A Sacerdotalist War on God
Man has, since time immemorial, always wanted to be God. If that meant the creation of a notion of God so that they could ascend to it—so be it. But there, in fact, being a God, the task was made easier. And what is God if not an entity on which to base to wield enormous wealth and power? And so it was throughout the course of history—God has been slave to man’s particular mundane interests. By feigning service to Him, some men throughout history have managed to squeeze out servitude from fellow men. After all, doesn’t Leviticus 27:30, with a slew of other Biblical verses, say something to the effect that, “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.” And isn’t the Lord found in the preacher’s pocket? Aren’t you and I tasked to lavish the preacher’s family with money? Aren’t we—if the preacher be up for it—tasked to feed his mistresses? And in Act 5 didn’t Ananias and Sapphira face one of the Bible’s top dramatic deaths owing to a lie they told about a money they had promised God? Won’t we be facing a similar fate should we refuse to comply with feeding the preacher, both in necessity and whim?
In the world’s longest running con—something looking as though devised by Ananse—these supposed servants of God have stood in the doorway, acting as forced mediators between humankind and God. Before the French Revolution of the 18th century, what had ensued in the Kingdom of France was a division of society into three classes: the First Estate (clergy), the Second Estate (nobility), and the Third Estate (commoners). One was born and died in their assigned category. Atop this stringent man-made categorisation purporting to be God’s, were the supposed men of God—the clergy.
Not only was one short-changed in this hierarchical order economically, politically, sociologically, but they were also expected to be the most generous—they alone constituted the taxed population. They existed first to feed the indulgent stomachs of the First and Second Estates. The clergy and nobles, they paid nothing. So then, persons cursed enough to be born into the Third Estate—the commoners, were a Groundhog Day of the widow of Mark 12:41—theirs was to give their very last mites to feed the rich and powerful.
It was yours to work like a slave to feed the kings and the men of God. Modern society complains about the former a lot—our politicians and the waves of taxes they impose on us; we forget the latter, the First Estate—ahem!—the preachers who require from us feeding like no other.
Imperfect people attempting a perfect God.
In 16th century Germany, a brilliant young man was on his way back to his university when lightning struck so close to him that he, to his own dismay, shouted, ‘Awuradie!’ I’m lying; what he really said was, “Help Saint Anna, I will become a monk!” Which may just be a bit of an overreaction, but who can blame the man, he thought he was going to die. So then, Martin Luther, just fifteen days after this event in 1505, found his way, to his father’s dismay, in a monastery. He did become a monk—one of the most conservative jobs a person could take on. Yet, it was there that this gentleman launched a revolutionary regime, one that overthrew centuries upon centuries of oppression.
What had existed in Christian societies, under the reign of the one church, the Catholic church, was among others, fraudulent doctrines like ‘purgatory’, ‘indulgences’, etc. Indulgences were basically the ‘anointed oil’ of those eras—serving a specific purpose. It was a payment one made to the church to reduce the amount of punishment one had to suffer for their sins. It is a rich man’s world and a poor man’s hell, is it not? That even in sin, even in admission to heaven, the rich could buy their way out; while the poor, suffer a lack of attainment of full redemption or no redemption at all—for a lack of purchasing power.
The church’s fictional creation—‘purgatory’ was a place where souls went that were tainted; souls that required monetary penance be made on their behalf. It was only after such payments were made on one’s behalf that prayers made for them could unlock the gates of heaven, so that they may enter it.
And here was Martin Luther, a young man so pious that lightning had converted him into a monk. He, having had direct access to the Bible due to his position as a monk, began writing vehemently against these fraudulent doctrines.
What is history without science—without innovation? It was coincidentally during this period that the printing press industry was at its very height. About a century before Luther, the German goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg had invented the printing press. What followed was a Printing Revolution, which propelled the spread of ideologies quicker than ever done before. Like every revolution, the successful revolutionary is not necessarily the first to conceive of the ideology at hand. They are mostly merely those who are best able to commit ideologies into longsuffering actions. Martin Luther was not the first to have strong reservations about certain practices of the church, he was the one to take the most advantage of the medium of printing to proliferate his ideologies.
It did not take long for Luther to gather a following. The flaws of the German society spurred by the church, was too glaring for the people to miss—a people riddled by poverty yet feeding the few rich. Such a people did not need too much convincing to rally behind toppling such oppressive regime. In 1516 when the Catholic Church had ordered one of its minions to go about selling indulgences (salvation) to commoners to raise money so as to rebuild the St. Peter’s Basilica, Luther protested in writing, “Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus, build the basilica of St. Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money?” Why? Because the pope needed that enormous wealth to remain in his enormous pocket.
It is funny, is it not? It is funny how us all in this modern world remain Sisyphus. Looking at how circular the world has been—since antiquity to this modern age; looking at how history constantly repeats itself, as though a play written by an exhausted playwright—they themselves Sisyphus, one cannot help but detect the underlying absurdity in it all. Writing the same stories over and over again, but with different characters—that seems to be humankind’s reality. Isn’t it tragic that one can even now redirect this same statement by Luther, made over five hundred years ago, to any of the supposed men of God now, and have the statement valid?
That same year, 1516, Luther’s writing spread the wide expanse of Germany, and far into the rest of Europe. Luther’s revolution was swift because the people were already in agreement, what they lacked and needed was a leader—and they found it in Luther. One by one, he with his writings and teachings, was overthrowing the church’s corrupt ideologies: indulgences, purgatory and the monetary payments it required. The Bible had for long been denied the people and restricted to the hands of the Catholic priests only—Luther changed that. He translated the Bible into his native tongue—German, then a vernacular, making the Gospel all the more accessible to the ordinary people.
Crafty, is it not?—to fill a people’s minds with ideologies purporting to be derived from God, and then deny them access to the document purported to contain these supposed ideologies. Through the tireless work of Luther and co., the Bible now lies in every hand, not just that of Catholic priests. The people have been gifted with the means of finding out the truth for themselves.
But isn’t it ironic though, that the early church, believing that keeping the source of knowledge—the Bible—from the people was the only way to keep these people subservient to their insatiable demands for money, have in the end, been proved to have believed wrongly? Isn’t it sad that even now, centuries after this man toiled to get the Good Book into the hands of us all, these supposed men of God still find themselves suffering nothing—suffering not a loss? Isn’t it telling how the people are ever-willing to close their eyes to reason—to the Good Book, to truth, and instead, throw their hard-earned moneys freely at these men?
European societies, and historic societies prior it, suffered enormous economic distress—for the majority was in poverty, while the very tiny minority basked in unearned wealth. These deteriorations were all owed to these ideologies with the church bizarrely at the forefront. From Germany to France, England to Switzerland, the bane of fraudulent men of God were suffered by society. From Germany to France, England to Switzerland, this regime was overthrown owing to the likes of Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli.
In 1534 England, Pope Clement VII made the revolutionary work all the more easy, by stubbornly refusing to annul the marriage of a hotheaded king, Henry VIII madly in love with another woman. Oh! Wasn’t this king quick to sign a declaration rendering the pope virtually powerless. God is all-powerful, but woman…she is quite the contender.
Cry your own cry
Look at us here pitying these early European societies. Was it not around these same years that the European, armored with a fraudulent God, found his way on the African shore and committed devil-orchestrated atrocities upon an entire continent of people? The devil comes to steal and kill and destroy—steal and kill and destroy they did. And this murderous war and theft they waged against us, still continues to have dire repercussions on us and our kinsfolk interspersed throughout the world. The West, they also lent us generously, this faulty ideology of the people tasked to feed the clergy—preachers. And this continues to have serious repercussions on our budding African societies.
Man has, since time immemorial, always wanted to be servant. If that meant the invention of a God to whom to play servant—so be it. But there, in fact, being a God, this task was made easier. And God being intangible, man had to find a medium to which to channel this servitude. And men of God, since time began, have been ever-ready to submit themselves as such medium. They, a people who have supposedly pledged service to God, have done so, positioning themselves as gods themselves to whom service is owed.
But there comes a time, when a people having been made subject to such oppression for so long, find themselves having had enough, and revolt against the oppressive regime. But this revolution, sadly, almost always, is never complete…
The Faults of Revolutions
Like every revolution, the revolutionary almost always ends up exactly as the regime it toppled. Luther’s reformation of Germany, spreading to the rest of the world; Calvin’s reformation of Switzerland, spreading to the rest of the world, were—with all the protestant revolutions waged—soon to find themselves replicating the flaws of the one Catholic church whose indomitable power they had sought to break. God cannot catch a break, can He?
The protestant man of God was soon demanding of his flock the same service, payments, moneys, the Catholic priest had required of his congregation years prior. And even now, as we sit in the 21st century, the congregant is entreated—bullied most times—to make monetary submissions to the feet of the preacher, as the 16th century European commoner had been made to make same to their priests. The same Biblical verse used to milk this bondage by the early century Catholic church is being used now by the modern era church to tax the poor to enrich the man of God.
There is no better of these two evils—the first, a centralised power of corruption, the second, pocket-size interspersed centres of corruption—both defeat God and state. Both reek of the devil.
Religion has, since time began, been a powerful tool. It requires and attains unwavering religious adherence than any other human cause. Religion wields such enormous power that should they redirect solely, their attention towards the unadulterated benefits of all in societies, nations would experience unparalleled growth and prosperity. But should they focus their attention on feeding the insatiable needs of the few—of greedy supposed men of God, a nation would experience unparalleled deterioration, mass devastations and poverty.
If churches refuse to see the power they wield; or they, with no patriotic bone in their body, recognise this power and play it as villainous as possible to their own financial gain, what will ensue will be to the detriment of us all. In this globalised era, the tag ‘failed state’ is more painful than the conceived extent of the adjective ‘failed’ itself. In this global era, it is like attending a topnotch school. That almost always means a greater pool of successful classmates. When one does poorly in life, the sting is greater. One finds themselves often hiding from classmates here and there. And experience has shown that the tag of ‘failed state’ is most easily arrived at by nations with the help of religion.
The men of God, they are not stupid. Each knows exactly what they are—some are pure agents of the devil tasked to ensure the deterioration of society; others may just be—just be—potential angels who may lend enormous helping hand to the development of society.
Let’s continue this next week. A word of advice for this rainy season, though—if you find yourself, like me, dead-scared of lightning, kindly watch the promises you make to God—each time one strikes.
[Published in Business and Financial Times, B&FT - 5th April 2021]