The prologue of the Good News Bible to Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Christians in the city of Corinth describes the city as the capital of the Roman province of Achata and a great cosmopolitan Greek city. The prologue also says that Corinth was a thriving commercial centre, with a proud culture, having widespread instances of immorality in the emerging church. It had a variety of religions as well. Therefore in writing his letter to the Christians in that city, the Apostle Paul was mindful of the fact that inhabitants of that city who had become Christians converted had identity issues most of which bordered on immorality and personal administration. They also had problems with whether or not they should adjust their orientations concerning sex, marriage and chastity, and matters of conscience. For instance, how was the body of Christ to treat Apostles, Bishops and anyone who served God serving HIS people? What were the rights, duties and obligations of the body of Christ to the clergy?
These were some of the issues that the Apostle Paul waned to deal with in his very first letter to the Christians in Corinth. ‘What soldier ever has to pay his expenses in the army? What farmer does not eat the grapes from his vineyard? What shepherd does not use the milk from his sheep? We have sown spiritual seed among you. Is it too much if we reap ‘material’ (other versions of the Bible use the word ‘carnal’) benefits from you?’ the Apostle Paul asked in the book of 1st Corinthians 9 verse 11. But while the Apostle had something quite different in mind concerning the reciprocal welfare for a pastor by his congregation, practitioners of the faith after him had something else in mind. In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer narrated how pastors and bishops and the reverend fathers converted that same argument in 1st Corinthians 9 verse 11 and used it to enrich themselves in the Middle Ages. And if there can be no other example with which we can decipher how the minds of most stupendously rich pastors work, and how they use 1st Corinthians 9 verse 11 to justify their worldliness, perhaps this one which happened recently may suffice. The pastor approached a married woman for sex. Stunned, the woman rebuked him for daring to make such a request. But the pastor had his way with her anyway, and with all the married and unmarried women after he justified his request before them with the argument in 1st Corinthians 9 verse 11.
But in Nigeria it is not only with the Christian religion that unscrupulous persons operate. They are there in Islam as well. Very well educated Muslims who got their education from the civilized world support an antiquated and cultural system that undermines the education of children, preferring to keep these children in perpetual ignorance as servants and yokels so as to perpetuate the hegemony of the prince against the talakawa. Take for example the Boko Haram. From inception, they have relied on, and forced everyone to see justification of their activities from the point of view of the Holy Koran. They said in their recent videos that they were carrying out the will of God, who supposedly gave that instruction.
But this is not true and cannot be true. Real religion and the practice thereof seeks to promote the human belief in the life now and hereafter, not the destruction of it. Religion gives us the focal point from which we can access the divinity and make communication to it through ourselves. We connect with God/Allah 99% of the time through a connection with the human race, and we disconnect whenever we cut short a life. Therefore, the acts of terror and greed being perpetrated on humanity by religious bigots and fanatics, most of whom do not know jack about God has been a veritable source of embarrassment to this country.
We cannot continue like this. And perhaps this is why there is universal opprobrium and condemnation for those who use religion as a veil to cover their sinister ‘material’, ‘carnal’ intentions. We would like to commend the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Sa’ad Abubakar and the entire Muslim faithful worldwide who have spoken out in very strong terms, condemning the use of Islam to promote terror. I use this opportunity as well to call on the leadership of the Christian community to rein in its practitioners. The immediate tendency of most pastors is to accumulate wealth – they have bombardier jets, private schools and universities and live in mansions unfit for people who know that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich pastor to enter heaven.