“And when the men of the city arose in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was cast down, and the grove was cut down that was by it, and the second bullock was offered upon the altar that was built. And they said one to another, who hath done this thing? And when they inquired and asked, they said, Gideon the son of Joash hath done this thing. Then the men of the city said unto Joash, bring out thy son, that he may die: because he hath cast down the altar of Baal, and because he hath cut down the grove that was by it. And Joash said unto all that stood against him, will ye plead for Baal? Will ye save him? …If he be god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar…” – Judges 6: 28 – 32.
God does not need any man to fight His battles for Him. Bible teaches that the right hand/arm of God does valiantly and gets Him the victory. In fact, it is God that fights our battles and never the other way round. He is also the One who gets us the victory. Since the Bible also teaches that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mightier to the pulling down of strongholds, then, God’s own weapons cannot be AK-47 or bows and arrows. God has more and better means and is better able to fight His battles by Himself. Besides, our world has become just too complex for the adherents of any religion to overcome everyone else by sheer force of arms. Killing in the name of God for whatever reason(s) is nothing but a wild goose chase. It is an exercise in futility.
Some have said that religious intolerance in Nigeria has political underpinnings. I dare to say it is more than that. Those perpetrating the heinous crimes of butchering/maltreating others in the name of religion know they can get away with it. If they know they will be caught and sanctioned, many will recoil from their criminal acts. Why they get away with their impunity is because they have the support of the political authorities. The powers-that-be believe in what these criminals are doing and support them. They may not by themselves carry out the killings because they are too politically exposed to do so. But they hide behind the curtains and give the criminals cover. They let them get away; and where arrests cannot be avoided, they secretly order their release in a short while. Where prosecution cannot be helped, they allow the criminals escape from detention/jail or frustrate any diligent prosecution of the case so that the judge would have no choice but to throw away the case in open court for lack of diligent prosecution or on technical grounds. That is when the judge himself or herself is not a part of the conspiracy!
The barbarity of cold-blooded killings is bad enough. But the hypocrisy that underlines the utterances of religious and political leaders is worse. It is, in fact, the real reason this criminality has not abated. Lots of lies, half-truths, and denials are peddled that will not help us get anywhere near a solution. The two main religions of Christianity and Islam both have their roots in father Abraham through Ishmael, for the Muslims, and Isaac, for the Christians. It is lies that both religions do not/did not support proselytising by the force of arms. What of the Crusades and the Jihads? It is also lies that both religions do not/did not support, even encourage or compel/command, honour killing. In the Bible, I know of Phinehas (Numbers 25: 1 – 11); the sons of Levi (Exodus 32: 25 -29); and Elijah (1Kings 18: 9 – 40). Some Muslims practise honour killing to this day. It is banal to say both religions do not/did not see heresy/blasphemy as a crime deserving capital punishment. People were burnt at the stakes for heresy in distant times. Innumerable Nigerians have lost their lives on accusations of blasphemy. Gideon Akaluka, the recent Zamfara killings, to mention but a few. Jesus Christ Himself was crucified on accusations of heresy/blasphemy. It is lies from the pit of hell that religion taken and practised as a total way of life is compatible with democratic norms and values. Take, for instance, the Hijab controversy, the Jehovah Witnesses’ attitude to national anthems or the Seventh Day Adventists’ to Sunday as work-free day! Religion is the unquestioning submission to dogmas and beliefs, even where they are no longer rational in present circumstances or where there are better, more efficient ways of going about the intendments. Much of what we call religion is, at best, the culture of Palestine. Ossified in religion and marooned in the past, we shall continue to reap crises; we must move away from dogmas and embrace salvation.
God’s response to Prophet Elijah who, out of so-called jealousy for God, caused 450 prophets of Baal to be put to death not only shows He was not impressed but also that He had a better way of going about His business. In like manner, Jesus Christ scolded Peter for resorting to the force of arms (John 18: 10; Matthew 26: 51 – 54). We have all been guilty; those who are yet to accept this should now do so and stop living in self-denial. Playing the ostrich will not do. A growing number of Christians and Muslims – Christians especially – have since moved away from honour killing; killing in the name of God; proselytising by force and have embraced peaceful means of doing so. May their tribe grow! Persuasion is the norms these days. Grace has also replaced an unquestioning devotion to (the curse of) law, as the Apostle Paulaptly describes it, and salvation has taken the place of blind devotion to religion for religion’s sake. We, however, still have a large number of adherents stuck in dogmas; half-truths, outright lies, and things they do not even understand, least of all which they can intelligently interrogate or defend. May they see the light!
French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte said: “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and I have built great empires: But upon what did they depend? They depended upon force. But long ago Jesus started an empire that depended on love and even to this day millions will die for him.” Where are the empires built by Alexander the Great and others today? They have all become history! American civil rights activist, Martin Luther King Jr., said: “Somewhere, somebody must have some sense; men must see that force begets force, hate begets hate, and toughness begets toughness… Hate distorts the personality of the hater… You can’t see right. The symbol of objectivity is lost…Hate destroys the hater as well as the hated…because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem (them). But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption…There is a power in love that the world has not discovered yet. Jesus discovered it centuries ago. Mahatma Gandhi discovered it …years ago but most men and most women never discover it. For they believe in hitting for hitting…an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; they believe in hating for hating…” Little wonder, then, that Christ (Matthew 5: 38 – 48) commanded us to love even our enemies!
Two weeks ago, I received a message on my WhatsApp number and it possibly explains why today’s Christians do not believe they have any business killing in God’s name. Read on: “Some years ago, during an interview with an American magazine, John Lennon (popular singer), said: ‘Christianity will end; it will disappear. I do not have to argue about that…I am certain. Jesus was Ok, but his subjects were too simple. Today, we are more famous than him’ Lennon, after saying that his group, ‘the Beatles’, was more famous than Jesus, was shot six times (and, of course, he died. I am sure today’s generation of music lovers will ask, who Lennon is; and who arethe Beatles). President Tancredo Neves of Brazil said during the presidential campaign that if he got 500,000 votes from his party, not even God would be able to remove him from office. Sure, he got the votes, but got sick a day before inauguration as president and died. Cazuza, bisexual Brazilian composer, singer, and poet, during a show in Caneico, Rio de Janeiro, puffed out smoke from his cigarette and said, “God, that’s for you.” He died in a horrible manner at age 32 of lung cancer. The man who built the Titanic was asked by a reporter how safe it was. He replied: “Not even God can sink it!” The Titanic sank on its maiden voyage! Actress Marilyn Monroe was visited and preached to by preacher Billy Graham but she told him: “I don’t need your Jesus.” A week later, she was found dead in her apartment. Bon Scott, a singer, in 1979, sang “Don’t stop me; I’m going down all the way, down the highway to hell.” On 19th February 1980, he was found dead, choked by his own vomit. In Campinas, Brazil, a group of friends, drunk, went to pick up a friend. The worried mother of the girl prayed, “My daughter, go with God and may He protect you.” She responded: “Only if He (God) travels in the trunk. Inside here, it’s already full.” Hours later, news came that they had been involved in a fatal accident and everyone died. The car could not be recognised, but the trunk (booth) was intact! Inside it was a crate of eggs and none of it got broken! Christine Hewitt, Jamaican journalist and entertainer, said the Bible was the worst book ever written. In June 2006, she was found burnt beyond recognition in her motor vehicle.
The most terrifying of these instances, to me, is that involving the crate of eggs. If God is God, then, He can fight His battles. Only a god needs human intervention in whatever form or guise.