Arrogance: a monster threatening the Church in Nigeria
By AKPANDEM JAMES –
Pope Francis’ exhortation in his New Year’s message asking Vatican leaders to change their attitude can be seen as a homily on humility; but the widespread sharing of the message on social media platforms across beliefs and climates indicates deep concern about improper events in the house of God. Just like in other areas of activity, pride has entered the house of God, and the earthly guardians are now possessed by the spirit of arrogance, even though they profess the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Catholic Pontiff spoke of the clergy filled with pride, which has become like a pandemic through beliefs. He warned that pride and self-interest damage the spiritual life of church leaders and therefore corrupt the purpose of the church. He feared that this improper attitude could taint the church. Even as the warning is issued, the act has already been done.
Although it was addressed specifically to its Catholic audience, the warning is very apt in relation to the clergy in Nigeria. There is no doubt that the twin monsters of pride and self-interest have become commonplace. Caution and humility, virtues of God’s housewives, are no longer common among those who claim to be called of God. Some have abandoned the garment of humility and holiness for the cloak of arrogance and aggression. They are animated by the spirit of Mammon and of rebellion – rebellion against humanity, rebellion against science, rebellion against the state; and indeed, rebellion against the intention of the gospel.
Vatican leaders, cardinals, priests and laity must have taken the pontiff’s warning in good faith. This is unlikely to have gone well with some of the witty people in Nigeria where pastors do no harm. Who would lead the charge and where would it start when the owners of worship centers, with few exceptions, are the ones wearing the colorful vests?
In Nigeria, the pastor seems infallible. In the church community, the credo is “see no evil and speak no evil” about the pastor or his actions. Those who dare to risk the invocation of the Fire of the Holy Spirit because the pastor is led by the Spirit. No one has the right to question an action. The devotees believe and worship and say Amen to every statement from the pulpit, no matter how foolish it is. The pastor is god and they have become like robots.
But it is evident today that a good number of pastors came down from the pulpit in the village square and seized the soapbox. Listening to certain statements and arguments on certain matters of public interest, what jumps out at the top is high level hypocrisy – some very mundane, others quintessentially pedestrian. Grandstanding is the performance standard. Decorum has been banned. Some have turned the sacred chambers of the Almighty into theaters of comedy. They adorn fancy titles and indulge in self-worship. And you see the hypocrisy of divergence at work.
Some of these men live in a world of illusion and come to terms with their perceptions – a clear product of pride and deceit. They defend their positions as real and want them to be seen as such. Those who refuse to see it in their own way are tagged and / or marked by bewitched followers. They appropriate the level of knowledge and wisdom that would make King Solomon insignificant; they assume the kind of prophetic elevation that would make the prophet Elijah look very ordinary.
These are people who believe they have the right to do whatever they want, including standing up against anything they feel is inappropriate. These rights are reserved for them only; and not subject to interference, not even from the constituted authorities. They have the right to criticize, but not to be criticized. When they speak, they do it like the man in the street and not like people with spiritual discernment. The language is not that of peace, love and reconciliation; but of violence, hatred and revenge. Statements from the pulpit are no different from those of tribal members and partisan politicians.
They want things to run normally like in better organized societies, but they hate regulations that make institutions work for a better society. They hate the comparison with other countries when it comes to responsibilities, but easily cite those same countries when it comes to rights. They hate laws and policies that create or give impetus to functioning systems, but want our systems to function like those of companies with strict regulations, despite our attitude.
Given the pedestal to which they have descended, they join in the spread of untruths, with limited or inappropriate knowledge of the subject. They do all kinds of things to justify their ego-exaggerated prescriptions. They hate with partisan passion and affection, and allow such dispositions to color their ministries. They deceive their gullible audiences and make them oppose constituted authority, even in matters of public safety. They cite passages from the Bible that seem to justify their positions, even if they do so out of context and in the obvious isolation of the preconditions.
The same people who routinely submit their members to long checklists and claims regardless of their income levels, condemn marginal increases in basic utility tariffs. They will highlight the economic status of the people and the neo-colonialist label of Nigeria being the poverty capital of the world. They feign ignorance or simply become misleading about the fundamentals that create such index situations.
Out of spite, they become enthusiastic about such classifications and use them to further twist the conscience of their supporters, deceive the people and criticize the authorities when they probably contribute the largest percentage to the indolence responsible for the precarious economic status of the country. people. They embark on money-hungry programs and projects, but care less about the source of the money paid in by members. They build empires from contributions and become the sole administrators of the domain.
They avoid wondering why things are the way they are. For purely selfish reasons, they fail to understand that the economic status of a country is not determined by the mere expression of faith or assessed by the wishful thinking of individuals; but by purposefully driving the fundamental parameters that underpin growth and development.
It does not occur to them that a people with a strange sense of entitlement, people who spend all their productive working hours on weekdays in centers of worship listening to tainted sermons and waiting for miracles or manna from heaven are doomed to fall into such categories of poverty. They lose sight of the biblical warning that the desires of the lazy must kill him. They ignore the clearly stated scriptural prescription that only those who are diligent in their labors are to sit with kings while the lazy are required to wallow among wicked men.
Apparently driven by their first intentions, these “pastorpreneurs” have nothing to do with morality. They support any situation that fits their cardinal purpose – those things that would support their flamboyant lifestyle and mundane acquisitions. They invade the territory of the politicians and eat the fruits of the earth. In the process, they make no distinction between the world and the kingdom. They encourage corruption in the process and give impunity a boost as long as it serves their purpose. When politicians rejoice, they cry hallelujah; when they moan and rant, clergymen carry placards, no matter what the convenience. Arrogance and greed drives it all!
However, whatever the prescriptions or pretensions of these ego-driven tribes, politicians and entrepreneurs in the pulpit, it is inevitable that an indolent people who indulge in accusations while their local and regional leaders engage in Insane financial frolics, in the name of governance, will certainly feel the pinch of sleep as the thief goes on a rampage. Those who engage in robbers in their backyards but tag or profile those in other people’s yards are doomed to suffer from insecurity when the chickens come home to roost. A society that indulges in recalcitrant children is doomed to impunity by walking the streets when the fruits are ripe. Preaching against these societal afflictions cannot find a place in sermons of this caliber of pastors.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with people genuinely opposing policies and actions based on calculated belief, knowledge and understanding of the issues at stake; or those who, although ignorant of the fundamentals and real situations, make sincere observations and even protests. However, there is something fundamentally wrong when people parading across the landscape in robes and cassocks claim to be so concerned with “the people” or “the Church” when apparently they espouse their partisan and ethnic fullness. The vehemence with which some push their messages easily gives them either as discontented elements or as elements given to rebellious inclinations.
The law guarantees the right of citizens to hold opinions, however divergent they may be; but pushing ignorance, mediocrity and callousness beyond reasonable limits simply because of certain claims to apostolic anointing while in fact pushing personal, partisan, political and ethnic carts is nothing else. than monumental hypocrisy. It is not a virtue in the house of God.
As the Pope rebuked, those who serve in the house of God should let humility guide their thoughts and actions. Being human, they are required to have partial inclinations, but these are to be kept away from the pulpit and the church. Serving God and Mammon is an adulterous spiritual combination. May they stop hiding behind the veil of the church because by their fruits we will know them. Their actions are sure to define those of them who are partisan activists, entrepreneurs and true conscripts.