• Nnaemeka Ali, O.M.I

End of Year Religious Crusades in Nigeria: Why do our churches rage and plot in vain?


We’re back to the festive period when communities and churches mount their crusades against principalities and powers. Many religious men and women, the Nietzschean merchants of illusion, will begin to run around our cities looking for disillusioned youths to recruit for their cults or poorly adapted traditional religions. We will start to hear prophesies and oracles proclaimed on how this deity or that demon is holding one family or the other down. They will wage war against Incubus and succubus and comically tear down imaginative demonic temples and dominions. Then, we will retire and wait for next year to repeat these comic pseudo-spiritual routines indefinitely.

Get me well, I believe in the existence of demons, for if God, Angels and Spirits exist, why wouldn’t demons exist? They’re everywhere except that it seems the poorer or hopeless a nation is, the stronger their demons. By the rate at which Nigerians embattle the devil, one might think that we’re the demon capital of the world. But when one understands that more Nigerians are getting frustrated daily; the economy is crashing here and there; and the rate of insecurity, almost on a chronic level, then one might if we diagnosed well the demons behind our piteous situation.

Gustavo Gutierrez once wrote:

This challenge [theological crisis] in a continent like Latin America doesn’t come primarily from the non-believer, but from the man who isn’t a man, who isn’t recognized as such by the existing social order; he’s in the ranks of the poor, the exploited, he’s the man who is systematically and legally deprived of his being as a man: who scarcely knows that he’s a man. His challenge isn’t aimed first at our religious world but at the political and cultural world; therefore, it’s an appeal for the revolutionary transformation of the very basis of a dehumanizing society. The question, therefore, isn’t how to speak of God in an adult world, but how to proclaim him as a Father in a world that isn’t human.”

Gutierrez is known as one of the fathers of Liberation theology. Liberation theology starts its reflection on God from the milieu of life of a given Christian community. It’s a type of theology “born out of a concrete encounter with the hard facts of history.” (J. Putti, Theology as Hermeneutics, Kristu Joyti, Bangalore, 1991, p. 61).

While European theologians were quarrelling over whether ideas about God are well presented, Gutierrez and many other Latino theologians knew that the problem of their people was neither about how God is theoretically presented nor mentally comprehended. They understood that their people have no proper means of articulating their faith in God if they keep on doubting that their life is worth living. They understood the French saying that “un ventre affamé n’a point d’oreille” — loosely translated as “a hungry man is an angry man” but means “a hungry man can’t hear anything”. They knew that for one to reason well, one needs to have the strength to stand on one’s feet. Gutierrez comprehended that the origin of the problem of their people was neither intellectual nor spiritual, but political and sociological.

Armed with these facts, he went down to the society not to speak to them about a mystical liberation but a deliverance from the hands of those who were holding their community hostage. He presented to them the Man of Nazareth who, when faced with the choice of praying for a spiritual liberation of his people, accepted to give up his life to send a strong message that for the kingdom to come, believers should be ready to die martyrs. And when on the third day, he conquered death, his followers understood that the principal enemy is within and not beyond. So, from one shore to the other, they went around defying every authority, even to the extent of being burned or crucified like their master.

Like Gutierrez, Sobrino and others followed suit, denouncing political leaders and religious sycophants who sit on the high places and who participate in the devouring of the destiny of their citizens. Like Bishop Oscar Romero, religious leaders followed this crusade, paying the ultimate price.

On the contrary, in our society, we chase rats while our house is on fire. We cast out demons, causing road accidents when the money allotted to constructing those roads is continuously diverted. Which demon do we think will accept to humiliate itself by causing an accident in our dilapidated roads? Which devil is controlling the reckless drivers on our roads? The principalities causing accidents in our roads are the people siphoning the money meant for our road constructions — let’s rebuke and fire them.

Which demon is behind our generalized crisis? Which demon is causing the untimely death when our hospitals have no beds and strings? Which demon is causing the constant strikes that push half-baked graduates out of society? Which devil is responsible for the hardship in the nation? Which demon is bankrolling the unknown gunmen or arming the terrorist organizations in Nigeria? These are our principalities and powers, and we know where they are. If all our men of God could channel all the efforts they invest in fighting non-existing demons in Nigeria to our state capitals; if they stand up to condemn the ghostly 666 reigning in Aso Rock; the Queen of Sheba in Lion House; the Incubus and succubus in the Northern governors’ offices; or the dominions in the Southern Government houses; and all the principalities roaming around in white clothes in Eastern Nigerian governors’ lodges, Nigerians will have no cause to keep on casting out its pseudo-demons yearly.

Therefore, though you were told in the Bible (Ephesians 6:12):

“our struggle isn’t against flesh and blood, but the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”; I tell you: “our struggle in this part of the world should be against flesh, blood and ego. So, yes, our fight is against the authorities, the powers of this dark country, and against the physical forces with evil plans who sit at Aso Rock, Lion House, Brick House, Creek House, Kashmir House, Douglas House, Alagbaka House, Lugard House, bishoprics, etc."

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