BY JULIUS OGUNRO
The other day, my friend and I were having a conversation in my living room. This friend is a spirit-filled Christian, as charismatic as they come. He was a bit frustrated as his church vigil programme had just been cancelled because of the rising insecurity in the FCT. Perhaps, it was this that made him complain somewhat tiredly: “With all the prayers and church programmes, Nigeria is still a mess and things are in fact getting worse”.
Being a good Christian, his summation of the problem is that we are, despite our steady church attendance, iniquitous and deceitful. To him, if we were less wicked and hypocritical, God would have smiled down on us and things would have been better.
That, of course, is the ‘Christianity’ in my friend speaking. I am sure that even as he spoke, another idea was playing around in his mind. An idea he dared not verbalize. It is that perhaps prayers don’t work; or at least, don’t solve economic or security challenges at the communal level.
I laughed at his attempt to obfuscate the issue by maintaining the sanctity of his faith at all cost and teased him by asking if Nigerians were more sinful than Europeans and Americans who don’t go to church as much as we do and have adopted a lifestyle that is clearly condemned in the bible such as gay marriage. And yet have a manifestly better life than the average Nigerian. All quality of life indicators shows that the European Union is far ahead of countries in the Africa Union. Europeans live longer (EU 80.4/AU 63). They are healthier, happier, and generally more satisfied with life.
We that cry to God daily either in mosque, church or at the shrine by the corner, are in terrible shape. Mother and child mortality is high. Non-communicable diseases such as polio that have been eradicated elsewhere are still prevalent here. The average lifespan in Nigeria is only 54 years. Insecurity is rife. Public education is poor, or nonexistent. Even worse, annually, statistics show that we are regressing and not making any kind of progress that will assure us or our children a lifestyle comparable to the one in Europe or Southeast Asia.
Yet, we pray. We knock our heads on the ground. We face the east. We shout. We stammer. We groan for lack of words. We speak in unknown tongues. We call out for help. We beg. We mourn. We wear sack clothes. We fast. We shout (again). We stammer (again). All in the hope that we will obtain favour from a supernatural being in heaven.
The evidence doesn’t suggest that He is listening to us, much less inclined to solve our numerous and complex social challenges. All the problems we had in the past decades are much still with us and have worsened: insecurity, poverty, illiteracy, short life expectancy, unemployment, lack of inclusion, and so on despite our constant prayers and loud petitions to God.
What about the mind-blowing testimonies in churches (and mosques?) every week? There is really nothing to it. If you pick random people, say about a thousand of them, and ask for their experiences weekly, there are good chances that a few would have extraordinary stories to tell, which could be regarded as divine favour and disruption of the established laws governing the world.
Does this mean that God does not exist? I am not qualified to answer that question and don’t know. I am more inclined to believe that there is a God, something or someone or some force, that is way more intelligent and superior to us, but who is not as invested in this world as religious folks make him be. That God appeared to have created the world with set principles and laws, leaving it to function with these and rarely intervening to disrupt the established pattern.
What this means is that we are on our own. As we lay our beds so we will lie on them. No God is going to save us. Societies that invest in education, good governance, and rule of law will prosper and enjoy a good life. While those that shirk their responsibilities and promote mediocrity, corruption, and tribalism will suffer, even if they are the most religious. Except they change and adopt best global practices, they will fail and not even a thousand halleluiahs and praise-the-lord will save them.
This should be evident to right-thinking people by now. You only have to look at the countries and societies that have prospered. Many of them are like Japan without Judeo-Christian background. There is an established pattern and consistent values about them. No, being religious and spending every waking hour in church, or a religious house is not a prerequisite for their progress. They value competence over connection and promote excellence ahead of mediocrity, and merit over tribe. It is the accumulation of these values that manifest in their progress. And the converse is also true.
In conclusion, no one is coming to divinely save us. If we are failing as a society today, it is not because we are not praying hard or fasting long enough. Our economic problems require economic solutions. Same with security and other challenges that we face. If we could decree prosperity or call down the heavens to deal with our security challenges, Nigeria would infinitely be a better place. And that would have happened long ago. We must do the right things to get the right results. That is the least God expects of us.
*Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal.