Two incidents trended some days back that made me more appreciative of my non-religious background. One was the BBC documentary – Disciples: The cult of TB Joshua on the state of affairs at the Synagogue Church of Nations under the leadership of the late TB (tuberculosis as I called him) Joshua. The other was the video of a certain Pastor John Anosike who announced that the January salary of his members belonged to him and ordered them to pay it to him personally for his welfare.
I have said it severally that growing up I didn’t attend church on Sundays because my mother said church goers were hypocrites so I grew up not knowing the way to a prayer house, seeking for a pastor to pray for me or living my life based on what anybody wearing a religious clock said, felt or divined. Like everything there are advantages and disadvantages to that upbringing. For instance, I didn’t grow up with the church culture, the little I know from my childhood was learnt in my paternal aunts house when I went for holidays, so I find myself a bit wistful when I go to the orthodox churches and can’t fit into their practices and the mode of worship.
The main advantage for me is that it made me independent spiritually. I am not one to depend on a pastor for prayers, guidance and direction. I don’t go around looking for prayer meetings or anointed ministers (nothing wrong in that, too). I can’t seem to revere anyone to the point of semi worshiping them and I basically believe that every pastor or minister of God is just like me-loved of God. Yes, our talents and faith levels differ but I have never believed in that superior grace level thing. It’s my belief that it is to the extent that you yield yourself to God that he uses you and not because he apportions grace to some specific people.
I have friends and relatives who revere their pastors, who hold on to his or her every word, who worship the ground that they step on and I wouldn’t lie, for some of them, it has helped, they have been the focus of personalized prayers, gotten very good counsel and rode on the tails of their pastor to some degree of greatness but it is at some cost. The cost of not being their own person, of the curtailing of their individuality, of not being able to see beyond what they have been told and lastly of being manipulated covertly.
Manipulation is a great tool in most leaders’ hands, especially insecure religious leaders who find themselves the subject of adulation and worship by the congregation that they lead.
There are areas of our lives that no pastor or leader is meant to have a total say or any say in and they include
- The choice of our partners- a pastor really has no right to decide who you should or should not marry whether or not they know a person will be right or wrong for you. I am aware of churches where pastors choose spouses for their members, where they have denied people their true love and made others marry people that were the wrong choices for them even though they had absolutely nothing in common in the guise that it was Gods will. Also, there is no reason why the opinion of our religious leaders should habitually carry more weight than that of our spouse and should be taken hook, line and sinker even in the face of superior knowledge, experience and exposure on the subject matter.
- Our sex life and what goes on in the other room. It was my pastor, during one of the married couples’ sessions that was held in church, who, when a debate broke out about whether oral sex was Christ-like and approved by the church, said that no pastor had any business legislating on or regulating what goes on between two consenting adults in the bedroom and I agree.
- Our relationships and family life. Too many families have been broken apart because of a vision seen by a pastor who saw that someone was behind their troubles. I am not in any way denying that close family members can be the source of one’s misfortune but so many have made allegations against innocent people so as to isolate their members from family in order to have them fully under their thumb and control without any opposition from anyone who cares about them.
- Money. It is a well known fact that God doesn’t spend money otherwise we would take it along with us when we die. No pastor has the right to cajole, coerce, threaten or reprimand anyone about how they give of their hard earned money. This is not to say that we shouldn’t give towards the work of the gospel or religious matters, but it means that no one should legislate as to how much, where and how often we should give.
- Our health- except where a religious leader is a certified doctor his word should not supersede medical advice. A lot of women have died on the hospital bed rather than undergo a Caesarean operation because their Pastor prayed with them and assured them of giving birth naturally. Many have stopped taking their medicine and suffered adverse effects because they were prayed for and told to throw away their medicines to show their faith in the prayers made.
I understand the place of spiritual leadership in the church. Pastors do a beautiful, sacrificial, much needed, under-appreciated and valued job when they do not attempt to compete with the place God should have in our hearts and I appreciate the pastors that have helped me grow into the person that I am now. The mistaken belief that they know best and cannot be defied especially when it concerns our lives is a cowardly outlook to life.
It is my sincere belief, and I don’t think I am entirely wrong that a lot of people that allow themselves (yes the right word is allow because until you give someone the reins of your life, he cannot control you) to be used, controlled and manipulated by their leaders are people that refuse or are afraid to take responsibility for their lives. They would prefer like Adam did when asked why he ate the forbidden fruit to blame someone else for their predicament.
It is the hard truth but it is the truth nonetheless especially for adults. I understand that when children are moulded in a particular way they tend to tow that path, I also understand that many that allow themselves to be manipulated are normally vulnerable people with no strong social ties and connections who find it easy to succumb to what someone else says is right for them but an adult who suspends his thoughts, rationality, objectivity for the opinions and perspective of another and cannot take minor and major decisions without the input of a spiritual head is an adult who lacks personal responsibility.
For many of us, the aforesaid documentary and video should make us rethink the reasons why we do the things we do, make us stand up for ourselves, take responsibility for our lives, make the choices we want to make for our lives because we want to and not because anyone thinks it’s the best for us.
This year stand up for yourself and refuse to be bamboozled or manipulated. There is grace for everyone and whether we care or not to admit it, no one person has the sole key to how our lives should look or be run. No one person can be responsible for the prayers, healing and lives of hundreds of thousands of people. No one person can save you or your marriage, children or give you accurate advice all the time. No one person is infallible and not everything they say is as led of God.