!.......’Travelled outside London?’.......No!.........’Explored other interests?’.....No!
I feel that she is missing the opportunity to learn new things. I learnt how to sew as a teenager and this has been a useful skill. Similarly, my cousin learned baking and cake decorating as a teenager. She now bakes in her leisure and the additional income is extremely useful.
Being alive and healthy is a great blessing and I do wonder why some people choose to spend all their waking moments in church. Is their faith so weak that they have to constantly nurture it? Is their resolve not to sin so weak that if they mix with people outside church, they will be tempted? *puzzled look*
3. ‘Selective-Hearing Christians’
‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ His answer was the greatest commandment was 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ While the second is to: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
From what I see around me, Christian love - of God and for one’s neighbour - seems to be absent from most Naija Christains
I have a relative who is a respected elder in his church. However, he is also a fantastic wife-beater and liar. Hypocrisy seems to rule the day as Nigerians troop to church to go through the motions without letting the church live in our hearts.
We are quick to condemn foreigners as lacking faith because they don’t attend church regularly. However, whenever there is a natural disaster somewhere, you always see ordinary Britons, Americans, Australians etc volunteering their services as they seek to make a difference. What can be more Christain-like than that?
4. 'Tactical Christians'
It appears that some Nigerians’ choice of church is based on what they can get from it. Looking for a husband/wife? For connections to boost your business? For credibility as you launch a political career? ...........The reasons are endless and usually selfish:
For example, in England, most of the top performing primary schools are faith schools (Anglican, Jewish, Catholic etc) and I have observed that when it is time to send their kid to school, a lot of Nigerians here - who usually attend Pentecostal churches -suddenly start attending their local Anglican or Catholic church. This is so they can get the Anglican/Catholic priest to sign their child’s application form.
I recall an old friend who always took pleasure in telling me that her Pentecostal church was a ‘living church’ and that Anglicans and Catholics were attending 'dead churches'. She also made disparaging comments about the Pope and said Catholics were confused because they ‘worshipped’ Mary. You can then understand my surprise when she told me that she was attending her local Catholic church because she was desperate to get her son into Catholic school. She also asked me if I could be her son’s god-mother because she also wanted to baptise him (baptism is often a requirement for admission to a Catholic school)!
I was only too happy to refuse her request and remind her that in Catholic schools, the children recite ‘Our Father’ and ‘Hail Mary’ every morning – and this could ‘confuse’ her child. Harsh I know, but I hate hypocrisy. Needless to say, she is now my ex-friend. *smile*
5. 'Christain Groupies'
I cannot count the number of times someone has asked me which church I attend and then lauched into a speech about how wonderful their pastor is. I almost feel like they are paid to recruit new members and their persistence can be a little annoying.
While I do believe that some pastors are gifted, I also believe that they are human beings and a large number of them are con-artists who brainwash vulnerable people. Annoyingly, quite a lot of them focus on preaching about wealth and prosperity - ignoring the key message of Christainity – LOVE!
I was disgusted when a family member told me that their pastor had celebrated his birthday recently and ‘the church’ had given him a luxury car as a present. In this London? What about the needy in the church – the unemployed, the widows, those searching for funds to process their immigration papers?
Why can't these Pentecostal churches open their own schools OR build hostels for members who have fallen on hard times OR give out scholarships to members who need help with tuition fees? It beggars belief!
I know I might sound harsh and I am definitely NOT a saint; but I have to say it again - Most Naija Christains are not practising Christainity – what do you think?