Liberation Theology and The Nigerian Christian Community (conclusion)

It is unfortunate that most principalities, powers and elemental forces which Jesus Christ, by his coming and subsequent death, has conquered, still dwell in the homes of the poor who live in these underdeveloped, neo-colonial capitalist economies of Latin America, Africa and other third world Christian countries. The ‘institutionalised violence’ {refer to part 1 please} foisted onto them by neo-colonial capitalist practices and corrupt political leaders, have transformed into invisible demons and evil spirits. And the Latin American Church had rightly questioned thus: why should ‘violence be acceptable when the oppressor uses it to maintain ‘order’ and is bad when the oppressed invoke it to change this ‘order’?’

To extend the argument further, ‘an important part of the Latin American clergy request, moreover, that in considering the problem of violence in Latin America, let us by all means avoid equating the unjust violence of the oppressors { who maintain this despicable system} with the just violence of the oppressed { who feel obliged to use it to achieve their liberation}. Theologically, this situation of injustice and oppression is characterised as sinful situation because where this social peace does not exist, there we will find social, political, economic and cultural inequalities…’ With this in mind, an important group of priests declared, ‘we feel we have a right and duty to condemn unfair wages, exploitation, and starvation tactics as clear indications of sin and evil’.

To support this position on the ideological use of violence, I advise readers to buy and read the following books: Violence {1979}, by the radical writer, Dr. Festus Iyayi and, Devil On The Cross {1982}, by another unrepentant radical writer, professor Ngugi Wa Thiong‘o. Dr. Festus Iyayi, obviously using Nigeria as a case study, gave the most articulate, vivid, highly liberating and ideological definition of one of the most abused words, among others, in the lexicons of ideological warfare – violence. Then Ngugi simply made my reading by amplifying on it, using Kenya as his typical case study.

However, English radical, Gerrard Winstanley, intoning the use of action in pursuit of ennobling social goals and objectives, writes: ‘words and writings were all nothing, and must die, for action is the life of all, and if thou dost not act, thou dost nothing.’ Then continued Gustavo: ‘the participation of Christians in the process of liberation – is simply an expression of a far-reaching historical event: the irruption of the poor.’

Liberation theology therefore evolved in Latin America from the womb and inherent contradictions of the practice of neo-colonial capitalism which has never been in tandem with the people‘s historical life pattern. Neo-colonial capitalism was an imposition in that clime, just as it were and still is, in our grievously amalgamated Nigeria. And like any scientific revolution, the evolution of liberation theology in Latin America, was historically conditioned. The red blood practice of capitalism of whatever brand, can ‘vomit’ or throw up any social odium at anytime. The present global economic crunch is just one of such sickening fart and odium.

‘Liberation theology is therefore a critical reflection on Christian praxis in light of the word of God. The true hearer of the word is the one who puts it into practice…….and because liberation theology takes a critical approach, it refuses to serve as a Christian justification of positions already taken. It seeks to show that unless we make an ongoing commitment to the poor, who are the privileged members of the reign of God, we are far removed from the Christian message……a theology which is not up-to-date is a false theology’. Therefore, ‘participation in the process of liberation is an obligatory and privileged locus for Christian life and reflection’.

Thus the following declarations by the Peruvian bishops: ‘we recognize that we Christians for want of fidelity to the Gospel have contributed to the present unjust situation through our words and attitudes, our silence and inaction’. Again, priests and bishops of El Salvador assert : ‘our Church has not been effective in liberating and bettering the Salvadoran. This failure is due in part to the fear of losing privileges or suffering persecution.’ Not done with yet, another group of Bolivian priests submits: ‘We observe in our people a desire for liberation and a movement of struggle for justice, not only to obtain a better standard of living, but also to be able to participate in socio-economic resources and the decision-making process of the country’.

The commitment of Argentinean priests and lay persons to the same cause were: ‘We wish to express our total commitment to the liberation of the oppressed and the working class and to the search for a social order radically different from the present one, an order seeking to achieve justice and evangelical solidarity more adequately’. Not to be out done, another group of Colombian priests affirmed :‘We forthrightly denounce neo-colonial capitalism, since it is incapable of solving the acute problems that confront our people. We are led to direct our efforts and actions toward the building of a Socialist type of society that would allow us to eliminate all forms of man’s exploitation of his fellow man, and that fits in with the historical tendencies of our time and the distinctive character of Colombians.

‘The denunciation of social injustices,’ continues Gustavo, ‘is certainly the prevailing theme in the texts of the Latin American Church……when a system ceases to promote the common good and favours special interests, the Church must not only denounce injustice but also break with the evil system. The denunciation of injustice implies the rejection of the use of Christianity to legitimize the established order’.

To promote liberation struggle and commitment to it, the priests of Latin America were authorized to embark on ‘conscientizing evangelization,’ which is ‘to educate the Christian conscience, to inspire, stimulate, and help orient all of the initiatives that contribute to the formation of man’. Put differently, they should through pedagogy, involve their people in praxis and encourage their followers to take their destiny into their own hands. They should not wait because the ruling elites are willing tools to foreign capital and are, ready to defend the unjust order using repressive and scare tactics. These foreign investments have created nothing but economic distortions in these countries. It was these distortions that deviously manifested in various forms and created mass poverty and excruciating sufferings for the people. Thus the vicious circle poverty, spread of evil, wickedness, and conflicts of wars in a whole continent by repressive regimes.

The Christian Association of Nigeria {CAN} should change cause and take a more affirmative action against the social injustices in the country. Yes, Christians will pray and fellowship; yes, they will fast and pay tithes, but it is time to take the struggle further for a just and reasonably equitable society that is free from wants, ‘misery and indigence’, high level corruption, joblessness, exploitation of the workers, pauperization of the peasants, double exploitation of women, blatant rigging of elections, political assassinations, voodoo politics and all manner of evil manipulations.

Since1960, our leaders have been reproducing themselves, recycling and sharing our commonwealth among their members while the poor generality of Nigerians are equally doing same, but sharing more of poverty among themselves. It is time for the majority poor to be, according to Dr. Adam Oshiomhole, ‘more active and more militant’ in approaches to issues destroying their human worth and value.

Our Nigerian clergies should occasionally pause to ask agitating questions about the economy and polity and their impact on their base follower ship. Questions like: why is there so much evil on our land despite the active role of Christianity and perhaps Islam, in the lives of the generality of the Nigerian people? What is there in a system that encourages looting by a few and promotes mass poverty in the midst of plenty? Why can’t the people be allowed to choose their own leaders through a free and fair election? Is it now late for the Church to get re-focussed and re-strategize? Shouldn’t the Church be used to fight for a just and more sinless social order? These and many more agitating questions need to be answered by the leadership of Christian Association of Nigeria {CAN}.

John the Baptist was beheaded in prison by the order of a king’s mistress simply because he ‘reproved the king for divorcing his wife and unlawfully marrying’ Herodias, his brother’s wife. The king was, by such licentious relationship, living in sin. Apart from that, John the Baptist had consistently preached the truth and urged the people to repent and turn from their evil ways. His preaching and outspokenness drew ire from a small section but appealed more to a large base follower ships who came closer to him. King Herod acted proactively. He read and sensed danger to those trends. They were threats to his throne, power and authority. He presumed that one day, his people might turn against him. It was therefore better to put John out of circulation. He did! A woman provided the alibi and John the Baptist’s head was severed in prison and presented to the king and his hijacked wife and probably used sarcastically, for ‘Ngwobi’.

The Bible is inundated with other people of action. Moses went to Egypt to free the Israelites from centuries of slavery and humiliating bondage. Jesus called Herod ‘a fox’ and as a part Zealot, Jesus ‘was a strong nationalist’ who ‘fiercely opposed Roman domination’ of his people. He called the ‘Publicans,’ who were collaborating with the Roman oppressors, ‘sinners’ and persistently ‘threatened the official and privilege positions of the Sadducees.’ He also condemned the Pharisees for their ‘undue emphasis on external laws and observances’ with no attention paid to ‘profound personal dispositions, true fellowship and commitment to others – the needy.’ In the end, the Son of God, died ‘at the hands of the political authorities.’ He lived, fought and died as a complete threat to an unjust and sinful system which he’d met.

The struggle to save the vast majority of Nigerians from neo-colonial capitalism – deliberately anchored on inept leadership, propelled by sickening corruption, oiled by both the comprador bourgeoisie and a compromised political class through electoral frauds, political assassination, Northern dubious domination and abuse of power, religious, tribal and regional manipulations – should be all embracing. The Nigerian Christian community should actively get involved in all human efforts to change, in a revolting and militant fashion, an unjust social order which has for decades favoured a few cabal . This, they can always do by reflecting critically on theology and its clarion call for action. Heaven help those who help themselves.

Christianity should not be seen as ahistorical and apolitical opium with its undue emphasis on the spirit world only. Jesus Christ has history like any of us, he came in flesh and was born of a woman. His death was political. Those who called for his death saw him as a threat to their privileged positions and authority. Pontius Pilate was a political leader who though washed his hands off the guilt of Jesus, sanctioned the death because the teachings of Christ equally posed threat to his throne. The Jews only gave him the alibi he needed to do away with him.

Christianity must be subsumed and applied within a concrete social context. The spirit and the material should be interpreted in a dialectical fashion. That this kingdom or earth belongs to Satan is defeatist and escapist. It does not belong to Satan, it belongs to us and we must fight to liberate, preserve and protect it from political scavengers, neo-colonial thieves and greedy laissez faire culture-vultures.

Theologically, such poisonous proclamation should no longer go unchallenged. It is false consciousness and should be discountenanced. Christians should accompany such challenges by raising their own critical consciousness. They should confront and boldly question their political leaders and hold them accountable. They should embrace praxis, assertiveness and participate in mass and militant social actions whenever there is a clarion call for one. It is not going to be easy, resistance should be expected from the beneficiaries of the unjust social arrangement, just as it were in Latin America. It comes with a prize. But, it can be done. The focus is on the end product which is an elixir of genuine freedom and elimination of all forms of suffocating oppression, ignorance, backwardness and obscurantism.

‘Be that as it may,’ says Gustavo, ‘the untenable circumstances of poverty, alienation, and exploitation in which the greater part of ’ Nigerians ‘live, urgently demand that we find a path toward economic, social, and political liberation. This is the first step towards a new society.’ We have therefore heard enough about the Kingdom of God, it is time to liberate the Kingdom of MAN. My Igbo people have a saying that goes thus: let the eagle perch, let the vulture too, perch, but the one that says others should not perch, may all its wings {just} cut off in the most ruthless and cruel manner. Why? Because it is a selfish bird! I rest my case!

Written by
Ephraim Adinlofu
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1 comment
  • Like the writer rightly pointed out, Christians should be more forth coming in challenging their corrupt leaders.