Aug 28, 2014

Religion, Opium of the Masses

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Apostle Michael Njoroge of the “fake miracles” saga has been a burning topic of discussion on social media this past weekend. This is not the first time churches have been put on the spot for exploiting the masses. The discussion dates back to colonial Africa and the introduction of Christianity.

According to Edward Andrews, Christian missionaries were initially portrayed as “visible saints, exemplars of ideal piety in a sea of persistent savagery.” However, by the time the colonial era drew to a close, missionaries became viewed as “ideological shock troops for colonial invasion whose zealotry blinded them.” As the colonial government was taking African land, the missionaries were preaching that it was God’s will that the Europeans do so and that African’s should not resist but be patient since their riches await them in heaven.

Religion came in handy in the legitimisation of colonial taxation systems as well. Paying of taxes was one way of getting Africans to work as labourers on the settlers farms. Taxes were to be paid using money, Africans could only get money from working on the white settlers’ farms. The missionaries came in by preaching about paying taxes, often using Biblical phrases such as, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar” (Mark 12:17) and ” But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ In tithes and offerings.” (Malachi 3:8) The African had no other alternative but to work on the white settlers’ farm to pay his taxes and tithe in church.

The colonialist left but religion still played its role as a means of exploiting the masses. Do you remember the House of Yahweh saga, where some Kenyans in Central Province braced themselves for a nuclear war prediction that was to take place no later than 12th September, 2006? Members were advised to build bunkers and wear gas masks to shield themselves against the nuclear war. There have been unconfirmed claims that members of the House of Yahweh in Kenya used to send money to the church headquarters in Abilene, Texas.

Colonialism and dooms days scares aside, miracles have proved to be a sure way of cashing in on naive Kenyans. I have watched Apostle Michael Njoroge on TV and his miracles are quite convincing. His prayers appear to have cured AIDs, gotten people jobs and fixed marriages. Interestingly enough, while watching him on TV, an M-Pesa banner flashes at the bottom of your TV screen, asking you to partner with his ministry by contributing money via M-Pesa. To get your miracle you simply send money via M-Pesa and he will call you to pray with you. If the expose by NTV is anything to go by, Apostles Njoroge’s miracles are a total scam.

Have you heard of churches which convince their congregation to buy the pastor a car or build him a house? Since most of these churches are comprised of low income earners, it will take months or even years to raise the required amount to buy the pastor’s car. He will finally buy the car using your money, hoot at you as he drives off, but chances are you will never ride in that car, or helicopter (Apostle Njoroge has the latter).

How many can afford to eat in the food canteens run by our churches or afford to buy books written by our pastors? How many can afford to educate their kids in schools they helped build using their contributions? Let’s look at Paster David Oyedepo’s Covenant University for example. According to vanguard.com, Pastor Oyedepo’s congregation gave their earnings in offerings, tithes and donations to the church in order to bring the project to fruition. They worked tirelessly for the project, cleared bushes, toiled the ground during the foundation process, carried blocks, carried bags of cement just to ensure the project came to lime light. Few years after, they found out that they could not afford to take their children to the church owned university due to the huge fees charged by the institution they helped build.

As Karl Marx puts it: Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation.