The robust defense of President Jonathan’s inept and corrupt administration by the Prelate of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, Rev. Samuel Chukwuemeka Uche reminds me of mourners for hire. “Women who mourn at funerals” refers to women who were paid to attend funerals and cry out loud. The practice of hiring mourners was widespread in the ancient Near East. It is still practiced in some Middle Eastern cultures today.
Uche doesn’t believe God exist, so he has nothing to worry about. In his infinite wisdom, he’ll like to keep the Great Entertainer and Joker – GEJ – as president for the next four years. An enemy of Liberation Theology, Uche with cerebral sense of prejudice and hypocrisy crucifies the opposition party and critics of Mr. Jonathan for going after the abysmal record of Mr. Jonathan.
Uche’s gospel of do not touch my anointed Emperor has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning converts to his new crusade. His remarks are comically pompous and damnable.
Speaking recently at the National Christian Center, Abuja at a special church service held to mark 2015 Armed Forces Remembrance Day, he began his address with undisguised political agenda by chastising members of the opposition party. “They should mobilize soldiers and policemen to cor-ordinate the elections and any presidential aspirant that misbehaves should be imprisoned for at least 12 years,” says Uche.
With an air of apostolic self-possession, Uche said: These disgruntled angry men and women have made themselves enemies of Nigeria. These people sabotage every effort of government to bring peace in the north-east of Nigeria. Some shameless individuals and groups make such utterances and use grievous situation as a tool for politicking.”
“But why should people wage war against their country,?” asks angry Uche. “They are aggrieved because they want power at all costs. They believe Nigeria belongs to them alone and that they’re born to rule while others follow. It is a deceit.”
Uche says the saboteurs against war on terrorism “are within the political elites, some are within the armed forces and other institutions.” He re-echoes the fabricated mantra of the presidency that the sponsors of Boko Haram are those who want to islamize Nigeria and create another caliphate different from the Sokoto Caliphate.
In 1962, Pope John XXIII at the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) redefined the role of the church. He called for the church to become involved with the struggles of the poor. The conference rejected the idea that the church should align itself with the powerful elite and affirmed the importance of a more just world. The failure of the Nigerian Church to use Liberation Theology as a tool to fight on behalf of oppressed poor Nigerians is disturbing as well as fatal.
Liberation Theology is a set of religious ideas aimed at promoting liberation from injustice and oppression of any kind with its basis in the Bible. Liberation theologians see God acting throughout the Old Testament Biblical history to liberate the Jews from every form of oppression and creating a more just society.
With its strong Biblical roots, Liberation Theology strongly oppose the various economic and social structures of an oppressive government like the Jonathan regime that allows some to be extremely rich while others are unable to even have safe drinking water. It deals with all aspects in which humans need liberation: socioeconomic liberation from poverty, and dependence on others for survival, and human freedom. Liberation Theology challenged the church to accept the demands of the New Testament and involve itself in the struggle of the poor.
Religion played a major role in the American Revolution by offering a moral sanction for opposition to the British – an assurance to the average American that revolution was justified in the sight of God. Pastors served the American cause in many capacities during the Revolution as military chaplains, as penmen for committees of correspondence, and as members of state legislatures, constitutional conventions and the National Congress. Some even took up arms, leading Continental troops in battle.
Jonathan Mayhew (1720-1766) a noted American Pastor of the West Church in Boston Massachusetts, asserted that resistance to a tyrant was a “glorious”Christian duty. Abraham Keteltas (1732-1798), the Pastor of Presbyterian Church in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, in his sermon celebrated the American effort as “the cause of truth against error and falsehood … against bigotry, superstition, and human invention … in short, it is the cause of heaven against hell – of the kind Parent of the Universe against the prince of darkness, and the destroyer of the human race.”
John Witherspoon (1722 -1794) was the most important “political parson” of the Revolutionary period. He represented the state of New Jersey in the Continental Congress from 177- 1782, in which capacity the declaration of Independence and served on more than one hundred committees. As President of Princeton, Witherspoon was accused of turning the institution into a “seminary of sedition.”
The failure of the Nigerian Church in its prophetic witness is further amplified by such reckless and partisan statements by the likes of Uche. The cry of misery, oppression, and injustice of the poor in our country is not enough catalyst to awaken the church to its responsibilities and for the Uches of the world to march along picket lines with oppressed Nigerians.
Prophetic witness deals with human dignity as laid down by God and as made clear by Jesus: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). The prophetic witness of the church is to steer the church toward its prophetic primary mission of right, justice, truth, peace, and to ensure the socioeconomic and political welfare of God’s people. The prophetic mission of the church is a legacy handed down by Jesus: “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose (Luke 4:43).
Churches should be relevant to their congregations and local communities without compromising their roles in being the “salt of the earth.” Uche should engage in the civic activities of communities, educating his congregations about issues and providing a forum through which ideas may be shared. He is close enough to Aso Rock to understand the issues and advocate for improvements for the community and the nation.
I am tempted to say that Uche’s church has become an extension of Aso Rock. Given the choice between going along with the presidency and taking a stand with and for the community, he prefers to go with the flow to the detriment of his parishioners and his community. Uche for all I know has not been a vocal advocate on injustices, sufferings, poverty, and corruption unleashed by the Jonathan administration done to “the least of these” because he’s benefiting indirectly or is fearful of jeopardizing his personal and business interests with Aso Rock.
On the surface, the likes of Uche seem to prosper having close ties to the president. However, ever so slowly, over time the power of God working with them begins to fade and depart them completely. Clerics like Uche become more beholden to the political power lose their spiritual edge and cannot function at their optimal levels of effectiveness in the kingdom of God. Their churches in turn become redundant to the spiritual growth of the parishioners, the community, and the nation.
In the Nigerian Church today, God’s concern for the poor and the marginalized is often overlooked. A reading of the Scripture – the Law, Proverbs, Prophets, and the New Testament clearly show that God requires Uche and other clerics to actively care for the poor while condemning the mistreatment of the poor and the needy. The prophets in the Old Testament show social concern. In Isaiah 10: 1-3, and Malachi 3:5 we see God speak through the prophets to rebuke Israel for their disobedience, including oppression of the poor and the marginalized and a lack of concern for justice.
The Bible contains more than 300 verses on the poor, social justice, and God’s deep concern for both. In Isaiah 58: 6-7 the Lord calls on people like Uche to “loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, set the oppressed free and break every yoke.” The kind of religion that God wants Uche to preach and the role God wants him to fill is to “share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderers with shelter” and “when you see the naked, to clothe him.”
Similarly, the New Testament echoes God’s heart for the poor and the marginalized that we saw displayed throughout the Old Testament: James 1:27, Galatians 2:10, and Acts 6: 1-6. The Bible is clear that the church is to advocate for the poor and the forgotten, caring for their needs and pursuing justice on their behalf.
Bishop Desmond Tutu, South African cleric and activist rose to worldwide fame in the 1980s as an opponent of apartheid. Tutu was the first black South African Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, and Primate of the church of the Province of Southern Africa. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.
Explaining his fierce opposition against apartheid, Tutu said: “I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights.” Uche’s alignment with an oppressive Jonathan administration portrays him as being interested only in left overs of compassion thrown at him by Mr. Jonathan and wants Nigerians to follow suit.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice,” continues Tutu, “you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” Where was Uche all this while since Chibok Girls were abducted eight months ago? Where was he when jobless applicants were trampled to death looking for jobs that were not there?
Where was Uche when our retirees were dying (and still dying) while fighting for their pensions? Where was he when salaries of state and federal civil servants were not paid? Where was Uche when governors who said they had no money to pay workers’ salaries donated billions to the Jonathan campaign fund?
Here, we have a case of two Nigerians – the haves and the have nots. Mr. Jonathan and the ruling class continue to prosper materially as they increase their victimization of poor Nigerians. Everything has fallen apart under Jonathan. Nigeria is in ruins. Mr. Jonathan mocks the poor, gloats over their disaster, shuts his ears to the cry of Chibok mothers, exploits the poor, crushes the needy, and doesn’t give a damn about justice for the poor. And what’s Uche’s response to all these? Praise worship for Jonathan. Ignoring the poor, shows just as much Uche’s contempt for God as actively opposing the poor.
A church or a nation that ignores its poor or places stumbling blocks in their way, whose faith and belief are greed and money, is remote to the spirit of God. Uche as a “man of God” must demonstrate concern for the poor and for socioeconomic justice. He must not allow bad theology, laziness, greed, and blind loyalty keep him from addressing the social needs of his community and his country.
The core of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s faith were ideas of love, justice, liberation, hope, and redemptive suffering. King interpreted love “in the light of justice for the poor, liberation for all, and the … hope that God has not left this world alone” in the hands of evil persons.
The malignancy of corruption, wickedness and hypocrisy has permeated every segment of Nigeria’s national life: families, teachers, shepherds, pastors, rulers, prophets and priests. Thinking that their privileged positions will ensure their humility from God’s wrath, the pastors, prophets, and priests continue in a pattern of worthless worship. Because of their greed, selfishness, and indifference, Nigeria has been reduced to a heap of ruins.
Should Christians and pastors get involved in politics? Absolutely. Because God has granted us authority. All authority belongs to God, but he has put us on earth as caretakers and to disciple people to make godly decisions about government. Christians are needed to stand against evil. Christians should be able to contribute more positively than any one else to the political process.
It is Christian involvement in government through the ages that gave us hospitals, civil liberties, abolition of slavery, modern science, the elevation of women, regard for human life, great works of art and literature, a workable system of justice, education for common people, the free enterprise system and much, much, much more.
The peril of apathy is costly and dangerous. If Nigerians don’t get involved, elected representatives will pursue their own interests and the interests of those who are willing to pay them money. Apathy and greed as we have seen in our democratic experiment, soon give way to corruption and injustice which give way to tyranny and misery.
Uche’s unholy alliance with a tyrannical government and a wicked president qualifies him as a Prelate for hire to give spiritual legitimacy to the oppression of the poor by Mr. Jonathan.