For some time now, Christianity has been under all kinds of threats. Chief among them is the persecution by fanatical sects who use Islam as a convenient tool to perpetrate evil against Christians. In Nigeria for instance, we’ve witnessed the callous escapades of Boko Haram and more recently the Fulani herdsmen. I deliberately chose my words carefully when I said that these sects “use Islam” as I’m convinced that their members are not real Muslims. Just like many Nigerians, I have many Muslims in my family and circle of friends, all of whom not only think differently from terrorists but find their murderous philosophy despicable.
That said, let’s beam our searchlight on a more insidious threat to Christianity today. A threat that is eating us from within and has no bearing on Islamic fundamentalism. It is our ‘phariseetical’ hypocrisy and lack of rationality in Christendom. Both factors are intricately intertwined to be honest. Let us delve into history before I home in on the real thrust of my argument. A couple of centuries ago, when the white man came to Africa, he deliberately expunged all the stories and key verses in the Bible that seem to promote equality of all humans and brotherhood of men. For instance, the “Slave Bible” as it was called back then (some copies are still available in Washington DC museum in the USA), cleverly left intact the story of Joseph’s enslavement in Egypt but expunged that of the Israelites breaking free to journey to freedom. Also left intact were several Bible passages which seem to promote master-serf relationships, e.g., Ephesians 6:5-7. All these to instill discipline and complete obedience in their captives. A century later the Bible was once more called upon by colonialists to entrench racism, considered today as the most heinous display of man’s inhumanity towards another man.
Now fast-forward to present day. Although exploitation of Bible to hoodwink unsuspecting Africans is still prevalent the color of the perpetrators has changed. Africans religious leaders have perfected the operating model of the foreign imperialists. Just like the slave owners and colonialists, the nouveaux rich African pastors seek to completely dominate the minds of their followers. Even the most educated of the society are not spared. Many faithfuls are content to jettison their God-given intellect and embrace a charismatic firebrand pastor. Of course, there is no shortage of Bible passages to justify even the most repulsive antics of a “daddy” in many Pentecostal religious sects.
The governance structure (or Ecclesiastical polity) of older denominations Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, etc is more inclusive. For instance, they would make the ordinary member feel part and parcel of church administration, won’t ask you to buy anointing oil or miracle handkerchief at crazy prices or just steal your wife for a good measure. Nothing like a fair bit of self-respect where you don’t have to refer to a younger man as “daddy”, just because he claims God called him.
It is against this backdrop that Donald J. Trump happened to African Pentecostal and American Evangelical Christians. It has been said by many political observers that Trump exposed the rotten underbelly of America as a white Supremacist enclave. But fewer observers have taken note of how he also revealed the ingrained hypocrisy of the African Christian community. With Trumpism, the predominantly racist white evangelical in the US found a strange bedfellow in the African Pentecostal whom he ordinarily despises. In Nigeria, Trump was able to con long suffering Christians that he was the long-awaited Messiah to rescue them from the jaws of the Jihadists. An absurd proposition to every rational Christian of course. But most Africans are not known for clear headedness unfortunately. So, when Trump assumed US presidency and banned many Muslim countries and openly discriminated against them, it was a sonorous song in the ears of many Nigerian Christians. For them, the enemy of my enemy must be a friend. The US evangelicals love Trump because he represents the fundamental ideals of a Lilly white supremacist society where blacks especially and other ethnic minorities have no place in. The point is the line between inhumanity and hanging of blacks on trees is completely blurred in the eyes of Evangelical Christians of old. The Bible told them it was ok in their warped minds. In recent times their great grandchildren in police uniforms have no qualms shooting dead an unarmed black pre-teen youth. And yes, the Bible says Blacks are of inferior race and sub-human.
It never mattered that Trump was an unapologetic racist, a serial adulterer, a pathological liar, a chronic misogynist, an unrepentant cheat among so many things Jesus Christ never was or stood for. Our African christians were willing to overlook all those character flaws and vilify a Joe Biden. Not minding that Biden has been on the side of civil rights since the days of South African Apartheid segregationist policy. Not recognizing the fact that he sifted through other highly qualified candidates to pick a black woman to become the first female Vice-President of that country. That is the person many Nigerian Christians have branded an anti-Christ. His only sin it seems, is being in the “wrong” party of liberals who support gay and abortionist rights.
In the weeks and days leading to the just concluded US elections, prayer groups across Christian communities burnt midnight oil for Mr. Trump. Many well-known Nigerian Pentecostal pastors began to see visions and dream dreams! God ministered to all of them that Trump was going to get another 4 years in the White House. And In a landslide victory too! The racist white American Evangelicals couldn’t believe their luck! The African folks are carrying out their own Supremacist agenda. Suddenly, their pastors joined in on the fake prophesy frenzy. Black and white united in a religious macabre dance of strange bedfellows.
At the end of the day the true omniscient God prevailed over insanity, over lying prophets and over hypocrisy. More rational and dispassionate Christians had seen Trump’s horrendous four-year presidency for what it was. A four-year aberration that God had used to humble the greatest country in the world. And boy, was America humbled! Trump’s humiliation of his country reached a crescendo when in his final days in the White House, he decided to revenge himself on 85 million Americans who rejected him at the polls and caused him a second term. He whipped up his racist attack dogs into frenzy and commanded them to go topple an incoming democratically elected government. A shocked world watched as Trump, his sons and members of his equally deranged inner circle monitor the entire insurrection on the big screen with glee. It was a day like no other in modern international politics. The cruel irony is that this is the picture that many Pentecostals in Africa and Evangelicals in the US have deemed to be of Christlike behavior.
Christians must begin to do a lot of soul searching, study the Bible with our God-given brains, validate our pastor’s teachings with clear headed understanding of the Word, hold our General Overseers accountable for their day-to-day conducts. Else, we will continue to deify folks like Trump. Worst of all our children will start questioning the very essence of Christianity due to the choices we make. After all most teenagers don’t need any second-hand information from adults to make informed decision these days.
•Ojeikere, a public affairs commentator, writes from Abuja