Some protesters alleged that Pastor E.A. Adeboye of The Redeemed Christian Church of God was silent on the security situation in the country. I pointed out a few things about them last week. One was that some of those involved basically wanted to hear him speak like the activist-pastors they are used to. Meanwhile, I instinctively distrust people who wear pastoral garb but take on the role of activists. They inevitably engage rhetoric that excites followers rather than use the suasion religion has to place in followers strong moral fibres. It’s one reason Nigerians appear so religiously in places of worship but are counted among scammers, bribe-takers, and looters of government treasuries.
Activist-pastors with high-sounding titles win global acclaims, of course. But when records of intelligence services regarding their private and moral lives are opened, there are shocking stories. Such stories are in the public space, and the religious person who has read them is more than likely to ask: “And what’s the profit of all the global acclaim?” I imagine Adeboye would ask the same question, one reason he won’t ever be an activist-pastor that some protesters expect him to be.
I don’t think Adeboye has ever been silent regarding the security situation in our country. His mindset on it is in the public space. It’s just that the protesters who obviously have respect for him haven’t paid close attention to the few but vital things he says. This is a servant of God who avoids calling attention to himself. He asks his followers to pray for him always. He encourages them to pray over their own situation, rather than run after others to pray for them. He says he looks forward to the day when miracles would happen through his “children”. He rejoiced each time such happened, and lately when it happened through a teenage girl in one of the South-West states.
Adeboye has been heard saying to his followers that they shouldn’t fight their battles by themselves, but pray. When members of his denomination were kidnapped recently on their way to the Redemption Camp in Ogun State, the media had the news that Adeboye called for prayers for the safe return of all the persons involved. He’s never been heard cataloguing faults of the political leadership; rather he calls for prayer for our leadership. I suppose these are the things a man of God should be doing rather than taking to the press and the streets to cast the political leadership as devil. Pastors don’t use their utterances to set up people against one another across religious or tribal lines. They promote peace among peoples, because all human beings are potential members of their constituency.
It was also in the media that time when the wife of a pastor in Adeboye’s denomination was murdered in Abuja while she was out preaching. This General Overseer visited the family and the media quoted as saying he prayed the murderers would become servants of God. Some activist-pastors would have sensationally added the murder to their long list of “killing of Christians”, demonize our governments, accusing them of sponsoring the murderers. On that occasion, however, Adeboye made the kind of call one would expect a pastor to have lifted directly from the Book he carries. Activist-pastors would rather lift rhetoric, encouraging more hate among their followers having lost sight of their core mission. Once a servant of God loses focus of his core mission, he would pursue a legitimate matter in a wrong way. It’s what many activist-pastors are doing at the moment.
For long, Adeboye has been heard saying many of his “children” are in sensitive places. As such, he wouldn’t say or engage in things that would put them in trouble. That’s showing a high sense of responsibility. In any case, how does a pastor pray for his followers to be blessed only to turn around and say inflammatory things that would cause chaos in the land? Would his children thrive in an atmosphere of crisis that’s fallout of his rhetoric? There were occasions when Adeboye said he stayed in his corner minding his “own business”. I read that to mean he chooses to focus on his calling as pastor, meaning he looks at the Book he carries and does exactly what it instructs him to do. Do those hate-filled things that some activist-pastors say come from the same Book?
There was that press release not long ago from the RCCG in which Adeboye’s church stated that their leader had not been silent over the security situation in the country. It was added that their leader had actually been calling for prayers over the nation’s challenges. He had also, in his own way, been communicating his views to the appropriate authorities. It’s clear that what Adeboye believes in informs his action. As such he wouldn’t take to the street to demonise political leadership, or write letters to the British MPs alleging that kidnappers and Boko Haram insurgents were propped up by our governments to attack Christians.
My observation is that many activist-pastors who engage in inflammatory rhetoric are motivated more by their sense of ethnic loyalty than by their core mission which is a universal mission. They fight for their minority ethnic groups which they project as the only Christians to be found especially in the North. Meanwhile, there are Christians who belong to ethnic groups that they demonise. Imagine anyone demonising an entire tribe for the criminality of a few bad eggs, just because they have pre-existing and historically-informed issues against the tribe. Once an activist-pastor slips into this ethnic-focused fight, for me, he’s not a religious leader. He’s an ethnic jingoist and that reference to “killing of Christians” is a cover-up to fool the uninformed.
The matter is compounded by the fact that many who wear garbs as servants of God are increasingly acquiring the mentality of activists. Yet, if they engage in activism at all, it should be to promote peace among peoples so that they can win them over. Recently, in the midst of tense security situation in the country and the activism of some Christians, Adeboye was heard saying that “a prayerful Christian achieves much more than an activist.” I think this summarises the reason behind what some have read as Adeboye’s silence. It shows that the mentality of pastors who invite their followers to constant prayer – encourage formation of prayer chains, 24-hour prayer rain etc. – would be different from activist-pastors who research to find the latest popular rhetoric.
Moreover, doctrines differ among Christian denominations. There are denominations whose leaderships don’t discourage their pastors from engaging in civil protests. Meanwhile, if a pastor does this in other denominations, he would be told he’s overstepping the bounds of his calling. Activism also has different meanings and scope in different denominations. Most denominations have their social corporate responsibilities that include provision of basic amenities in disadvantaged communities. But they wouldn’t go to town and utter inflammatory rhetoric against the political leadership or tribes that it is their obligation to win over.