Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Where is He?

photo courtesy
I haven’t been to church in a while; I haven’t been to church this year. No, it has nothing to do with the fact that churches have now become the fashionistas’ playground, me sef, I dey try once in a while to represent…and the fact that I stopped going is not evidence that I have grown weary of ‘competition’, I didn’t even consider all that pettiness as competition; not at City of David where the only acceptable cars are Hummers, Rovers, Mercedes GLs, EODs and Baby boys, lucky you if you have an Element; not at Daystar where you have to hide your handbag under your armpits if it isn’t Gucci or Guess or Ferragammo or LV and the likes, not at Christ Church or KICC or CICC or CCC or any other C church you can think of where you don’t have to cover your million braids and Take-A-Bow that you fixed at Make Me or Zoom Place.

Yesterday, a colleague at work asked me if I remember to pay tithe at the end of the month, I said to her that I set aside over 10% of what I earn and give it to people that really need it, that I am not one of those who believe in paying my tithe to ‘the church’. She called a meeting of about four people and started preaching to me about the rewards of tithing and first fruits and all. Sadly, I still am not convinced.

She asked me how I think the church pays rent, and fuels its generator, and buys chairs and pays the gateman etc. etc. There was a time when I believed in the church’s needs, when I understood that the church needs my money to survive, but after a while, it became obvious how gullible I had been.

Right in front of my friend’s close is an RCCG, somewhere down the road is another RCCG, and then these two churches, preaching the same sermons, singing the same songs, worshipping the same God, want to pay 1million naira each at the end of the year to their landlords, what manner of giving is that??? By the way, these two churches are not there on their own, somewhere in between the short distance, there are a Foursquare Gospel Church, a Mountain of Fire, a Good News Bible Church, one C&S Bible church and a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In my estate, there is a whole street dedicated to churches, Church Street they call it, I have been there once, and there are about thirty churches there, two or three sharing a building. Every Sunday, you should see the pandemonium! they dance and sing and compete for God’s attention, the same people preach that there is only one God. Which one? Who is right and who is wrong?

If tithing and giving offerings in church was really worth it, I’d go out of my way to give, bountifully even. But why should I pay my tithes to a church that goes on to build universities that over half the members cannot afford to get a degree from? My colleague’s argument was that they need to pay staff and make profit. Make profit! Since when did a church need to make profit??? Another colleague said they need to set standards. My gawd! How can a church of all places (or people?) practice such social stratification? Even the General Overseer openly said (disdainfully if I might add), ‘my school is not for everyone!’ Wasn’t all man born equal? With some luckier than others? Isn’t the church supposed to bridge this gap between the bourgeoisies and the ‘masses’? Isn’t love and oneness the message of the church? What frigging standards?!?

Why should I pay tithes to a church when the pastor openly throws a society wedding for his son that I am way beneath even the littlest person on the guest list? Once I saw a man of God give out his daughter’s hand in marriage and on the high table were traditional rulers displaying their juju, governors who had openly admitted to looting public funds, there were fireworks and the lot. My colleague said, ‘ the pastor is a human being like me and you, he gave up a career to spread the gospel, surely, he should be allowed to give his daughter a befitting wedding if he wants to’, oh well! Not with my money, Hells NO!, what then is the difference between a so-called man of God and a man of the world?

Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think that with the numerous numbers of churches in Lagos, only Lagos o, there shouldn’t be this much suffering around, this staggering crime rate, this begging, and this much starvation on the streets of Lagos. As the churches are increasing, so is the poverty I see around everywhere I turn. In Our pastors are too busy acquiring private jets and taking advantage of real estate opportunities in the United States to notice poor Agnes who has been raped and battered and left to rot on the street, or little Tobi whose mother has breast cancer and sits on Cele bridge begging for alms, or this my guy Tony, one-legged, very bright young chap who sits on Cele bridge selling Etisalat and Visafone sim cards, a vital resource well – untapped. The church should notice all these people, but guess what? They don’t… someone else has anyways, Governor Fashola! First, I’ll happily pay my PAYE tax at a whopping 40%, before I pay it to the church, at least our governor is accountable and I can see taxpayers’ money in action, as opposed to seeing tithers’ money in inaction.

I’ll give anything to understand why there are so many Christians around and yet they all refuse to agree that this one God is the same. That he is omnipresent. He doesn’t stay at the Redeem Camp and never leaves, He is not buried at MFM Prayer City, He is alive, He goes before me, He stands beside me, He is in my head and all around me, I don’t want anyone telling me that He is at Kilometer 46 or or 48 or 49 or 40 million Lagos Ibadan Expressway, the God I serve does not permanently reside in camps, He does not restrict himself to kilometers. He is right here, right now.

I know the bible says ‘do not forsake the gathering of the righteous’ but there is so much hypocrisy, so much corruption that I do not know who the righteous are anymore. When people talk about corruption in Nigeria, no one denies its existence or attempts to cover up the extent to which it is found to be in public life, it is there- all too obviously- admitted and deplored, I am just pained that Christians practice and tolerate it to this extent. I still wonder how Reverend King, supposedly sentenced to death by hanging still holds crusades in his church and draws large crowds like water, how the Chosen people believe that theirs is the only God and struggle violently to prove it, why churches use the tithes from its members to sponsor heavily expensive radio and television ads…to draw a larger crowd and more tithes… I long for the day when Christians will really be Christ-like, where men of God will lead by example, where they will demonstrate by their own lives and churches that they will not tolerate hypocrisy.

My God is everywhere; I am not going to Church Street or Kilometer 55 to look for Him. He is in my head and all around me.