ACCRA — These days, the designation ‘unbeliever’ or ‘freethinker’ would best describe tongues-speaking Christians than agnostics or even atheists. Trapped between the extremes of doubt and fear, Christians (or shall we say church patrons) have become so gullible and helpless, ready to part with anything for a little slice of hope. The size of the sacrifice usually determines the weight of the miracle and the blessing.

Perhaps, our modern and technology-driven society is more gullible than the 17th century audience of Tartuffe, a classic Jean Baptiste Poquelin dramatisation which featured a self-righteous hypocrite also called Tartuffe. The man of God hides under the Christian faith to undertake sinful and diabolic acts in the household of a wealthy man. At the height of his deception, Tartuffe rules the conscience of his host, Orgon, takes his money, eats his best meals, and entices him to will his house to him.

Faith, fears and fraud

To please the religious man, Orgon even disinherits his own son for reporting the man of God’s attempts to have an affair with Orgon’s wife. Impressed with Tartuffe’s devout nature, the wealthy man declares: “I could see my brother, children, mother, and wife, all die, and never care–a snap.” In the end, we learn from the mother of Orgon: “Appearances are oft deceiving and seeing shouldn’t always be believing.”     

Ghana has produced a lot of Tartuffes lately, who are coning, fooling and robbing  people of their hard-earned money. Like cult idols, they have become Gods to their congregations, enslaving their faith and exploiting their fears and insecurities for their selfish gain. It looks and feels so much like a con, so why are people falling for it?

Even intellectuals are falling for it. Like Orgon, they will watch their wives and children die and honour Malachi 3:10 with their tithes. They sacrifice to feed the men of God fat and fresh while they fast and starve for miracles. The cult idols can afford to spend holidays in Los Angeles with their wives and children while the congregation stays behind to pray. Bishop Obinim regularly boasts that he owns 20 houses and a number of plush Range Rover vehicles, which he gives away as gifts to his junior pastors.

God of men or men of God

When poor and oppressed people are sedated on faith, their minds are fertile enough to believe any unintelligible palabra that promises some temporary relief from their difficult circumstances. Why would a young nursing mother donate her car to her pastor while she uses public transport? The hardworking husband who bought her the car threatened divorce if she did not retrieve the car. She opted for divorce, instead.

In another sad case, a man of God instructs his congregation to drop all their money on the floor. He commands God to cast away the demons, bad luck and ill-health afflicting them. Suddenly, all the demons and bad omen enter the money. The next instruction was for them to stamp their feet on the money and make the devil dirty. You will not take home devil-possessed money, will you? He went round collecting the money as offering. After church, he drove away his Mercedes Benz with his pretty wife.

In the midst of economic hardships, palpable disillusionment and frightening insecurities, people have lost the moral power and the emotional intelligence to ‘fight’  their battles. They cannot take a ‘flight’ from obvious danger to keep safe or ‘freeze’ to assess life choices and decide what is best for them. Instead, they have willed away their authority and judgment to men of God, who treat it as a carte-blanche to turn and twist their faith. Their popular refrain is ‘Give until you can give no more’. The second is ‘pray until something happens.’ The last step is to fast until the miracle is here.

Looming catastrophe

Last week, two respected Ghanaian scholars broached a subject that has almost become an epidemic. Writing in the Daily Graphic, Professor Agyemang Badu Akosah, a renowned pathologist and politician, worried that “there are so called men of God who have built occult status like Obinim and are virtually worshipped…” Taking aim at their unusual preaching style which targets the devil’s mother in-law, the scholar observed that “superstition has become a belief and people are held close as hostages accepting everything they are told without raising a figure.”   

In The Finder newspaper, Dr. Samuel Dornyo, President of the College of Counselling and Psychology, talks about the twin abuse of human rights and the Bible. He laments that men of God are “able to motivate people with the charismatic flair such that their followers carry out their instructions without thinking. Somebody just reads a portion of the Bible and interprets it to them and keeps them in ignorance.” The counselor warns that if things are not checked, “one day we are going to witness a major catastrophe.”      

The saving grace

Like lawyers and bankers, men of God too deserve some of the best things in life.   Tartuffe provides the evidence: “Love for the beauty of eternal things cannot destroy our love for earthly beauty.”  The problem is where the earthly beauty seem to be the condition and consequence of the saving grace.

Perhaps, the only people who do not get to see much of the earthly beauty are the freelance and itinerant pastors who preach the gospel in passenger buses. And that is because they do not have a permanent tithe-paying congregation or a standing choir. Their aim is to get one. They become cult idols when they build their church.

Usually, the transformation of budding and honest preachers to cult idols is quite dramatic. From flamboyant shoes to pink and orange suits, they court popularity through dodgy miracles, alarming prophecies and weird prosperity sermons. Their style contrasts sharply with the few devout and genuine men of God who are contributing to the spiritual, social and economic development of their congregants. Oh Otabil.

By their fruits, we shall know the Tartuffes in pulpits. Well, don’t we know them already by their shoes and suits? We will not wait for their fruits to mature before we harvest their fraud and deception. If these are the end times, then let’s end their time before another Jim Jones happens on our poor soils.

 

11 COMMENTS

  1. “Why would a young nursing mother donate her car to her pastor while she uses public transport? The hardworking husband who bought her the car threatened divorce if she did not retrieve the car. She opted for divorce, instead.” ~ Kwesi Tawiah-Benjamin

    O belief! How much you hinder us. It may be said with some plausibility that there is an abecedarian ignorance that comes before knowing who these cult leaders are, and another doctoral ignorance that comes after the revelation of the Tartuffe: an ignorance that the truth creates and engenders, just as it undoes and destroys the first.

    For these “darling worshippers” as Kwesi aptly describes them, their destitution can oftentimes be supremely baffling. The lack of wealth is easily repaired but the poverty of the soul is irreparable and this is perhaps where the Cult leader, like Obinim, lives and thrives. Kwesi has magnetically elucidated the troubling sight and the troubling news we have become all too familiar with: the Church and the wealthy cult Tartuffes that man them.

    Enjoy!

  2. Akosua M. Abeka, and Kwesi T. B. You are just reminding me of my current pain and experiences, which I have almost conquered such a mountain.

    I married a good woman, further her education, after graduation got herself connected to a Prophet which I can not explain how they met but as days passed by, suddenly grew fear of loosing his husband and has to perform sacrifices using my resource, inconnive with the pastor in context to secure his husband faithfulness to the marriage.

    The more I notice such behaviour the more I threaten to divorce her, the higher the fear and the higher allegiance she turns to owe to that Prophet against his husband, painful aspect of this whole drama is, such an action was carried out in consensus with her mother.

    Before her family came to the round table she had dare me, gone to that extreme, such that I had already plan my exit strategy.

    Realising her mistakes and a little pride I know around her, finding it difficult to sincerely apologize has caused the marriage hanging and using my Kidd’s as leverage to approach me with all the patient for such gimmicks.

    So for such kind of Pastors & Prophets I do not take them likely that is why I least comment about them.
    Akosua is very smart to notice my comment in relation to marriage and pastors to have tag me. Hahahaha

  3. Tweneboah Senzu, I had no idea. I wish you all the best though. These cases are fast becoming the norm it frightens the heck out of me. There’s a way that society could help mitigate some of this abuse that mostly women suffer at the hands of conniving pastors. Perhaps, a human rights investigation. Perhaps investigations of abuse. I know these are tricky legally. But we can all help.

  4. Very good eye opener by Kwesi Tawiah-Benjamin for those who seriously would like to wake up and clearly see the looming dangers to our people in Ghana at present! One of the main reasons why things are the way they have become, with the increasing obscenity of the gross abuse of religion by “gods of men, not men of God”, is because their intoxication of the suffering masses of our Afrikan people with the opium of Pseudo-Religion helps the politricking Contricksters also to misuse and abuse them for their own predatory selfish ends! We must all work harder to find the appropiate way out for Ghana as soon as possible!

  5. ABSOLUTE FAITH/BELIEF – The purposeful suspension of critical thinking.
    ” When you’ve intentionally, and for most of them unconsciously, convinced yourself that, there’s this place you’re gonna go, for which there is absolutely no evidence, it’s something people pull right out of the a**. I’m sure it’s easier to lay your head on a pillow” – Bill Maher.

  6. Apt. ” When poor and oppressed people are sedated on faith, their minds are fertile enough to believe any unintelligible palabra that promises some temporary relief from their difficult circumstances.” That is a crucial aspect of this disaster of our time. I think we also owe a greater portion of our current state to the cultural socialization that ” wutumi bisa oyankupong asem” you cannot question God. Just who are you to question God? As for the “God of men” whom we perceive as ” Nyame nipa” Men of God we can not judge them. Even a stray dog who frequents church premises knows this, “Touch not my annointed.” and so here we are doing what we know best, meekingly obeying without questioning. This is a looming catastrophe about to play out indeed if pragmatic interventions which will trigger a change of perception and shift us from our attitude of docility and gullibility are not immediately placed. I say only a consciously designed campaign ( to move us away from ( our over reliance on ) God) strategically rolled out to educate all of us including the old and especially the youth to shift us off this course can save us from ourselves. But who is to take up this charge? Try it, DEVIL!

  7. Again, in Societies where systems are well placed to bring some level of (health) socio-economic relief to the masses however inadequate not everything is about God. In such societies even when God takes a front seat in a person’s life GOD does not dominate the individual’s entire narrative and actions from January to December. That God makes allowance for her/ his flock to cut themselves a break and apply the brain capacity he blessed them with to the full realization of her/his glory.

  8. People will do anything for money, especially prey on the vulnerable. This is where religious figures like pastors take advantage of members of their congregations though I cannot see how people can’t see through this. If the pastor is living larger than life with luxury cars and multiple homes, that is a clear sign of corruption.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here