Very recently, in search of some soothing music, I turned my dial to one of my favorite FM Radio stations. Being one of my preferred, I could take about anything coming from their stables. But on this occasion, I could not but reject the dainties coming from their menu.
My bellyache was simple: here was a preacher man doing his thing, and to be candid, he made a lot of sense in his half-hour sermon, but for one point on which I had to disagree.
What was the bone of contention? Here was a man asking his congregants to pray to God asking Him to take away their dreams because according to the preacher, from his observation many a dream, including his, never materialized. Hence, in order to save themselves the frustration of unfulfilled desires, they were to pray that prayer, and in addition “ask God to dream for you”. That last bit got to me like a dagger to my liver. How could a man of the Book speak like this?
I would come back to address my difficulty with this assertion in particular, but in the mean time indulge me as I address what I see as the overarching concern of intellectual deficiency and dormancy amongst religious people.
Here in Ghana, from where I write, it has become the shame of the Church as all manner of doctrine is frivolously, carelessly, and brazenly spewed out by the hour on radio and television. It has become so bad the law has had to be unleashed upon the erstwhile highly revered institution, “the ground and pillar of truth”, the Church, because of these tasteless and even poisonous dogmas.
If you don’t mind, allow me detail a few examples for you. It isn’t uncommon for example to hear of endless all-night vigils, protracted fasting and prayer sessions held by Churches on week days and at working hours. You ask the focus of such prayers? Employment, Visas Money, Marriage Partners etc. I would like to suggest for example, if they unemployed, why not pray in the morning, launch out in faith in the afternoon so they can put food on the table by supper time?
Preachers on radio openly and confidently assert to callers who complain of some challenges that the source of their problems is/are certain people, usually in-laws and grandparents. So then I ask, what happened to the words of Scripture, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh…” (2 Corinthians 10:3) and “…We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against…spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12)? Aren’t these Scriptures explicit by themselves?
I do not pretend to be ignorant of the fact that the devil uses human agents, inhabits animals, birds, trees and even inanimate objects to achieve his ends. But I challenge any preacher to produce even a Scripture that encourages us to draw out a knife on a purported witch or set such a one ablaze, as a preacher did recently, in a religiously plural or secular state like Ghana.
The commandment in Exodus 22:18 stating, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” is one I am conversant with. But if this is the basis for the execution of perceived witches, then even the so-called Men of God making this case ought to die because according to the same Cannon of the Old Testament, for example, Saturday is the Sabbath and a Priest ought not wear any piece of clothing made of two or more fabric such as the 30% Polystyrene 70% Cotton 3-piece suits (Lev. 19:19; James 2:10 – 12). What am I saying? Exodus 22:18 is in context for a homogenous Theocratic Judaic Israel not a Democratic Ghana.
Back in the day, in ancient Israel, a woman caught in adultery faced the maximum sentence of death, by stoning. She was pelted mercilessly until the evil was purged from off the land (Deut. 22:22). But do you remember Jesus’ reaction to the case of the woman caught in adultery was, “…he that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” and “Go and sin no more” (John 8:7, 11)? No condemnation, no commendation! Not even people visibly possessed by demons were torched by Jesus. He exorcised six thousand (6, 000), or a legion, demons from one man and seven devils from Mary Magdalene, the woman who had the privilege of first seeing Christ (Luke 8:2; John 18: 1 – 20). May I also draw your attention to the fact that the mad man of Gadara from whom legion demons were exorcised turned out an evangelist to at least ten (10) cities, Decapolis? So what is this thing about taking up arms against so-called enemies – a term that has become so popular around here?
Some months back, Accra woke up to the news of a so-called pastor who is purported to have had sexual intercourse with a female client, and pulled out a piece of boiled meat he had planted in her in the name of healing her bareness! Sadly, the husband of the lady was in the reception awaiting a miracle from the “anointed” manhood of this apology to the death and resurrection grace of the Lord Jesus.
Another self-styled prophet is reported to have striped a lady and washes her up at the beach at night in order to deliver her from the spell of perpetual singleness cast on her by her step-mother. Another Bishop claims to have made a child insane and disabled because its parents offended him. And as a proof of his stance with God, he claims to have invoked the curse of God on the innocent child, setting the teeth of the infant on edge for the sour grapes eaten by his parents. I could go on and on.
To gag the rest of us, they quickly invoke Article “Touch Not My Anointed”. By that we are supposed to believe that questioning the Man of God or his actions would provoke fire and brimstone from Jehovah’s presence. As much as I respect the authority of God on His servants, I am not prepared to suffer the sleight of evil men claiming to act on God’s behalf. Even God gives us the right to “test all spirits” (1 John 4:1 – 2) and commends us when we rightly discern and put out “them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars” (Revelation 2:2). And who tells these men that this article of theirs refers to clergy and not laity. The reference to ‘My Anointed’ in the passages so cited has to do with the entire caravan of Israelites moving from Egypt to Canaan, the parallel being ALL that have put their faith in the Lord Jesus, the Church, God’s chosen ones, God’s ‘royal priesthood’, His ecclesia.
Someone needed stop the intimidation of these men. And as much as the actions of these men and women irritate me, I groan in my bowels even more and nauseate over the gullibility of the worshippers. As part of our political and traditional history and practices here in Accra, there was a time of almost perpetual curfew, and usually a ban on drumming and noise making at some point in the year. I wonder, Is there a curfew or ban on thinking?
I suspect that the understanding of many such adherents is that there is a permanent divorce between faith and logic. Whereas I concede that God’s ways are very different from ours, I struggle to agree that as a consequence we should set aside our God-given faculties of reasoning. Not even the greatest commandment lends itself to such doctrine. It says, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with al thy heart [all inward affections], and with all thy soul [all consciousness], and with all thy mind [all thoughts and intellect]” (Matthew 22:37).
So what is the problem? How come we have taken a mental leave? It appears to me that some dress up on Sunday mornings, wear their heart and soul and empty their minds. They just stop thinking the moment they enter the Church or appear before a ‘Man of God’, else how do we explain this madness? Are we such easy prey, taking in hook, line, sinker, boat and all?
My thinking at some point was that it is an African thing, seeing that for a long time we have lived in an idolatrous society, we are wont to always see and understand things through fetish lenses (1 Cor. 12:1,2). I have also come to agree in part with some who blame it on frustration, poverty and even temperament especially so because women are the victims in quite a lot of times. These notwithstanding, I have sufficient reason to see this as a common-sense deficiency/ignorance problem. We have too many minds around her on perpetual leave.
You may never appreciate the enormity, gravity and sickening nature of this phenomenon until you have been around victims of this Spiro-mental lobotomy syndrome. They suspect everything: an innocent wall gecko is a threat, the pussy cat was sent from the abyss, the spider web is a limitation to their financial progress, a snail in their night’s dream is retardation in life, the other woman’s food is either poisonous or a means to demonically initiate them or their loved ones, the screeching of the owl is the devil intent on killing someone in their household; a smile at, or even an attempt to see their newly born child is an attempt to bewitch and destroy. Everything is clandestine, everyone is a suspect. What sort of life is this?
Am I advocating naivety? Is this to imply that the devil doesn’t do any of these or that there aren’t examples to this effect? No, this is not my thinking. There are indeed abounding evidences. My problem is simple; I wonder how long they intend to look over their shoulders? To what effect was the death and resurrection of Jesus to them? What ever happened to the power of God working on behalf of those who believe? How much premium do they place on the “exceeding great and precious promises whereby we might become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4) and the hundreds of clear Scriptures on personal finances, health, marriage etc? Why wouldn’t they just stop and think?
I hinted earlier that I saw this as an African problem, but upon careful consideration, I have come to the firm conclusion that it is more of a human nature problem than it is an African problem. Katie Thear writing on the internet site www.blpbooks.co.uk/articles/cock_crowing/cock_crowing_noise.php reveals that centuries before in England (the Defender of the Faith), a hen experiencing hormonal changes was adjudged a witch for crowing and burnt at the stake. In her own words: “In 1474, there was a case where a ‘cock’ was burned at the stake for witchcraft, because ‘he’ laid eggs! Oh dear! Hopefully we now live in more enlightened times.” White Americans held fellow human beings in bits, bridles, and chains on the claim they were cursed of God, and others slaughtered Muslims in the Middle East in the name of Crusades preserving the sanctity of the Holy land. Today, they all know better, and Barrack Hussein Obama, a Black man, sits in the Oval Office as the most powerful man on earth.
How did these changes occur? Someone stood up to contest the rot. There was a certain Telemachus, William Tyndale, Martin Luther of Wittenberg, William Wilberforce, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jnr. They lifted up their heads, raised their voices and ensured that from dawn to sundown their voices were heard as they articulated their positions.
In this light, Africa has also had her heroes. There was Buana David Livingstone, Ma Mary Slessor hailed as the ‘white queen of Okoyong’ amongst the Efik Calabar people of Eastern Nigeria, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and the Madiba, Nelson Mandela.
These men and women we call great because they maintained non-pensionable minds. They awakened and recalled minds on leave in their day. That which didn’t sit well in their minds, they refused to tolerate on board. Without ado they jettisoned any thought contrary to truth, lifted up gates and blew apart even ancient and everlasting doors of harmful illogical traditions and cultures.
Someone needs to end this mental-vacuuming of innocent worshippers by some unscrupulous men and women. In doing his translation of the Bible, with the ordinary man in mind, William Tyndale said, “I defie [defy] the Pope and all his laws [laws]. If God spare my life, ere [before] many years [years/long] I wyl [will] cause a boy that driveth [drives] the plough to know more of the Scripture, than he doust [does].” He was suffocated and beheaded for this dream. Do not own a Bible and relinquish the ability and rights of reading and interpretation to another. Read the good Book for yourself. It is an open book, not a CIA document, a compendium of Morse codes, or cryptic medieval language. “Blessed” indeed is he that readeth the words of this Book and doeth them; the same shall be blessed in whatever he doeth (Rev. 1:3; James 1:25).
Before I close my case, let me address the matter upon which I set off, viz. the assertions of the preacher man on radio. I disagree with him to the extent that first of all, even God would have us dream else He would not have us pray. Prayer is a request based on desire, and desire is the aggregate of all our mental conceptions which in essence are our dreams. The claim that most dreams do not get fulfilled is neither scientific nor a logical conclusion to make, else we may as well ditch the doctrine of the second coming of Jesus Christ because millenniums have passed since He promised to return SOON.
What is more? “[God] by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]…” (Ephesians 3:20, Amplified Bible). If I may ask, how do we know we have received more, if there was nothing against which to compare? We should and must by all means legitimate dream and aspire and trust God to bring us into sync with His good and
perfect will. That way, the fulfillment of our own dreams and aspirations wouldn’t come back to hurt us. In fact, in many cases, the non-fulfillment, truncation or abortion of our dreams is God’s way of protecting us not a statement of His disapproval of the exercise of our faculties (See Deut. 12:15, 16; 1 Sam. 8:1 – 7; Psalm 37:4,5). His disapproval is in working outside Him, not the desire or execution itself.
God does not and would not do our dreaming or desiring for us. If He did, that would be equating us to robots. God created living souls with free wills and desires us to be willing servants and not stooges. He works in and with us and not just for us. It is the reason He doesn’t possess us like the devil would – willy-nilly – given the opportunity.
Shouldn’t we stop this shameful mental strike? The refrain has been brain drain for many African countries, now I perceive it is a matter of brain leave. Isn’t it time to resume from your superficiality-induced mental leave? Isn’t it time to call off the thinking strike action? Surely this 21st Century isn’t a good time to down mental tools, is it?
It was the famed Theologian, Richard Foster, who in his book, Celebration of Disciple wrote: “Superficiality is the curse of our age…. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”
Borrowing in part the words of the epithet of David Livingstone in George Square, Glasgow, Scotland
“All I can say in my solitude is, ‘May heaven’s blessing come down on every one — American, English, or Turk — who will help to heal this open sore of the [African] world’.”
For all that is good, can I ask, in fact beg us, to ponder? We have a festering sore, a present malady in the nation Ghana, and a good number of sons and daughters of the African continent.
With the cry of Telemachus, the Egyptian monk, hoping for his results but not his fate, permit me to cry In the name of Christ Stop this! Stop this mental strike. Please think, please….
PS: All emphases and annotations mine except references from the Amplified Bible.