I start with three stories.
An invasive visit to the lab
Sometime in 2017, I had to run a series of tests and was referred to a diagnostic lab. I ran the tests and was told to return for the results. After a few days, the results were ready and I sat across the lab attendant – attendant? – and listened to him explain my results. He explained everything, wrote something I could take to a doctor or pharmacist and then asked if I was born again. Are you born again? What is your relationship with the Lord Jesus like? Do you have your quiet time? He prodded and prodded, gave me a Christian book to read and allowed me to go. I can’t remember if he asked about my sexual history (cos my memory is fuddled from many visits to many labs and several doctors and they usually ask – whether it concerns my diagnosis or not – before launching into sermon mode) but I remember that as I walked away, I felt invaded.
So, are you a Christian?
X and I decided to go and visit Y. We got to Y’s house and his mum was around. We settled into the parlour and Y’s mum came to greet us. She was nice and friendly. She greeted us and then asked our names and the schools we go to. X told her his name and his school. Now, X’s name is a very popular Muslim name and so Y’s mom knew immediately that X was a Muslim. As per normal Nigerian Christian na, Y’s mom entered sermon mode. You need to give your life to Christ. Jesus came to save… there is no eternal life without him…blah blah blah. It was a very short sermon, didn’t even take up to a minute but there was this awkwardness in the air. X nodded with a forced smile on his face, I looked at the ceiling and Y was embarrassed. He even said “Mom!” with some eye rolling.
Are you paid to teach or paid to preach?
Early on in my life, I was fascinated with the life of a popular Nigerian pastor. So, I got a book on his life and somewhere in the book, I stumbled on a story that intrigued me. Before he became a popular pastor, he was a lecturer in a public university and before he started any of his classes, he would preach the gospel for the first three or five minutes. After preaching, he would then proceed to teach. One day, a student confronted him in class. She said, “Sir, you are paid to teach and not to preach”. Life went on as usual and some weeks later, this girl was marked by some occultic group for death. She woke up and saw a sign on her body or something like that. She ran to him and begged that he prayed for her. He ignored her and told her he was “paid to teach and not to pray”. He went for his lectures and came back to his office many hours later and still, he found her there, waiting and crying and begging for deliverance. He eventually prayed for her and she was delivered from the spirit of death. Hallelujah! Aren’t you intrigued?
These stories aside…
In the Christian cultures I have encountered, to be Christian is to disregard the rules and to brush aside the dignity of the next person. For many people, to be Christian is to dump your humanity in a bin. In the name of preaching the gospel, a ti da gbogbo e ru and that’s why till date, I’m wary of evangelism. It is why, till now, I am wary of morning cries and open-air crusades as a means of evangelism. We are basically waking somebody up. We are intruding into somebody’s morning routine. We are disrupting somebody’s environment because somehow, it is in our bill of rights but when these same people turn around and play Naira Marley behind our windows, we are first to shout and call them out. When these same people do street carnivals and throw roadside parties, we are quick to raise our noses. How far is too far? How much is too much? Was that female student wrong? Is it right that sexually active young people have to lie about their sexual history so that their own doctors do not “judge” them even when their health is at stake?
I had a math lecturer who started all her classes with a Christian prayer. I am Christian and so thought nothing of it but one day, I come dey reason am. I began to wonder about my Jewish, Muslim and atheist course mates. How did they feel?
Bully101, or Omo x 1000
I remember one of my many travels by bus. I sat by the window, brooding and psychoanalysing myself. My earphones were plugged in. This man started preaching in the bus. I didn’t know — well, knowing wouldn’t have changed anything. Mid-sermon, he unplugged my earphones and told me to listen to the word of God. Youths of nowadays. God, was I pissed! I was so pissed I plugged it right back and became the new subject of his sermon. Everybody in the bus con dey look me na. Omo, I started buying gala and things just to piss him off. The audacity! The sheer audacity!
Is it right that in many buses, some Christians bully other passengers to listen to the gospel? They guilt trip them, shame them for indifference and demand that they sing louder or sound a more powerful amen whether they like it or not. I have been to a church where congregants were instructed to disturb their neighbour’s sleep because they must hear the word of God.
My younger siblings currently attend a secondary school where weekly, lengthy compulsory deliverances are conducted for all students. Mind you, it is not a missionary school. When my sister wanted to learn a trade, I planned to take her to a competent tailor along my street. I didn’t, eventually. I discovered that all apprentices are subjected to a compulsory morning prayer meeting each day. This meeting lasts an hour or more. When the madam fasts, all her girls are mandated to also fast. I was alarmed. This is not charity work. This is not “help me na, I have no hope”. This is “I’m going to pay you to teach me how to cut clothes”!
Bully102, or Abacha-ism
In many Nigerian churches, we celebrate misdirected zeal, autocracy and Hitler-ish traits because somehow, it is for the Lord and has to be right. One young man comes up and before the church, he testifies about the salvation of his soul, how Jesus miraculously arrested his heart and how afterwards, he marched to his father’s house and destroyed all his father’s idols (without consulting his father). In other words, Papa I have seen the light and therefore, your belief is no longer valid. Some Christian storm into villages and start burning shrines and Hosanna! Everybody is clapping for them. They are destroying the stronghold of the enemy. Nobody asks the villagers if this is what they want. Nobody consults them. There is no seduction whatsoever. We are right and we know better. We have seen the light. Hail Hitler!
Many (Nigerian) Christians are incapable of objectivity and empathy, of putting themselves in the shoes of the other person. They show up and they suffocate you with their religion. It’s even worse when you don’t practice Christianity their way.
For a country that starts everything with prayer, we are in pretty bad shape. My friend is a Doctor in a Nigerian hospital and morning prayer meetings are compulsory whether he likes it or not; even though doctoring and prayer-ing are two different things, even though he doesn’t want to do prayer-ing. My other friend works in a company where the prayer meetings and monthly vigils are also compulsory for staffers. Monthly vigils! Yes, you read right. I dunno but when Jesus told us to make disciples, was this what he had in mind?
1. Don’t come to my comment section and say “they should endure for the time being and just join the prayers and vigils”.
2. Don’t come to my comment section and say “but if you don’t like it, leave”. Really? Leave? In the world’s poverty capital? What colour is your problem?
3. If you want to prove how forceful indoctrination and bullying makes the person a Christian, I am open to listening.
4. If you want to say “God can use anybody and any situation”, be ready to type a damn good argument.
Regardless, thank you for reading through. Ciao.