BY IYORWUESE HAGHER
Scholars of Christian Theology have a serious problem. These scholars of Biblical Theology, Historical Theology, Public Theology, Practical Theology and Systematic Theology must be prepared to add to their disciplines and lexicon, “Deviant Theology”. This new theology has uniquely evolved in Africa and its resurgence all over Africa especially in Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Ghana, poses grave danger to not just the Church but to the entire fabric of African society.
Max Weber, it was who traced the rise of Western Capitalism to the Protestant ( Calvinist) work ethic. He showed how the teachings of the Bible influenced a large number of people who birthed capitalism; by engaging in developing enterprises, trade, thrift and wealth accumulation. In Africa a contrary ethic is emerging and winning a massive following of avid church goers, generous offering and tithe givers, and filled with copious recitation of biblical verses. But then they abuse the Bible and the words therein to commit armed robberies, public corruption, murders, terror and kidnapping.
No event in Africa in recent times, has so much showcased deviant theology than the arrest of Chidumene Onwuamadike popularly known as Evans on the June 10, 2017. Evans is reputed to King of Kidnapping in Nigeria. He is described as a billionaire whose kidnapping empire has inflicted woe, terror, trauma, anxiety, torture, and depression on his victims and their families; while he nested billions in his bank accounts. Evans is double faced. He is a respected Church member, a devoted husband and loving father. He plays the role as dreaded kidnapper and loving father and husband seamlessly. Evan’s wife, Precious, is reported to be amazed that her loving husband and son of God, who prays dutifully as the spiritual head of their family several times a day could be associated with robbery. Her testimonial is that Evans reads Psalm 23 all the time and indeed has set an alarm clock at 12 noon when he recites the Psalm.
The simple meaning of Theology is to articulate the content of our faith to the working of God’s program to our lives. Every believer is a theologian-good or bad. As the professor of this devious and deviant theology, Evans has abused one of the most beloved of all passages of the Bible. The simple and sublime message of this Psalm is subverted in a tragic and awful parody. Psalm 23 says; The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me besides the still water. he restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness…etc. These are the bible verses that did not depart from kidnapper Evan’s mouth as he robbed, kidnapped, and extorted ransoms from his victims. In this twisted theology, the Lord indeed was his shepherd who led him to the green pastures of dollars, still waters of Banks, restored his soul in luxurious mansions, led him to paths of righteousness to escape arrest for so long. In this twisted imagination the Lord prepared Evans meals- money, cars, guns, and his cup runneth over as new victims to provide ransoms multiplied, in the presence of his enemies-the police and government laws against kidnapping.
But the issue at hand is a major problem for the entire Christendom; and there is need to pay close attention. We have many great men of God who are praying on their knees fervently and teaching the great message of salvation. They interpret this passage to mean that the Lord is the good shepherd who laid down his life. And we are like sheep and are helpless. Sheep are really helpless for they have no claws, sharp hooves or teeth to tear at enemies. We should hear the Lord’s voice and follow him. The Lord is the supplier of the way, the truth and life, who leads us in the green pastures of contentment, the still waters of peace and leads us to higher purposes….. till we dwell in heaven in eternity. The true men of God are losing the fight since strange teaching which we were warned against in Hebrew 13;9 are more appealing to the Evans of Africa. Following his arrest, Nigerians have been advocating for his release on the social media; that he be given a second chance!! They legitimize him and compare him favorably with senators, governors and other public servants who steal billions of public funds and get away with it. This twisted logic is frightening. It undermines law and order. It heightens fear. It promotes insecurity and creates poverty because it accelerates a breakdown of peace. And without law and order or peace we can do nothing!! This twisted logic validates the assertion of endemic corruption that has infected and affected most countries of Africa, especially my country Nigeria.
Many criminals now; like their father the devil, know the scriptures very well. In cases when they pray for success to go and rob, or kidnap or kill they are serving their master. And no matter how many cassocks the pastors and priests may wear who propagate this theology, they are serving their true father- the devil. In cases of many headstrong armed robberies or even corruption the presence of the Holy Bible is at hand. Some put the Bible as talisman under their pillows. And they actually believe that its physical presence alone can defend them against all things, so there is no need to read it. There is a story of one such merchant of death in Central Nigeria who has tied up the Bible in a pendulum and all his actions to kill and rob are derived from the swinging movements of this pendulum Bible. He maintains that all his actions are derived from the Bible. This is Deviant Theology. There are several anecdotes of innumerable, incredulous can-you- believe variants of deviancy which space doesn’t permit me to regale you with. But Africa is degenerating due to the ascendancy of this irrationalism.
But no matter how widespread and appealing this theology is; it is satanic and a mockery of sacred scriptures. Evan’s arrest is proof that man should not mock God. The police arrested him and their rods must not have been spared on him instead of comforting him. The meal prepared for him should be his trial and sentencing to the maximum of the crime or crimes he has committed. The saga of Evans should be a lessons to Africa. That it took so long to arrest this criminal points to a relentless collusion with security agents. And the fact that the Evans phenomenon exists at all; is wake up call to the leaders of the Christian Church that the time has come for them to become relevant to the building of a new prosperous Africa. The rise of Deviant theology should be condemned. Those that propagate this theology where laziness, thefts, corruption embezzlements and thefts are encouraged in return to pastoral comforts should be condemned. Pastors who literally ride on the backs of their congregations; and those who have kept their congregations in the sheepish state and instead of feeding the sheep their sheep feed them should be condemned. The so called men of god whose theology is creating poverty and increasing corruption in society should be condemned. These men of God should repent from their ways and follow Jesus Christ’s example of a good shepherd. They should help in building primary and secondary schools in the rural areas where these are needed like the white missionaries of old. And their worshippers should provide the new workforce of teachers who would tithe with their time in teaching the blind to see ; the weak to walk with knowledge ; and the sick to become aware of the vectors that make them sick.
It is not only the Christians that have misused the scriptures to retard the growth of Africa. Muslim leaders in Africa have deliberately fed their passive followers with a variant of their faith that is against the primary objectives of Islam which are: “the promotion of peace, justice, the sanctity of all life and the natural world; the safety of all people and their rightful property and an unqualified commitment to the principles of human dignity.” According to the resolutions of Muslim scholars in 50 countries in Brussels on march 15 2016, any ” positions contrary to these primary objectives especially in stirring up conflicts and discord are based on deviant interpretations of sacred texts which directly contradict the spirit of Islam”.
Countries in Africa which are being whacked by these deviants must rise up and summon their best brains to save their nations from terrorism, kidnapping and violent extremism. If we fair to curb the rise of Deviant Theology in churches, mosques, and campuses, we are heading to an explosion such as Africa is yet to experience and the end of civilization will be evident all over Africa. Our theologians should lead us to the paths of righteousness to celebrate our character in both public and private capacity which is distilled from faith. They should encourage love, perseverance and hard work. Until we begin to respect ourselves, prefer cooperation over isolation, dialogue over demagoguery and establish basic human rights and freedoms we cannot have democracy nor peace. And until we uphold the rule of law and pluralist mindsets in our communities instead of a predatory demonic, devious, invidious and criminal theology; Africa is doomed!!
Iyorwuese Hagher Is President, African leadership Institute USA.