Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka’s play, The Trial of Brother Jero unveils the dissimulation and sanctimony that resides in the hearts of those who embrace religion as a trade. The play symbolically re-enacts the superficial and self-gratifying attitude of those, who out of greed and ravenous craving for materialism dabble into religious domain with deceit and canard in their hearts. The dubious among us, capitalizing on the desperation of the populace for solutions to their exacerbated conditions, establish churches to deceive the unsuspecting, miracle-seeker who naively subscribe to the supernatural highway as a place of magic and arbitrariness.
We must at once identify three major categories of religious mendacity in Christianity, Islam and traditional idol worship all of them thriving on a dense, spiritual eclecticism. Whether as pastors, alfas or juju priests, they all distil components of a religious culture permeating a social milieu with its compromised essence. By so doing, these people, through serpentine guile orchestrate dupery and hoodwink the gullible while enriching their private enterprise. Since Soyinka’s The Trial of Brother Jero is deliberately anchored on the Christian faith, this piece will therefore address the chicanery that bestrides our contemporary Christian world. Through the main character, Brother Jero the entrenched perfidy and dishonesty which characterize most self-styled pastors are exposed.
A critical reading of Soyinka’s play throws up a soul-searching question regarding the motivation of those who preach, establish churches and arrogate to themselves omniscient voices in the lives of men. Pastors, evangelists, general overseers, and other such self-style accolades found in the Christian religion have made a mockery of the faith. It is regrettable that some people without conscience have ascribed to themselves, through clever manipulation supernatural powers without any real and genuine motivation to serve God or even propagate the gospel of salvation. A closer look at some Nigerians in this category show that greed is the propelling ingredient of their chosen profession.
This is because most of them manipulate the Bible in a very vicious way, misinterpret the word of God to achieve their inordinate and material ends. Listening to the preaching of most of these self-styled men of God, one’s inner sanctum is violated as ignorance and wickedness is consistently revealed in their proclamations. Unfortunately, the populace out of a desperate need for survival and a get-rich-quick mentality patronize these fake pastors, helping them to earn a living while propagating a gospel of falsehood and deception. The question to ask is, why is there so much wickedness and heartlessness in the society given that every corner of the country is populated by a church no matter how small or insignificant? Brother Jero in Soyinka’s play started from the beach with a few worshippers who he called his customers. Today, I am sure many pastors in the crevices of their hearts, will refer to their members as customers too.
There is a correlation between the attitude of those who embrace religion as a means of getting rich quick and those who embrace politics as a measure to accumulate wealth and deplete our common purse. If the motivation for some people to arrogate spiritual powers to themselves is to make gain, the same also can be said of some people who run to politics as a means of wealth creation. Looking at Nigeria’s political circle, it is indeed difficult to identity those who are genuinely motivated to serve the people and redeem them from poverty and penury. Politics and religion therefore have jointly become a channel through which the populace is daily impoverished, deceived and misled. Many politicians do not understand the basic tenets of governance or leadership. To them, it is all about wealth creation, siphoning massive amount of cash even if they do not need them, provided the funds are taken out of government coffers. The tragedy of the Nigerian political situation is that the populace have a predisposition to look away and mind their personal businesses as soon as elections are over. Nigerians fail to hold those they have voted to power to accountability. This criminal negligence on the part of the populace emboldens office holders to mismanage funds, enlarge their private coasts and set machinery in motion to be succeeded by their family members.
As I write this piece, my mind is troubled by many questions, which require immediate answers. First, is being a pastor a full-time occupation? I know of a few genuine men of God who are lawyers, engineers, lecturers, estate managers, bankers and medical doctors. These kinds of pastors pursue a profitable venture while also preaching the gospel. Yet there are those who do nothing other than search the scriptures for phrases that will convince people to part with their money. It is a case of clear ignorance on the part of the people who allow themselves to be deceived with all manner of religious sophism and sham. Is the worship of God based on monetary capacity where those who pay huge amount as tithes are recognized and given the front seats in churches? Is God impressed by this display of ostentation and obscenity that is pervading the churches all over the country?
Tragically, the church is no longer concerned about the source of the wealth of members provided they remit a hefty sum of it to the church coffers. Armed robbers, prostitutes, kidnappers, drug traffickers, importers of fake goods, smugglers, certified political and economic thieves are all welcomed in the church of God, provided they come with huge money. It is indeed a big shame. In the same vein, should politics be a full-time job? Is it not possible for our politicians to be engaged in other endeavours while also making laws in various capacities as is the case in Canada? It is because politics in Nigeria encourages crippling indolence with a monumental reward that is why people can do anything to get into political positions.
The time has come for us to wake up from this delusion and recognize that no pastor, who is always financially minded, has the capacity to lead us to salvation. God does not require anybody to sow a seed for any blessing from Him. He is not so small-minded to be reduced to the fallibility of mortal men. The time has also come for us to hold our political office holders at every level to accountability. 2019 beckons, although INEC has not lifted the ban on political activities, politicians are at it again, displaying posters and asking the people, despite their own misfortune, to vote for them. We must remember that hunger, hardship, bad roads and other indices that define a bad economy do not respect ethnicity. Therefore, if any politician at any level has failed to live up to expectations, he or she must be rejected outrightly. I admit that hunger is in the land, unemployment and excruciating poverty stand in the way of objectivity and aid the easy compromise of the people. We must recognize that our democracy is at risk if we continue to search for immediate stomach infrastructure while jettisoning our future.
Adiele writes from Department of English, University of Lagos