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INSIPID CHRISTIANITY AND CORRUPTION IN NIGERIA

“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot” (Matthew 5:13). These words of Jesus came immediately after Jesus had finished his exhortation to his disciples on the eight beatitudes in Mt 5: 3-12. Jesus refers to his disciples as salt which plays a crucial role in maintaining human health. Salt is the main source of sodium and chloride ions in human diet. Sodium is essential for nerve and muscle function and is involved in the regulation of fluids in the body. Chloride ions serve as important electrolytes by regulating blood pH and pressure. Salt equally has historical importance and value attached to it. Some of the earliest evidence of salt processing dates back to around 6,000 BC, when people living in the area of present-day Romania boiled spring water to extract salts. As a natural element, salt was also prized by the ancient Hebrews, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, Egyptians, and the Indians. It was an important article of trade that was transported by boat across the Mediterranean Sea, and also exported via specially built salt roads as well as across the Sahara on camel caravans. At certain epochs in history, salt became one of the major sources of revenue for governments through the imposition of duty on exportation and importation of salt. Equally significant is the use of salt in religious ceremonies alongside cultural and traditional usage of it. By using the metaphor of salt to describe his followers, Jesus ultimately wanted his disciple to be aware of their positive and indispensable roles in influencing societies for good. The lack of flavour and zest for positive influence by Christians is comparable to salt that has lost its worth. Christians become insipid when they cease to be a powerful moral force that should preserve a society from moral decadence. Robert Cardinal Sarah in response to the questions posed to him by Nicolas Diat, as captured in the book, God or Nothing, bares his mind on a number of contemporary issues. Two of those issues are the crisis of faith and the lukewarm attitude of clerics in matters of faith. In the estimation of Cardinal Sarah: “the greatest difficulty of men is not in believing what the church teaches at the moral level; the most difficult thing for the postmodern world is to believe in God and his only Son.” He doubts in that regard if: “clerics are really living in the presence of God. Can we speak about the Treason of the Intellectuals?” Some priests seem to forget that their life is centered solely on God”. On the flip side, Nigeria and Africa need some little activism “away from God’ to enable us use reason to build our society and strengthen policies and programmes that enhance human dignity, rule of law and a qualitative life. In most African countries, our leaders and the people seem to have left their day to day chores at the hands of God. Our understanding of God and religion needs constant re-evaluation because of the way it has been poorly presented now. Fr Anslem Adodo in a recent article entitled, Priestcraft, has some very tough words to the African priests and pastors who have confused the simple message of the Gospel to some sort of magical esoterism that is devoid of reason. About how the “men of God” have misled the people almost to a point of no return, Fr Adodo adduces: “Priestcraft pollutes the victims with the poison of ignorance and religiosity and weakens their critical intellectual questioning. Moreover, while their blood is being drained, they are busy thanking God and asking for God’s blessing on their exploiters”. The two theses by Cardinal Sarah and Fr Adodo seem to indicate that “the Christian salt” has almost lost its taste. On the one hand are the “men of God” who rely on reason to the exclusion of faith.? And on the other hand, is another group of “men of God” who on account of the religious gullibility of Africans, market their religious trade by means of superstitions and magic, with no space for reason and science.? It is not surprising, therefore, that Africa with all its abundant natural and human resource, may be described as a continent that is always in motion but without movement. The lack of development on a large scale across the continent, gives credence to this apt description. Religious charlatans feed fat on the misery of the common folk by promising them free manna from the sky. Such religious people sadly sap Christianity of its motivating moral force for the good of society. Christian hope is not wishful thinking. It is an active hope that is involved, and works to improve the quality of life for everyone especially those at the margins of society. Nigeria like the rest of Africa, has a barrage of salts that have no taste. They occupy public spaces but have no positive influence on the society and on individuals. Nigerians can recall the recent drama during the probe saga of the NDDC acting chair and the supervising minister where corrupt allegations were leveled against them and many others. Before the 2015 elections 6 billion naira was given to some religious leaders for prayers, Haba!!! Men of God who by their calling, are supposed to preserve the moral fabric of the society have sometimes joined in sharing stolen salt that would have enlivened the life of the society in order to render it worth living, particularly for the people of the Niger Delta whose creeks produce the black diamond that oils the Nigerian economy. The N2.6 billion spent on a wooden bridge in Elebele Ogbia in Bayelsa State, shames the collective conscience of a nation that is run by conscienceless men and women. That wooden bridge and the corruption around it, is symptomatic of a country without salt and whose moral decay has become a festering wound that cries to heaven for redress and healing. Let the men and women of Nigeria who are still worth their salt, please stand up and heal the bleeding sores of Nigeria! The storm of moral destruction is already upon us. If the rudder is not quickly redirected today, our children may wake up to their dismay tomorrow only to discover that their future has been stolen through our collective insipidity and our failure to halt the senseless destructions by some conscienceless Nigerians among us. (Fr Stephen Ojapah is a priest of the Missionary Society of St Paul. He is equally the director for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism for the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, a member of IDFP. He is also a KAICIID Fellow. (omeizaojapah85@gmail.com)

 


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