Liberation Theology And The Nigerian Christian Community (part 1)

This article was triggered by among others, Dr. Fakoya’s series titled: The Gospel of Materialism – Nigerian Pentecostalism and Hypocrisy. That series was not only educative but was aptly scientific with revealing and astounding details. It was more or less a position-paper. What these Pentecostal churches do these days is simply to spread fear and panic in the minds of their vulnerable followers. They defend the rotten ‘social order’ in Nigeria through their acts of omission and commission which in turn helps to literally kill and dampen the probing and critical mindset of the oppressed Nigerians.

Unknown or known to them, their actions whilst on the pulpit hardly question the suffocating social order in which their followers lived under. The maximal import of their message is that God, through his Son, Jesus Christ, whenever HE comes will punish the evil and corrupt politicians that have left their followers in their permanent state of material poverty, stupor and penury. And as such, instead of joining forces to fight and uproot the oppressive system which has kept their opiated followers in that state, these clergies simply ‘drug’ their followers with a steady dose of “this world is not my own, I am just passing through” stuff.

Even the Bible made it quite clear that the kingdom of God is “in you”, but you have got to fight for it for it to be realised. As a true confessing Christian and practitioner, you are already a liberated spiritual being. Christ has, through his death on the cross, fought and won that battle against principalities, elemental forces and powers, on your behalf. Consulting spirit mediums for further spiritual help is anti-Christ. It is in this category that Mr. Edem of the NNDC falls into. Levi Obijiofor’s graphic: Power Play: Bible, Cross and holy Oil, which focussed on Edem simply showed the man was worshipping both God and mammon. Many Christian charlatans are tarred with the same brush – still living on old Biblical principles of Leviticus etc.

But are they really Christians? As a committed follower, who worships God in truth and in spirit, loves neighbours, worships God with soul, might, and heart, and is afraid of principalities and powers, simply means you have other evil thoughts up your sleeves. A true Christain ought to have transcended that level of thinking and living. As meek and humble as you are, what behoves on you is to transform your already won spiritual battle into a happy living being, content in this world with your economic well-being and the pursuit of same for others who live in lack.

This fight to economically establish your earthly worth and that of others does not come easily. You have got to fight for it along with others in a mass action. This is where the Latin American science of liberation theology globally appeals to the exploitative and terribly sinful situation in Nigeria. Unfortunately, Nigerian Christians, especially of the Pentecostal persuasion, have been living under the illusion that social difficulties impinging on their base and poor followers can only be tackled through spiritual warfare.

The point remains that the word of God does not change, but societies are changing rapidly – always in a constant state of flux. There are temptations that go with these enormous changes and how man adapts to them is of grave significance. Orthodox Christianity from time immemorial seems to have this penchant not to challenge or “critically reflect” and question any ‘social order’ under which it operates. They in fact support such ‘orders’ no matter how oppressive they might have negatively impacted on the lives of their followers.

This is not to assume, contrary to Dr. Fakoya’s position, that some of them do not help their followers or some times question the existing social order. There are typical exceptional instances and examples of such recorded challenges in Nigeria. For example, we know that the Roman catholic Church, despite its recorded historical crudities and flaws, had along with other denominations, been in the forefront of uplifting the standard of living of the people. This it does, by building schools and establishing hospitals. Most of us went to these Catholic schools. Some even have pharmaceuticals where they dispense genuine drugs to their members and the public based on prescriptions, for example the Evangelical Church of West Africa {ECWA} in Jos. Apart from its mission statement, ECWA has, as part of its goals and objectives thus:

“To promote evangelistic, educational, medical and welfare work of the Church and further these interests through publications, radio, television, pulpit ministry, or other means consistent with the character and purpose of the Church. Lastly, to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, support and enrich the needy both physically and spiritually.” To match their words with concrete action, they built an “Evangel hospital” in Jos.

One of the best maternity hospitals in Ibadan, Saint Mary’s maternity hospital, Oluyoro, was built, owned, and equipped by the Catholic Church, likewise was the Sacred Heart Hospital, Abeokuta. Recently, Kingsway International Church of Christ {KICC} of pastor Mathew Ashimolowo, acquired massive plots of land in Osun state, where they are building an equally massive hospital that will cater for at least 26 communities. Reverend Idahosa‘s Church, also has a university in Edo State, likewise were a few other denominations. Yes, their fee may be on the high side but we should bear in mind that Nigeria is a class society: it is either you have or you don’t have.

Those who have the financial wherewithal, send their children to such schools while those who don’t, have no choice than to contend with the government owned universities. Whatever the case, at least, these private universities have helped to reduce the pressure on the government owned universities. There are many other activities that these churches are doing which should not go unnoticed. The list is endless. Thus, money raised by them are not easily appropriated as some tend to make out. Most are plunged back into the society. An unbiased study of most of these established churches would reveal more of these positives.

Politically too, the Roman Catholic Church has been in the fore front in challenging governments for not meeting the basic aspirations and needs of the generality of the Nigerian people. IBB’s policies were “reflected on theologically and critically”, and attacked by the then Archbishop {now Cardinal} Olugbunmi Okojie. Again, while other denominations were busy dinning and carousing with OBJ, the Catholic Church relentlessly attacked OBJ’s economic policies.

The Church condemned such policies that promoted nothing but poverty, misery, perverse corruption, and joblessness. It yells that the people have not in anyway enjoyed that much trumpeted dividends of democracy. The Church had consistently appealed to governments to pursue policies that will impact positively on the material conditions of the people. It had also sustained its fight against corruption by calling agencies to be up and doing. For being too outspoken during IBB and OBJ’s governments, the Church was marked for attack through orchestrated propaganda and blakmails. The ‘white mail’ of Okojie during IBB’s era should not easilly be forgotten. The suspicious manner of the robbery attacks in 2006, at St. Dominics, Yaba and St. Leo, Ikeja were critical cases in point. These incidents occurred at the heels of the Church’s verbal attack on OBJ’s policies.

However, it is time for Christian denominations in Nigeria to take their struggle to a much more higher social level. Gustavo Gutierrez, “is a Peruvian priest who lives and works among the poor of Lima”. He has written a thoroughly researched book of enormous penetrative impact titled: A Theology of Liberation {1971}. Again, the Brazilian Boff brothers, Leonardo and Clodovis have also written theirs, which, though diluted in content to deny the linkage of Marxism to it theme, was also a masterpiece. Theirs is titled: Introducing Liberation Theology {1987}. Though this ideological shift is a Latin American phenomenon, its content and praxis have had global appeal and application. It has extended to Ghana, Tanzania and South Africa.

Historically, Latin American countries have embraced Christianity. The Roman Catholic Church seems to hold the aces in that clime. Over the years, the Christian community has watched how traditional orthodox Christianity has supported very wicked, corrupt and oppressive governments under which its followers have tortuously lived. Despite their close affinity to God, their material conditions have sharply deteriorated. They have harvested nothing but poverty and squalor; joblessness, ghetto and gun culture; crime, prostitution and drug addiction; hunger, misery, mental torture, and even reported cases of cannibalism. So, where then is their succour for serving God? They have got spiritual salvation by giving their lives to Christ, but where then lies their material and economic salvation?

The priest, lay persons, Bishops and base Christian groups, decided to critically shift and start thinking dialectically. They could no longer watch while a few neo-colonial and overly corrupt politicians, supported by International capital, take their countries to the cleaners. They have prayed and fasted enough, it was time to act. It is either the Church is for them or is against them. Most felt it was time for “the Church to break it ties with an unjust order” and to, with renewed commitment and vigour, support their followers to liberate themselves from slow death.

Thus liberation theology came to transform orthodoxy of old {siddon look} into Gustavo‘s “orthopraxis” {theology with action} in conformity with the realities of global spread of capitalism and rapid social change. In Latin American countries of Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Bolivia, and Colombia, it is ideologically shocking, and for want of a better expression, scandalous, that these countries which are situated virtually at the backyard of America, the greatest developed capitalist economy and the most powerful country in the world, should be experiencing wide spread enervating poverty, diseases, joblessness, crime, political instability, wars, conflicts, hunger, deprivations and despoliation of enormous proportion. It was a terrible condition that the people could condone no more.

Modernisation, developmentalist, and dependency theories, which were the philosophical guide for these economies, had failed woefully. It could not redeem the people. That unilinear line of intellectual thoughts and articulation on development, could no longer hold water. They had failed the people. Therefore, the poor majority had to make deft moves to save themselves from extinction; to uplift their standard of living and liberate themselves from the clutches of hunger and hardship.

“Poverty”, writes Gustavo, simply “means death: lack of food and housing, the inability to attend properly to health and education needs, the exploitation of workers, permanent unemployment, the lack of respect for one’s dignity, and unjust limitations placed on personal freedom in the areas of self-expression, politics, and religion. Poverty is a situation that destroys peoples, families, and individuals… Material poverty is a subhuman situation.”

Continuing, Gustavo writes: “Concretely, to be poor means to die of hunger, to be illiterate, to be exploited by others, not to know that you are being exploited, not to know that you are a person. It is in relation to this poverty – material and cultural, collective and militant – that evangelical poverty will have to define itself .” The Medellin {1968} and Puebla {1979} Bishop conferences called the above malfeasance state of living, ‘institutionalised violence’. That, was the lot of Latin American countries. That, is the lot in most African countries too and that, has to be resisted. Latin American countries are doing just that. My Igbo people have a saying that if a child says the mum will not sleep, that child too will neither have a nap nor a sleep. Comphrendi? TO BE CONTINUED PLEASE!

Written by
Ephraim Adinlofu
Join the discussion

  • i’m to write my thesis , to respond a question what can of liberation theology aplicable in nigeria. i’m look for materials to proceds my arguments. can you be of help.

  • Christians should sit up and learn to fight for their rights. The new testaments is liberating but it evolves on practice and social action.