PULPITS OF SCANDALS AND ABETTORS

In my opinion, there is no better explanation for the gradual rise in the wave of atheism and abhorrence of religion among young people in Nigeria than what we have now seen as the militant defence of men of God and the gods of men. There is no better way to explain it. Sometimes one may be forced to ponder, why is the understanding of the supernatural so plebeian? How are people defending these gaffes?


Then you remember. You remember that this was exactly how the Catholic Church shielded abusers until it became impossible to continue shielding them. Diversion was the ultimate tactics. Transfer of abusers to far away missions in the hope that, being out of sight, the abused forgets without justice. Expectedly, serial abusers simply took on new victims, leaving a trail of sorrow, regrets, pains and hurt in damaged souls. Over time, the result of long years of silence and mindless defence showed itself – mass exodus. A church that had its highest growth rate via conversion in the 19th and early 20th centuries now depends heavily on birth for the growth of its population, except, of course, in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa where its missionary activities is still active. Its youthful population, in most parts of the West, is almost inexistent. In Africa too, the youth population is fast becoming inactive except for social activities and the influx of prosperity ministries. What we see is a culmination of years of neglect, of criminal silence, of culpable ignorance. But the church is paying heavily for it now. Millions of dollars claimed in damages. Although there have been few real sanctions, the Catholic Church in Nigeria has continued in its silence over these matters. Child abusers are still treated within the disciplinary code of the Dioceses which is mostly a pat on the back. Momentary transfer of abusers still persist without recourse to civil law.


But if the way the authorities handle such issues is bad, then the reaction of the naive majority of followers is simply despicable. Once any such scandal about a man of the pulpit breaks out, it is the usual resort to that abused portion of the scripture: “touch not my anointed”. The anointing praise singers make every excuse for the pastor or minister. They remind us immediately of how they are humans and how we should not judge. But their intervention is only laughable. Such outlandish opinion will only make sense if they remember that those being abused are also God’s anointed in the broad exegetical sense. The “touch not my anointed herd” forget that those who have made themselves into God’s ministers have also made themselves objects of public scrutiny. Their intervention becomes meaningless when one remembers that these pastors are always the ultimate judges and condemners who mount the pulpits daily to pronounce punishments on the offenders of the Decalogue. How can an organisation which claims to be the world’s moral compass truly maintain her status if we continue sugar-coating the truth and continue shielding the ministers when they err?


I have read the arguments of those who say that the offending minister is human and has feelings. But that’s a bizzare way to look at it. The very reason they have access to the women and children they abuse is based on their societal standing as pastors. Nothing else. In that guise therefore, whatever relationship they have with anyone but their spouse is already a socially unbalanced one. It is akin to a doctor-patient relationship. Advancing that argument is like telling us to disrobe them of the cloak of a pastor simply with the ink of our pens and keyboards. Take the offender currently in the public’s eye for instance, if Mr Biodun Fatoyinbo was not a pastor, he wouldn’t even be in the eye of the public anyway. Nobody will really care about whom he has sex with. His role as a shepherd is what the public is scrutinising. What the sheep does is of no moment in the current argument. We are not scrutinising a certain Mr Man or Mrs Woman. We are scrutinising a person who is enjoying societal immunity and patronage due to his status. Even if we spare some blames for adult victims, the culprit remains the god of man who has made himself a randy shaft.


So, whether we ascertain the veracity of the accusations or not, the thrust of my engagement is not Mr Fatoyinbo or other religious figures per se. My engagement is for those who find ready excuses for the irresponsibilities of these leaders. Not those who argue for clarity. It is to them that I address this. For what we have at hand is the tragedy of an irresponsible herd shielding the shepherd and enabling his imprudence.


Let’s not forget that religious leaders wield a lot of influence in Nigeria. Many people engage them with confidence in fields they have little knowledge of. They are seen as counsellors, teachers, doctors, etc. It is the Nigerian socio-political space we are talking about – a space of systemic failures where many vulnerable people turn to religion for succour.


In secular professional practices, doctors, lawyers, therapists can have their licenses revoked for a consensual sexual intercourse with their clients. This is done because these are professions that deal with trust and emotions and the vulnerability of clients is taken into consideration. Yet we are here debating the same thing for people who are in a profession that practically numbs people’s brains. Let us not make ourselves enablers of contempt for scrutiny especially when we are not directly or indirectly affected by the indiscretions of randy religious figures. Our humanity should always seek to ensure that justice is pursued whenever such case arises.

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