The opulent and extravagant lifestyle of Pentecostal pastors has attracted unwholesome attention across the world with the Hollywood television series, “Preachers of LA”, being emblematic and very instructive. In Nigeria, there are obscenely rich pastors that are rated amongst the richest in the country; some of them ride in motorcades of bulletproof SUVs, while some drive limousines and the crème-de-la-crème among them fly in private jets.
Many of them have established educational institutions with the tithe and offering of a laity that cannot afford to send their children there.
A few years ago, a weekly magazine blazoned on its cover, “In Jesus Name Incorporated”. Shortly thereafter, I stepped out to the carport of Transcorp, Abuja, one evening and behold, a black SUV pulled up. Immediately it stopped, a burly young man with menacing biceps bounced out of the front door and opened the rare door from which a foremost pastor in Nigeria emerged. Along with him were armed policemen from the other doors of the SUV. At the heels of that, other SUVs pulled up and the scenario was encored.
As they went towards the door of the lobby, I said very audibly. “ In Jesus Name Incorporated”. One of them turned swiftly, we met eyeball-to-eyeball and he turned around and went through the entrance.
With church events becoming a daily affair, Pentecostal pastors declare: “Jesus was born poor that I may be rich” and the congregation of thousands render a thunderously deafening “Amen!!!” I wonder if the faithful have stopped and contemplated the essence and spiritual significance and effect of that ritual, especially taken within the context of the phenomenally potent powers of intention and law of attraction.
This piece subjects this feature of Pentecostalism to analysis for the purposes of enlightening the rare few who dare venture into deep thought on issues of religion.
First, the declaration begins with a fallacy: Jesus was not born poor; on the contrary, he was born very rich. Joseph took his family on three donkeys to Bethlehem for the census. By contemporary standards, that would be a motorcade of three SUVs. He searched every Inn but they were all fully booked; given the situation, he moved into a barn where Jesus was born in a manger. Therefore, the birth of Jesus in a manger was circumstantial and not a reflection of the socio-economic status of Joseph.
For further reading on this topic, the reader should accesss my article, “Jesus: Born or Rich?” in the Internet.
Returning to the spiritual implication of the autosuggestion on the altar in which pastors declare “Jesus was born poor that I may be rich” and the congregation thunders “Amen!!!”, it is offered that the keyword in the assertion is “I”, thereby making the pastor the sole beneficiary of the anticipated material outcomes of the pronouncement and affirmation. Pastors do not say “that you may be rich”, in which case, the suggestion would be for the benefit of members of the congregation, which, inadvertently, does not include the pastor and would, therefore, tantamount to altruism to a virtue that disappeared from the pulpit long ago.
Again, pastors do not say “that we may be rich”, which includes priest and laity and would have been ideal; rather they say, “that I may be rich”.
This is a spoken spiritual spell that produces trance like conditioning on the congregation and leads to lack of consciousness, hence greater responsiveness, to the suggestions and the thunderous “Amen!!!”, which is a collective declaration of assent. So, the congregation is saying “so be it” to the self-seeking and self-enrichment spell of the pastor without realizing that they are not included in the anticipated material outcomes of the declaration.
I have said times without number that “the greatest hoaxes in humanity are embedded in the concretes of the obelisks, towers and domes of organised religion”. The current hero worship in Pentecostalism has become very alarming. Some congregations now pray to the God of pastor XYZ innocently believing that he worships the true God. Whereas, heavenly race is a purely personal pursuit.
Worshippers should realize that, in view of the frenzied proliferation of churches, there are many wolves in sheep skin in Christendom. They should know that to say “Amen” to a prayer is to agree with whatever is its substance. “Amen” should, therefore, be said with their God-given intellect switched on and they should be watchful of cassock-clad pedophiliac and pederast priest, predator pastors and the plunderous pack of peripheral preachers who work wonders in Jesus’ name. Little wonder the Bible says that “judgement must begin at the house of God”. (Peter 4:17).
Obviously, we all have ears. However, for some, the ears are ornamental, hence the Bible says, “he that hath ears to hear let him hear”. (Matt 11:15)
Osai is of the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.