I met an American evangelist in Ghana, who expressed his happiness about how Ghanaians have embraced God. The “Word of God is alive!” he exclaimed. I replied “It has always been”. He thought that it was the Bible that has brought Ghanaians closer to GOD. I had some moments of informed debate with him. This man enrolled at the Institute of African Studies for a course in cultural diversity and the understanding of GOD. The belief in GOD is an important aspect of Ghanaian life. In the old days, birth, puberty, marriage and death were all religious events. The presence of GOD was so pervasive that theft (with violence) was non-existent. The chief supported by the priests ruled the community with wisdom and authority. The community accorded high recognition to hard work. Holy days were reserved to worship GOD and for resting from hard work. It was during these days that anointed priests such as Okomfo Anokye performed their miracles. To use a modern-day terminology, GOD was interactive! Power brings accountability, and GOD never failed to discipline those who misused power given them Then came the day when the Europeans began to evangelise Africa. Of course, their Christian pastors have taught us how to read and write, something that our ancestors in ancient Egypt had done some 6000 years earlier. They supported the deportation of our ancestors to the US as slaves. Indeed we practiced human sacrifice, and that was bad. But we were coming to that realization – a reflection of the dynamism of culture. Remember that Judaism (parent religion of Christianity) had earlier learned from other religions and stopped human sacrifice. I think you know the story where Abraham was ordered to kill his Son. Those interested in the full story and related issues can read the original source upon which the 5 books of Moses were based (the F-sources). Note that there is also the Q source from which parts of synoptic Gospels were copied As Ghanaians we had lived with GOD for centuries, and our relationship with HIM has been based on mutual respect. We have accepted HIS deity and HE respected our humanity. But pastors are preaching us to disregard our culture. They told Ephraim Amu that he could not attend church in his Ghanaian cloth. They took the King of Asante (Asantehene) to Seychelles and returned him with an English name - an indication that God of the Bible is not fond of Ghanaian culture. During a trip to Haiti last week, I met a man who told me that he could not get admission to a particular high school because he refused to take a Biblical name. I can not believe that pastors under the inspiration of their God can deny people the right to cultural expression and education. Christians are quick to point out that these are bad pastors, but they are in the majority. Also, how can I separate the messenger from his message? Christianity without the messenger (Jesus) is nothing. Charismatic pastors tell us to beg God for prosperity. “If you take everything to God in prayer he will do it for you”. “The birds of the air do not farm but they eat”. These are quotations known to every Christian, particularly the lazy ones. Pastors emphasize these promises in order to obtain huge donations from congregation. Hard work is rarely preached because it will keep a lot of people at work and hence away from church on Sundays. The more Ghanaians have relied on these quick promises, the more impoverished we have become as a nation. (For those seeking statistical evidence, please model food security or GNP growth as a function of relevant variables and number of churches - the latter is positive and significant at 0.1%). People spend a greater part of their time in church than they spend planning their work. Instead of a nation of achievers, we have become a nation of losers, feeding on the generosity of others less endowed in natural resources than we are. These pastors quote from the Bible to illustrate the worthlessness of humanity. “Our righteousness is filthy rags before the Lord”. “We are saved only by Grace!” they say. I wonder what a youngman trying to determine his future will think when these words are preached to him at every opportune time. He begins to believe that he can do nothing. He needs to ask for mercy in order to use his own brains. He must beg God for things that he can easily acquire through his own might and sweat. The belief in God as preached by charismatic pastors does not help us develop our capacities. For example, the other time that Akosombo Lake was dry, the solution from these churches was to fast and pray. They went to Church to pray to God to fill the dam with water. One of the pastors even requested a trumpet, which he could blow to command the rains. He claims that Joshua caused Jericho Walls to collapse by the sound of a trumpet. However, the people including the pastors who went to church to pray for rain did not carry umbrellas. A basic thing you will do if you expect it to rain. In Israel where Jesus is born, if it does not rain, the churches are not filled with wailing congregation. Rather, they take airplanes into the sky and spray particles to induce condensation. During a discussion with a leader of one of the new churches in Accra, he tried to convince me that Ghana is poor because we do not rely on God’s promise. According to him, Jesus has promised that “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can tell the mountain to disappear and it shall obey”. This pastor does not understand why we waist money on road construction and similar projects when in fact we can pray to God and order the hills and other things to disappear. His friend standing by said they do not have to take things so literally. The pastor ridiculed his friend and called him a man of little faith. He said “Why should I take the resurrection of Christ literally and this passage figuratively”. Very intelligent men and women have become captives of these pastors because people who challenge them and their congregation are easily called anti-Christ and blasphemous. Present-day Christian-students prefer praying all night to preparing for an examination. “Ask and you shall be given” (Matt 7:7) is often quoted as Jesus’ promise. Many charismatic Christians spend more time wishing for better things than actually working for it. Even at the universities, where under normal circumstances people are sent to learn, many Charismatic Christians students use their precious time wishing for good grades from God than really studying for those grades. During my schools days, I heard this story at the Pentecostal Church of University of Ghana. A freshman told the congregation that his friend who was the President of the Scriptures Union (SU) of their secondary school over slept the night before the examination. Thus, he could not do his examination but God sent an angel to write it for him. According to this freshman, students at the examination hall confirmed that there was somebody who occupied the chair of the SU President. This person kept his head very low during the whole period of the examination and left the hall about 30 minutes to time. When the results came, the SU President had Grade A. I thought the church was going to shout him down for his insanity. Instead they rose to their feet and cheered God for this amazing miracle. Another miracle was told by an well-educated man who said that a bone choked him while drinking soup. He became unconscious until a group of Christians arrived from nowhere and prayed for him and the bone disappeared. Such comical stories fill the churches. Charismatic churches keep congregation uninformed and ignorant. Pastors quote passages which dissuade the congregation from reasoning. “The word of God is hidden from the wise and revealed to infants (euphemism for fools)”. They imply that the wise cannot understand the Word of God. No wonder these Christians go to church to pray for bumper harvest when their farmlands are not tilled and pray for rains to fill drying lake. I wander what the Jewish philosopher who wrote Proverbs will be thinking. He wrote, “A man of knowledge is more powerful than a strong man” (Pro 24:5). “To acquire wisdom is to love oneself; people who cherish understanding will prosper” (Pro 19:8). Please let us escape from the ambush of Charismatic Christianity and claim our cultural heritage of knowledge, hard work and prosperity.
Kwasi Boahene (The Netherlands)