In recent times, the disgusting misdeeds carried out by some pastors or religious crooks or ‘azaa’ men of God, who have infested the Christian religion are reported to be on an alarming increase. This of course has given cause for concern in several social circles. Some pastors are reported to fornicate or even rape some women in hotels.
And it’s an eyesore to see a pastor whose picture was published last week on the front page of this newspaper, having been stripped naked when caught attempting to rape a lady in a Koforidua hotel.
Some years ago, in its attempt to articulate such concerns, a newspaper editorial raised several interesting controversial issues which, of late, have been on the lips of certain critics. First is the commonplace suggestion that it is only in the mushroom or newly sprung-up churches where the religious crooks can be found, and therefore these churches deserve to be condemned.
I beg to differ. A careful observation reveals that the issue of the crooks’ misdeeds such as fornication, adultery, rape, petty thievery, fraud, money swindling, etc cuts across all denominations from the premier Christian Church (the Roman Catholic) through the Orthodox Protestant Churches to Penteco-charismatic churches, down to Spiritual churches (which use occult rituals, invocation of familiar spirits and, ostensibly, the Bible)
Indeed, no particular denomination can truly claim to be exempt from the intrusion of ‘azaa’ men of God, people who parade themselves under the guise of respected reverend ministers, evangelists, prophets, bishops, apostles, priests, pastors or even deacons whose initial behaviour seem not to hurt a fly!
Haven’t you ever heard of some reverend ministers of some well-established churches caught red-handed in adultery, or some priests indulging in fornication only to father children outside marriage? Haven’t you ever heard of cases of fraud or financial mismanagement of certain reverend ministers of some well-established churches, or of those situations where some reverend ministers of certain established churches, are secretly living opulent lifestyles, with some self-indulgence, drinking bottles of beer every day, or putting up private mansions and riding in two or three posh cars?
OLD CHURCHES’ HYPOCRISY
The general tendency in such churches has been to create what is described as the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth commandments, namely: “Thou shalt not be caught and if thou hast been caught, thou shalt arrange to be transferred immediately from thy station” and finally, “Thy misdeeds should not be disclosed to any one, nor to the press so that thy church is not disgraced by negative exposures’.
Without doubt, such misdeeds of well-established churches are so deftly managed that cases of fraud, adultery, misbehavior etc scarcely leak out to the public except an unfortunate or inadvertent incident breaches those churches’ security systems. The underlying fact is that ‘nowhere is cool’, and as the Ghanaian parlance puts it: “People just don’t know what is happening in Dodowa forest”.
As a matter of course, this is not meant to exculpate the mushroom or fledgelling churches from any blames: Several of them are equally guilty of religious crookery, and they deserve to be condemned outright. Hypocrisy is one thing I hate in my life. Therefore, the pretentious sanctimoniousness, the infallibility paranoia and superiority complex assumed by some of us pastors of some established churches (whilst pinpointing the mushroom churches as the only errant ones) need to be condemned. Some of us pastors are like, as Christ says, “whitewashed tombs which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean,” (Matthew 23:27). Blind hypocrites! Let’s first remove the beam in our eyes before we can see clearly to cast out the mote of other churches’ eyes. (Matthew 7:5)
One thing is that, the so-called mushroom churches, like children, imitate what they see of the established churches. Let us therefore clean ourselves of our filth first, before we begin to talk about the filth of others. Some reverend ministers of some well-established churches are themselves religious crooks; or do condone and connive at the activities of religious crooks in their own midst, by failing to expose them to the public. Instead, they rather hypocritically turn round to trumpet loud, or condemn, the activities of religious crooks of mushroom churches, as if nothing is happening in their own churches.
On this account, their church members are psychologically brainwashed to arrogantly consider themselves as morally upright, belonging to churches which are supreme paradigms of piety. Thus, priding themselves on infallibility concepts, they do not hesitate to point accusing fingers at mushroom churches, whilst sweeping their own misdeeds under the carpet! If this is not hypocrisy, then what else could it be? And this is what I vehemently condemn without fear or favour! Fact is, all of us, like sheep, have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6)!
Secondly is the question of national crusade, which the newspaper espoused in its editorial some years ago, as the antidote to the on-going religious roguery in Christendom. This is an excellent proposition to put forth. But it unfortunately hits against a wall of problems. The question is who are to embark upon the national crusade? If it is the media, through muckraking criticisms, then it will be fine: One can be sure of a certain amount of success. But if it is the reverend ministers of some of the well-established churches, then one has cause to question the validity of the holiness stance they have assumed, with which they intend to judge others, or reorient other ‘sinful’ churches. How, as the proverb goes, can the kettle call the pot black?
If on the other hand, it is conceded- and quite rightly too- that not all established churches are sinful and disqualified from preaching to others on the need for a moral reorientation, what might be asked is: How can we know which pastors or churches are righteous to lead the national crusade? It is to be borne in mind that the “hood does not make a monk” and this being so, those selected pastors or churches which appear righteous might not, after all, be righteous or the best choice to lead the national crusade. I submit that if there should be the need for a national crusade, it should not be led by any selected pastors but it should be the preoccupation of the media.
Another controversy which hangs on the national crusade issue as a means of curbing religious crookery is the view that the crusade agenda cannot be an effectual antidote. Only prayers, so it is argued, can curb the phenomenon of the religious roguery.
From macro-religious point of view, the opponents of the national crusade issue argue that it is not only Ghana that is bedevilled with the religious crookery problem, but several other countries such as the United States, Britain, France, Japan, South Korea, Uganda, Nigeria, South Africa, etc. It is contended that even though most of these countries abound in more wicked and conscienceless religious crooks, no such country has embarked upon any national crusade, because such a step is considered to be ineffectual and time wasting. So the national crusade issue should be abandoned. I disagree to this plea also.
The next argument is from the Biblical point of view. It is argued that the phenomenon of the proliferation of ‘azaa’ pastors or religious crooks is a fulfillment of Christ’s own prophecy which says: “for MANY will come in my name, claiming I am the Christ, and will deceive many……… and MANY false prophets will appear and deceive MANY people,” (Matthew 24:5, 11).
On the strength of this prophecy, so it is argued, nothing can be done to stem the tide of the proliferation of the activities of religious crooks: That is to say, no remedies nor plans prescribed by society can curb the doings of such false prophets, because the practicalization of Christ’s prophecy has already triggered off, and nothing can stop it. To the opponents, any attempt to curb it is like swimming against a sweeping tide- an entirely useless venture! Well, if the macro-religious and ‘prophecy’ arguments above are weighed against the national crusade logic, what conclusion can be stricken by readers? No national crusade; or national crusade?
Thirdly is the dual arguments that there should be “some form of state intervention” or that “the state should have the right to have adequate information on the men behind the numerous churches in the country”. Of course, the ‘state intervention’ argument naturally dissolves itself into nothing when the constitutional principle of ‘freedom of worship’ is invoked. There is no case for it! With the pastors registration issue, it is argued that since many men of God in the olden times were called from rather nebulous circumstances, the examination of the background of modern day pastors cannot be the best criterion to judge their character, in as much as most of them were called from their sinful estate.
For example, according to the argument of the opponents, Moses committed the crime of murder before he was called by God to lead the Israelites. Matthew was a publican (a fraudulent tax collector) and St. Paul was an accomplice to the crime of murdering Christians, before both were called by Christ. In spite of their criminal backgrounds, God felt that they deserved to be sent by Him. And so are some of the previously sinful modern-day pastors. I agree to the contention that examining the background of pastors is not necessary.
Fourthly is the criminalization argument, meaning that pastors who have been found to engage in rape, or in adultery (thus breaking the marriage ordinance) or to have stolen or misappropriated some church funds, should be prosecuted in the court, and when found guilty, jailed as a deterrent sanction . This can be another good means of stopping the disgraceful deeds of evangelists or pastors who are dishonouring Christ by their awful misdeeds
At any rate, I strongly contend that the society can somehow curb the activities of the religious crooks. And the prayer prescription aside, the best way of stopping or reducing the misdeeds of the ‘azaa’ men of God is the embarking on national crusade by the media. Don’t you side with me?
Source: Apostle Kwamena Ahinful
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