After a long and an interminable session of depositions by a lady, of hateful and disrespectful commentaries about the person of Bishop David Oyedepo of the Living Faith Church Worldwide (Winners’ Chapel Int’l), on a particular social media platform in which I belong, I decided to politely engage her. The first salvo was only a caution: Watch what you call these men of God on a public platform like this one. The name-calling amounts to slander, which can become a court matter. All of these vituperations and extremely hateful comments can be couched politely and delivered in a diplomatic language. This space is even too small and too closed to pour out all your mind; do not waste them here; you may send a direct letter to the Bishop, if you wish. This should be more productive.
By this, the lady changed the course and launched a cocktail of innuendoes and darts encased in subtle attacks on me. I got the message, but laughed it off. At least, the poor judgment on the Bishop had stopped. The cause of this combativeness was as simple as the homily the Bishop gave two weeks ago, in which he had “decreed” the reopening of the houses of God in the land.
There was yet another one, a non-academic staff in my organization, who, on the assumption that I would not see his comment, had referred to me in my article shared on another blog, as a “yes man”. This young man is supposed to be a member of the same church I attend. His exact words: “Is he not on the payroll of the Bishop? He is a yes man”. This a brother of the same church! A graduate of the university owned by the church. And a very junior colleague by every standard.
The words came as a blow, not because they affected me (I have, over the years, grown a thick skin to side or ‘back’ comments about me), but more because they were coming from “Christians” of the same faith of the church leaders they hurl the stones at. First, I am not and can never be a “yes man” to anyone. I had not been one. I am an independent-minded person, who does his things based on personal convictions and with no apologies. I respect people a lot and execute assignments with a sense of responsibility. I do not lick boots. This perhaps explains the respect, admiration or contempt some people have for me. But I do not care, or do I? I defend what I believe and hold dear. I believe in the vision and prophetic calling of the Bishop. If my defence of what or who I believe in, is seen as being a “yes man”, oh, well then, I am quite glad to be called one.
This is what we get these days from sons and daughters of the Christian faith: crucifixion of their own spiritual fathers. I am not saying there are no false or ‘man-made’ prophets. But discretion and discernment should come in when dealing with religious leaders. What Muslims will not do is condemn their leaders.There is one Daddy Freeze, who calls himself a Christian but turns the scriptures upside down and who has made as full-time job, placing the heads of Men of God on his sardonic chopping block to the delight of his fans. That is how he ekes out a living these days, if he is not disc-jockeying on FM.
Two weeks ago, Bishop Oyedepo said this: “Therefore, I decree that the Church reopens and no gates of hell are permitted to shut it…” He had barely completed this declaration when “sons and daughters” in the faith launched spontaneous and scathing attacks against his cassock and name. It was like they were waiting for him and in no time had the preferred clip of that homily been shared on hundreds of social platforms. The entire message and the full import of the message did not matter to the critics. They would not even read, listen or see materials to the end to make a complete sense of it; neither do they reflect or ponder on the whole item. All that was desirable was the content useful for their critical darts. Interestingly, some of these people are “highly educated” and ostensibly informed persons in society. But once you see “learned” people make hasty- and more certainly- wrong judgment on people, you do not need to go near to smell the well-entrenched hatred and personal grudges for those individuals.
The act of “decreeing” the reopening of churches by the Bishop is not the literal opening of church buildings. That Christians are the ones who misunderstand this “decree” even goes to show their level and quality of Christianity. To “decree” in church settings, is to “declare prophetically”, to “bind and cast”, to “pronounce” in such a way that it will happen. Decreeing is a spiritual language, implying a command from the standpoint of the supernatural to fight terrestrial forces from their spiritual roots. Put differently, it is a prophetic declaration and a prayer. It’s not an instruction to members to return to church buildings. When it is understood otherwise, it belies the shallowness of the mind, or the hate that dictates to and blocks off momentously,rational capacity. Prophets speak this way, when they want a situation turned around. Bishop is not the Head of State or Governor that can issue an order for people to disobey the law of the land. As a law-abiding and responsible citizen of Nigeria, he cannot willfully ask his legion of followers to break rules.
My worry is, why do somepeople quickly pick holes and go after God’s servants, when in actual fact, they should be holding their bad leaders accountable for their current state of frustration? Narrow mindedness, which partly explains this, is commonplace today. Some people do not read deeply to see beyond literal meanings. They simply drive home with the little understanding of what’s deposited.Sometimes, it is just as a result of wickedness of the hearts of men. Is it the grudges or some unexplainable hatred? Yes! Many have made it clear. Some are even not happy Bishopis building churches. Unknown to these ones, the more churches that are built, the more employment opportunities for church workers, administrators, secretaries, cleaners, and so on, and the more God’s word reaches a greater number of people. Some despise him for flying in private jets and see the school fees charged in the two universities owned by the church; but are blinded by bitterness to see the value of the two universities in and upon Nigeria and Africa; or the thousands of jobs these universities and over fifty secondary and primary schools have created for people.
Is it jealousy? Of course, yes. Human beings can be actually impervious to reason when jealousy and envy have built mansions in their miserable hearts. Many despise God’s servants and Bishop in particular, out of petty jealousy and nothing else.Men of God should be poor like church rats…they should be carrying mice-eaten bags looking for converts. Pastors should not be rich and so forth. It is nonsense. All men are created by God and He alone gives wealth, to all. Religious leaders are not condemned to poverty.
Bishop decreed an end to COVID-19 and reopening of churches soon. It was a prophetic declaration. It was a prayer altar for a prayer point. Coronavirus was declared persona non grata. This is a simple spiritual exercise which I am sure we all know. We may only be trying to justify our contemptfor the man. The pettiness is however becoming sickening. We can find for ourselves more profitable ventures, rather than making baseless criticisms of pastors and other religious leaders a fulltime job.
- Folarin, a professor of international relations, writes from Sango Ota, Ogun State.
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