I saw a video last week--of a pastor directing a stream of water into the faces of parishioners, from his mouth-- for blessings! A few weeks before, I saw one of a pastor walking on the backs of prostrate parishioners to cast out demons!
It goes on and on.
When I first learnt of Marx referring to religion as the "opium of the people", it resonated with me as a Pan-Africanist. Christianity had been the tip of the colonial spear. It had rationalized slavery and all the evils visited on us. And so had Islam-- over a longer period and with more cruelty.
The moment the concept of evil Christianity was brought home to me was when I saw the place where beautiful hymns were sung before pious sermons were preached while slaves waited in dungeons below-- to be shipped across the Atlantic, at Cape Coast Castle in Ghana.
Now, don't get me wrong. People and institutions of faith have done some good things. They have built schools and hospitals and orphanages. They have given us fighters for freedom and dignity -- like MLK, Essamuah, Tutu and Aristide-- who made heaven proud by making God's work here on earth truly their own.
The oppressors have been gone for a long time but they left a strong rear-guard. There are black bishops and cardinals and reverends who make their white predecessors seem authentically native. Then there are the new churches, led with few exceptions, by businessmen masquerading as priests. Too many are more interested in selling holy water and incense than salvation.
Where the Bible talks about the work ethic, they talk about miracles and prayers in place of work. They are the voice of parties and politicians instead of the poor. Indeed, most people know their political affiliations. They pollute our neighbourhoods with noise from round-the-clock preaching and singing. They exploit the poor instead of helping them.
Recently, Ghana's most influential Christian leaders engaged in the Presidency. They did not engage on children or libraries or schools or jobs. They joined the President in an initiative to build a NATIONAL CATHEDRAL so we can have one more place to worship with our poverty and joblessness and hopelessness!
They encourage the sick to seek miracles and not medicines.
The leaders of African traditional religion are not much better, unfortunately.
The question then is this: Is religion an obstacle to our development or a catalyst?
Can religion promote integrity, accountability and compassion in our governance?
Unless the leaders of our churches and mosques and shrines move to the side of the people and truth and accountability and God, we must sweep them aside in order to develop.
Long live Africa.
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