Recently, pastors have been found to commit many gaffes especially in the area of utterances. Nowadays, we don’t know who is worse — Fani-Kayode, Ayo Fayose, Donald Trump, Tompolo, or a Nigerian pastorpreneur. From their pulpit speeches to their books and social media write-ups, terrible errors and monumental misyarnings are ubiquitous. And just like magic, such lip slips become viral immediately.
And this virality is to the chagrin of their followers. They don’t want the speech of their fathers in the Lord to go viral for the wrong reason. Even though some of them know within themselves that the criticism being meted out to their idol is well justified, they just don’t want you to do it. They won’t do it and they won’t let you do it. They bring up several ineffective defences and even resort to subliminal threats just to gag you.
I once asked some Christ Embassy people whether it’s right for their pastor to collect gate fees for a church service. Of course, they agree that generally it’s not right but it was right for their own pastor to do it. Pastor Adeboye also said you will miss heaven if you don’t pay tithes. Of course, they know within themselves that that’s an approach too toutish for decency but they will still defend him. TB Joshua’s people will kill you if you try to say anything against their idol. Click here to see TB Joshua’s followers’ comments on one of my previous articles.
It’s important to note that these gaffes became more consequential because of the growth of the social media and Internet penetration. Pick the cooking-praying-gate of the amiable Daddy G. O. for instance (click here to read about it). In the era when we couldn’t share videos very easily, the gaffe wouldn’t have reached so many people and thus wouldn’t have generated the kind of reaction it generated. As suggested by scholars, this is one of the ways by which Internet access affects the religiosity of a society.
I should actually have titled this article ‘Why People Won’t Criticize Their Pastors’. That’s the more appropriate title but I felt it wouldn’t bite enough. So I changed it to this one.
Why do people throw reasoning away when it comes to their pastors? Why won’t they criticize their pastors? Why do people defend what they would not ordinarily defend? Why don’t folks see those same errors that we see? Why would some people who see those errors still flock in the crowd that follow these pastors? As I’m typing this, a large crowd is gathered at the express for the convention listening to the same man that some of them disagree with. Why?
I’m a student of why’s and how’s. I do less of what’s. I believe it’s more important to study why people think what they think and how they think what they think than finding out what they think. These are the things that determine the direction of the society.
Of course, people do ask me why I concentrate on religion generally and Christianity and pastors more specifically. Well, that’s coming up in another article. I myself really wish I could move on from this topic to other things as I have so many issues to thrash out on this blog. But somehow I just find myself hammering on this same thing. I really don’t want to sound monotonous but I just find myself having to keep saying the same thing, abandoning so many other issues. It’s like a part of your body that’s itching: you can’t help yourself scratching it till the itching stops. For now, I’ve not stopped itching. I promise that in a subsequent article, I’ll tell you why I’m feeling this way.
But for now, let’s concentrate. Everytime we try to speak about these popular pastors, we get a lot of resistance. The same people who will criticize Buhari or Fayose are the same ones that will carry weapons to defend their daddies in the Lord for even worse vocal offences. So many reasons why they do that but all the reasons can be summed up into three. Let’s go!
1. Their existence is tied to what the pastors represent
I once said that humans can’t live without a purpose. Human lives are meaningless and we all know it. We die like chickens or even worse. Vanities rule our lives. We’re an insignificant part on the grand scale of the universe. Our intellectual ambitions outweigh our cognitive ability. I can go on and on. Therefore, to do away with this apparent emptiness of our existence, we need to create something, add lots of artificial substance to it, and then tie our existence to it. Once we do that, suddenly our ordinarily meaningless existence becomes meaningful.
That’s where the pastors come in. The pastors represent something that forms the basis of their followers’ lives. The same pastor is a doctor, father, husband, mentor, psychologist, life coach, and perhaps engineer, to millions of people. Even though most of them don’t have any physical contact with him, they derive hope for living just by hearing his voice or seeing him from afar. That’s why they’re blocking the Lagos-Ibadan expressway for the annual convention as I type this. He’s their antithesis. They’re failures but that fact disappears in their minds once they see and emotionally attach to daddy G. O. who is a success of some sort. By some wireless connection, his success becomes theirs and blurs their own failures. Even though they might never own a car in their lives, they fantasize about it when they hear him narrate the story of how he got his first car. And that fantasy soothes. Hope you get the idea now?
So you think they would let you disparage the pillar that holds their lives (literally)? You think they would let you attack the very glue that holds the pieces of their shattered lives together? Come on! You sure know they won’t let that happen. So when next someone attacks you for speaking against his general overseer (and by extension, his adopted father), know that it’s because he considers it that you’re attacking his whole existence. Don’t attack a man’s existence and expect him to pat you on the back, capish?
It’s the same reason why Muslims go haywire when you attack the Prophet or the Quran. And it’s the same reason why Guru Marahji (the one on the Ibadan end of the same highway) followers won’t take it easy with you if you criticize their God. And that’s why Hindus won’t laugh with you if you kill a cow. That was why the traditionalists would sacrifice you to the gods if you abused the gods. Religion (and all its totems like the general overseers) is the pillar that holds people’s lives. Well, as they say, that pillar should be the invisible God but in the absence of the invisible God, physical objects (books, temples, persons, observances and rituals, etc) always fill the gap.
The solution to this problem is simple. Wean people off any of such pillars. Emancipate them from psychological dependency. Create an environment where they have a better control of their situations and you see them become intellectually independent. That’s why all the surveys report that in more economically developed nations, fewer people find religion important in their lives. This concept was fully explored in my article titled ‘Poor governance forced Nigerians to run to their gods’. Click here to read it.
2. Social pressure
Social pressure keeps people away from criticizing their pastors or letting you help them criticize him. The social pressure comes from certain attachments. Basically, two attachments.
The first attachment is what I call ‘Stockholm syndrome’. Wikipedia defines this as
…a psychological phenomenon…in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with the captors.
This is the situation when a prolonged period of emotional attachment with someone who hurts you makes you start feeling love instead of hate for the person. It’s why people can’t leave abusive romantic relationships. It’s the reason why a girl still keeps on dating a guy that beats her. The girl asks, if I leave him, who else do I go to?
Whether the pastor marches on them or threatens them to drop money in church, they can’t turn their backs on him. They’ll defend him to death. Even when they agree with your criticism, they hide it and keep a straight face. They can’t let go. The emotional attachment is next to unbreakable.
This reminds me of the very extreme cases recorded in history. One of such is the story of the Branch Davidians. They are a Christian sect that originated in the Seventh-Day Adventist church in 1955. In 1993, after many reports of disappearances, wilful hostage-taking, weapon acquisitions, and other many crimes, the US government moved to invade the sect’s sanctuary in Texas. A warrant was finally issued against David Koresh, the current sect’s leader, after so many attempts to get him to release his followers. The followers refused to leave the abusive religious worship. They even cut all communication channels with friends and family as they loved their hostage situation with David. 82 men, women, and children took up weapons to defend their building against the armed FBI and other security officers outside the building. On the final day of the 51-day siege, the security had to open fire on the building. The Davidians were all killed but they also took four ATF guys down. That was Stockholm syndrome.
The second social attachment is with family and friends who also follow the same pastor. Folks are afraid of what their friends and family would make of their affront on the public image of the same person who they collectively adore. There are folks who will never openly criticize their pastor because they might be sacked by their employers who are ardent followers of the same pastor. A student who openly criticizes these pastors might fail exams if the lecturer is a disciple of the pastor. A guy can be jilted by his girlfriend for the same reason. This social, communal, glue ties everybody together in the hero worship of pastors. You can’t easily break free.
3. Fear of evil repercussions
Religion has progressed by reinforcing the fear of the unknown. ‘God is a consuming fire’. ‘Touch not mine anointed’. If you combine both scriptures, you come up with ‘If you speak evil of a pastor, something terribly evil will happen to you’. They say for speaking against his servant, God can get angry and kill you. They say this particular man is a genuine servant of God and if you criticize him, one misfortune might just befall you. So they’re careful in their speech about the pastors and they warn (or more like threaten) you to be careful too.
But this is very funny. I call it baseless timidity. If your speech is guided by these kinds of fears, you’re a pussycat. Unknown to these people is the fact that no unseen force determines whether misfortune befalls you in life or not and if such force even exists, the force must be very confused. Did Pastor Bimbo Odukoya blaspheme against any man of God before she died in the unfortunate plane crash? And who did Dr. Myles Munroe criticize before his own fatal plane crash too? And did Pastor Kumuyi’s wife die of cancer because she criticized Pastor Adeboye?
I’m not mocking these people’s deaths. I’m just driving home a point. Day-old babies die and is it because they criticize Daddy G. O? And those who were bombed inside the church by Boko Haram, which pastor did they criticize? For me, these are about the worst things that can happen to anyone in life. And if they happen to someone who didn’t criticize anybody, why do you think they will happen to you because you criticize a particular pastor? And if your God would so jealously defend his servants, why hasn’t he killed those who have bombed almost 1,000 churches and killed countless Christians in Northeast Nigeria? Stop scaring people with your tame God story. Any God that will kill or punish you for speaking against a pastor while he’s yet to kill the ISIS and Boko Haram members must be a comedian.
And those who haven’t criticized these pastors, how successful have they been in life? So you see? Nothing good or bad will happen to you because you criticize or don’t criticize a pastor. It doesn’t matter. Don’t let your desire to criticize anybody be modulated by cheap fears. But by the way, who won’t die? Who will live forever? Why should fear of death limit your reasoning capacity? This is the basis of the fearlessness with which folks like us talk. We’ve simply conquered our fears.
But like anything religious, winding explanations exist for any outcome. If something evil happens to you, they claim it’s the repercussion of your criticizing their pastor. And if nothing evil happens to you, they claim you’re still running on God’s mercy that will soon expire though.
Let me remind you once more that I’m not ready to keep quiet. Till I see my society undergo a mental upheaval, I won’t stop saying it the way I say it. I owe no one any apology for my articles. You can gnash your teeth or bang your head on the wall and it’s none of my business. I never expected you to like the truth. So I don’t expect you to like what I’m writing. But you know what? A maxim that originated in my circle says, ‘The truth will set you free but it will first piss you off.’
Think while it’s still legal!