The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has a lot to worry about if really it is to fulfil its mandate as a religious body. For quite a while now, CAN, it seems, has clearly deviated from the path of honour of the founding fathers’ anticipation, aspiration and vision and all that is left is an association overtaken by controversy and turmoil.
CAN’s greatest undoing is the involvement of its top echelons in politics in the recent past, the receipt of various forms of gifts from the highly corrupt political class and then endorsement of candidates for elections.
While the show of shame raged, the citizens watched the scene with much surprise and misgiving and, since then, the association has lost its relevance and respect and now assumed only the status of pressure groups.
Lately, the bone of contention is the issue of tithe. Various people have continued to express different opinions on same issue from different perspectives and the debate is far from being over. The greater blame of dissenting opinions on tithe should go directly to the church itself.
In trying to found new churches, there is always the tendency of modern preachers to try to destroy the old order. One should therefore not be surprised if within a short while from now some new non-tithe paying churches suddenly start springing up.
Before now, the castigation of orthodox churches as lacking in godly spirit led to the birth of Pentecostalism and since then, all manners of strange practices have entered the Christian worship. For instance, in the era of the orthodox churches, it was unheard of for a woman to pastor a church. But in the new dispensation, women are almost overtaking their men counterparts in the pastoral field without anybody bothering whether it is right or wrong.
For most people, all that matters is to worship and serve God and no matter whatever the form it takes is irrelevant. Again there is always the strong belief in many quarters that all spiritual matters should be left to God alone to judge.
And because no one would ever dare pick up issue with CAN, the body has often acted without any form of caution and good judgement. The fact that spiritual matters are without question has led to proliferation of churches and many strange doctrines especially in an atmosphere of acute unemployment where the only voice the people seem to hear now is that of God asking them to found their own churches! In one breadth, the argument is that old things are passed away, behold all things have become new.
Christ is said to have brought a new covenant which surpasses and overrides the Old Testament. But since in the whole of the New Testament, there is never anywhere Jesus or the apostles spoke about tithe, preachers make recourse to Malachi in order to emphasise the importance of tithe.
Members of the Pentecostal breed who make reference to Old Testament in order to achieve certain aim would never remember that it’s because the old churches accept and use the Bible as a whole that led to breakaway by those who felt all emphasis must now be on the New Testament alone. It is therefore nothing but a form of deceit when the only portion the new churches would find relevant in the Old Testament is the section on tithe.
Even agreed that tithe is justifiable since its origin is still traceable to the Holy Bible, should how tithes are used not be a matter of general concern, more so when so much poverty is manifested in worshippers invariably in the midst of hidden plenty? What is the whole essence of the churches growing richer than the state without any interest of the church in the issue of development?
If millions of the citizens who never believe in the civic responsibility of paying taxes only live up to their expectation as far as tithes are concerned in the bid to make heaven, what stops religious leaders from partnering with the government at different levels to search for ways of making life more meaningful for everybody? Of course, the church also needs a lot of funds to keep afloat.
But when all evidences point at so much excess funds at the disposal of the church so much so that many pastors now ride on private jets in a land where many are distressed to unemployment and the nation itself is squirming in infrastructural decay, then something definitely is wrong somewhere.
There is no way churches can justify the inaccessibility of their schools by their most committed members because of very high school fees. The Christian religion was founded on charity, love and affection for indigent populace. Christ himself typified selflessness and hope for the downtrodden.
Early missionaries brought education to all on a platter of gold. Rather than require anything from those within their fold, the missionaries were more interested in spending their meagre resources for the wretched of the earth in order to bring them to the knowledge of God and achieve the much-needed salvation for lost souls.
But for the modern churches running school programmes, all that seems to matter is the issue of profits and profiteering. Accepted that education has since gone far beyond the precinct of charity and quality education requires big funding, there still ought to be a great difference between fees charged by secular schools and those belonging to the churches.
But that can never ever happen when supposed men of God are just as worldly if not more so than those they labelled as candidates of hell. Invariably, while preachers emphasise the need for worshippers to build their homes in heaven, they, the preachers are only interested in building theirs on earth!
Oyewusi, an educationist, lives in Lagos.