I am a non-denominational Christian. It doesn’t mean much except that I don’t belong to a specific Christian denomination. I also happen to hold a university degree in the Study of Religion. I bolstered my religious studies by taking a course like Psychology of Religion back at Legon.
I am, therefore, fairly familiar with the History of the Church. Yes, The one Universal Church before it became churches after people walked away in search of reformation or due to disagreements. I am also quite familiar from my Christian upbringing, with the concept of touching not the anointed ones. (Psalm 105:15).
Of course, those who often quote this scripture, won’t tell you that it was said when the Psalmist recounted the Israelites search for the promised land. He reminds readers of the wonders of God and how he had ensured his people were not oppressed. God equally rebuked the Kings not to touch his anointed ones. University degrees or Christian upbringing certainly does not mean much unless we find a good use for them. Pretty much trite.
There have been two worrying statements on the Wesley Girls Senior High School situation. The first from the Methodist Church is pretty much empty and leaves one with more questions than answers. It alleges the non-fasting rule is non-religious. It adds that non-religious Muslims have passed through the school for years, abiding by the rule. The Church tracing its roots to John Wesley is quite familiar that years of practice and adherence does not make a rule right.
When John Wesley was accused of acting in ways contrary to the teachings of the Church of England. This is how he responded;
“First, I will not separate from the Church; yet, Secondly, in cases of necessity I will vary from it, (both of which 1 have constantly and openly avowed for upwards of 50 years,) and inconsistency vanishes away. I have been true to my profession from 1730 to this day.”.
Worth noting, he will not separate but in cases of necessity he will vary from it.
He continued “We act at all times one one plain uniform principle
“We will obey the rulers and governors of the Church, whenever we can consistently with our duty to God, whenever we cannot, we will quietly obey God rather than men”. Read Wesley’s Concept of Church by Howard Snyder.
The non-religious reason cited by the Methodist Church is difficult to analyze because it reveals little.I therefore fall on the second statement. It was issued by the Ghana Catholic Bishop’s Conference and the Christian Council of Ghana. It endorses the position of the Methodist Church and introduces a new dimension by adding that the decision of the school authorities is in the interest of the students. The statement goes on to make claims about advanced democracies allowing supposed mission schools to run the schools guided by the religious traditions of their respective Churches.
“…the academic and non academic rules and regulations of the Mission Schools have been guided by the religious traditions of our respective Churches”
Don’t get lost. Go back to the Methodist Church statement. Is it still a non-religious non fasting rule? Or rather a rule conforming to the traditions of the Methodist Church?
The statement proceeds “ … we therefore expect all who attend our Mission schools to comply with the codes of conduct of the School so that the discipline and high academic standards can be upheld”.
Not only is it worrying that the Christian bodies will simply say albeit diplomatically, “if you want to fast as your religion requires go to another school but not our mission schools”, it adequately reveals the real motive of the rule.
Ignore the discipline and claim of high academic standards. Not sure how sticking to traditions of respective Churches ensures this. I know devout Christians who perform terribly academically and non-devout Christians who perform exceptionally. There are also those who are devout who do perform exceptionally. So let’s not fall for the red herring of academic performance when it’s fasting we are discussing. Of course, the statement makes no claim of health which I would have rebutted anyways with contrary scientific data.
Back to the religious tradition point, the use the Church as a tool of indoctrination is not new. It has always been used to preach the Gospel.
A Paper by Ty Thompson titled
“Brainwash Education: Religiosity, Formal Education, and The Ghanaian mentality” notes that Mission schools were established for two main reasons; spreading the Gospel and getting people educated. This is the tradition I dare say, the Christian bodies speak of.
Thompson argues that this quest of indoctrinating citizens with the gospel didn’t change much with independence and post independence.
“In an attempt to better understand why the Ghanaian school system cannot function without Religious and Moral Studies I interviewed a handful of Primary School students, Junior Secondary School students, and Senior Secondary School students.
I asked them various questions about the school system, but my main focus was; what values, or lack there of, they found in religious and moral training. To my surprise every student gave me more or less the same response.
Christ and morals help. Why? Because you cannot be moral without Christ. Why? Because the church says. Coming from a western perspective these responses were baffling. Twelve students from three different schools (denominational and non- denominational), a variety of ages, and each one came to the same conclusion – you cannot be a good person without God, because the church says so. It would appear unlikely for so many students to all arrive at the same conclusion from an open ended question, but upon looking at the curriculum presented to the students on religion and morals it would be almost impossible for them to think any differently.”
We are in the year 2021. The nation has since 1993 adopted a Constitution that despite committing to God, preaches religious tolerance and freedom of religion. The preamble of the constitution says
“IN THE NAME OF THE ALMIGHTY GOD We the People of Ghana,…”
Article 21 (c) states
“All persons shall have the right to – freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom to practice any religion and to manifest such practice;”
It also makes room for restrictions where necessary. Article 21 (4) allows for such restrictions If it’s in interest of defence, public safety or public order not restrictions based on a desire to perpetuate religious traditions in a public school because of pre-existing ties. It cannot be a good view to say that we founded such schools we will insist on our Church values. If you disagree, go elsewhere. Schools have remained a key pillar in the peaceful co-existence between members of the Christian Faith and the Muslim and other faiths.
We cannot build a society where Muslims will go to Muslim schools and Christians to Christian schools. Under the Directive Principles of State Policy,the state has committed under Article 38 to provide educational facilities at all levels and in all the Regions of Ghana, and shall to the greatest extent feasible, make those facilities available to all citizens. A quest to fast resulting in denial of enjoyment of a faculty cannot fall within this feasibility extent.
The good book notes In Romans 14:1-4
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Let the Church be bold about its real intentions, obvious from a careful reading of the statements, rather than strangely suggest discipline, high academic performance and a non-existent non-religious reason.
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