In his address, “Churches Hindering Progress” (Monday, 31 May 2004), Professor Obeng hit the nail right on the head. I have often wondered about the time people spend at prayer meetings and church gatherings during weekdays. The attendants at such gatherings cut across all professions, which is where the issue of "productive hours" becomes of paramount concern.
Why are such gatherings scheduled during work hours? How do the attendants get permission from work? What flexible arrangements do organizations have that enable them to grant leave of absence on such high scales and at such frequencies, or do they? May be the attendants simply take French leave. And if they do, does it affect their paychecks at the end of the month? Or are many Ghanaian workers simply stealing time from the employers and getting paid for it?
Granted, some of the attendants own their private businesses so can afford to close shop as and when they want, or they can make arrangements for someone else to hold the fort, while they go about their spiritual business. Yet, even to such individuals the question can be posed: Are they maximizing their existing business potentials by spending so much time away from their business premises, the source of their material livelihood? If such private business owners should lose revenue due to shady deals by the people to whom they delegate powers when the owners go to church, could they realistically point accusing fingers?
One must not forget the horror stories that are usually told by these church leaders. There are always “witches” siphoning money and blood from these attendants, which are the reasons they have to spend so much time at the church premises, in order to gain spiritual protection. Apparently, they forget that closing shop, or leaving a third person in charge, thus creating a fertile opportunity for pilfering, or paying HUGE amounts by way of collection, actually drain financial resources. Yes, the church leaders always quote for them: “Cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shalt find it after many days”. (Ecclesiastes 11:1) Never mind the reality that many of these donors get poorer and poorer while the church leaders get wealthier by the day. Ironically, there are fitting scriptures for such parasitic leaders: “That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter[;] because that the Lord is the avenger of all such…” (1 Thessalonians 4:6); “…if any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10), to quote two.
Obviously, one could only reason logically with individuals and groups who are sober and willing to consider things objectively. But we are dealing with a psychological problem here, and of course spiritual. After whittling productive time at church gatherings, and/or sometimes virtually bringing down their businesses, the church leaders point out the “witches” in their respective followers' families, who invariably turn out to be women: Grand/mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts or nieces, or wives. The “witches” cause diseases, even sexually transmitted ones, including AIDS, they turn wives against husbands or viće versa, they make businesses collapse, and they kill family members. Funnily enough, the “witch” categories never extend to the girlfriend and/or concubine classes, which classes as every objective person knows, are not only enormous drain on wealth, or obstacles to material prosperity, but are also on the top list of the instruments for family break-ups. But of course, these church leaders would not help their followers to consider the repercussions of decadent social and moral life styles, not forgetting lousy business skills. That would prompt discerning followers to sit at home, ponder their wasteful life styles, may be realize their folly, decide to make amends and bring some tranquility into their lives. That might mean reduced church attendance, which in turn would definitely cause offertory sums to drop. Bad scenario for parasitic church leaders-- or more aptly their pockets.
This whole church business is a lose-lose situation for the nation. Most Ghanaians flock church premises when they should be working to improve the economy and their lives. Productivity from such people is negligible at best, per capita income forever takes a dip and all kinds of adverse effects follow. Sadly, the economy continues in shambles. There are no serene domestic scenarios either. Majority of Ghanaians--the poor--are suspect witches--or wizards. It is particularly hard on older people and children who are branded “witches”, as they are put in such painful isolation among the very people who are supposed to love and protect them. Only the victims can best communicate the trauma of such isolation. Since a large number of children are branded “witches”--and still counting--we are in the awkward position of bringing to the future a generation a good percentage of whom would be seriously damaged psychologically, thanks to cheating church leaders and gullible communities. What implication does this hold for a promising economy? We are perpetuating vicious cycles. The saddest fact is that this unnecessary situation is so preventable.
Like Professor Obeng, I am not against organized religion. On the contrary, I am a firm believer that a person must take special care of his/her spirituality if s/he can find true meaning in life. But there must be a good balance between caring for secular and spiritual issues, because we live in a world where the basic necessities—food, clothing, shelter—come at a cost. That cost is shouldered for children, who upon becoming adults must assume their share of such responsibility thereby contributing to the advancement of their communities. Secular responsibility by its nature is always cared for through human initiatives and physical efforts, which are woefully neglected when people choose to spend productive hours inside church buildings praying. People ought to work within stipulated labour hours: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's”. (Matthew 22:21) Prayers must be accompanied by affirmative action. Spiritual consciousness should not be a licence for dogmatism: “To everything there is a season”…a time to plant…and a time to speak”. (Ecclesiastes 3:1,2,7)
May be we ought to consider stringent measures against such religious malpractices. Irresponsible church leaders should be prosecuted for obstructing productivity. Hello Legislature! Is anybody reading! Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.