One of the demerits of liberalism in any belief system is its propensity to scandalization of faith. This was how pentecostalism (an offshoot of protestantism) which is reputed for its attenuation of christian message took off; following series of reformative movements led by the likes of John Calvin, Thomas Cranmer, King Henry VIII, John Knox and Martin Luther, barely 16 centuries after Christ.
From the protestants came countless splinter independent churches that dot every nook and cranny of modern world.
The wave even surged into Catholic church irrespective of her uncompromising traditions. To tame it a little, the magisterium accepted it under the stage name — Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement. This is a movement within the Catholic Church that is part of the wider charismatic movement across historic Christian churches.
It began in 1967 when Catholics from Duquesne University attended a Protestant worship service and claimed to have been “baptized in the Holy Spirit”. It is heavily influenced by American Protestantism, especially Pentecostalism, with an emphasis on having a “personal relationship with Jesus”, deep emotional experiences, and expressing the “gifts of the Holy Spirit”.
Catholics who practice charismatic worship usually hold prayer meetings outside of Mass that feature prophecy, faith healing, and glossolalia.
Its equivalent in Anglican church is the Evangelical Fellowship in Anglican Communion (EFAC) which was founded by John Stott in 1961.
New generation churches are uncensored, and they’ve commercialized the christian religion. Instinctively, every member of a pentecostal church is a potential pastor and church inventor bidding his/her time to start a new church.
And once he could lay his hands on the logistics, he opens a brand new ‘ministry’ with a proclamation that “the Lord revealed to me…” And immediately, he will take the name “Man of God” and before you could finish reading Matt 16:18 a new church is opened. A fashionable name is allotted to the new enterprise, registered as a business name with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and members are wooed.
Ungoverned, liberal, recalcitrant, some of these ‘mushroom’ churches, as some critics berate them preach whatever their emotions suggest, and hiding under the ‘immunity’ men of God, parade infallibly before their followers to avoid criticism.
Nigeria with her peculiarity added more frenzy to the whole pentecostal movement. Each time you read that Nigeria is a country with the highest population of religious people, know that this was how it all began. One of the churches that sprang through this mechanism was Apostle Johnson Suleman’s Omega Fire Ministry (OFM).
A fiery pastor, Apostle Suleman often stir the hornet’s nest with his preachments and tweets. On October 22, he was in the news again. His entourage was morbidly attacked at close range by unknown killers. Everyone condemned such evil. Both Christian Association Of Nigeria (CAN), and Muslims condemned the baleful act.
Then came series of statements from the pastor himself. As usual, he spoke like a controversial crusader and bragged that he is “too divinely protected to fall a victim to the enemies.”
“I just escaped an assassination attempt where seven people were killed. My car was attacked — [they] opened fire on my car, and kept spraying it with bullets. My wife and my kids were there. The escort car, with some police, they killed the policeman, they killed the other people in the other escort car and the buses with us. Seven people — we were all moving in a convoy — were killed.
“People who did this are expecting me to come out, mention their names, so that they will come out and deny. I won’t do that. But the truth of the matter is this: you can’t kill me. My life is in the hand of God. I am a man of God.”
For those unaware of the tragedy: on the said date, gunmen attacked the pastor’s convoy along Benin — Auchi road, Edo state, killing many people including three police orderlies, with several casualties. The pastor spoke like Fr. Ejike Mbaka on his three alleged assassination attempts in 2002, 2015 and 2018, which he claimed in multiple statements to be politically motivated
Same fate befall Pope John Paul II, 41 years ago which marked the start of one of the biggest security failures in Vatican’s history.
At about 05:15PM local time on May 23, 1981, Pope John Paul II, while holding a routine weekly audience at St. Peter’s Square was shot four times at close range by 23-year old Turk — Mehmet Ali Agçar. He was rushed to a nearby Hospital where doctors operated on him for five hours. One of the shots hit the Pontiff in the abdomen, narrowly missing vital organs, and another hit his left hand.
Thousands of the Pope’s faithful followers gathered in the Square to hold a tearful vigil, awaiting the news his fate. To their relief John Paul made a remarkable recovery and appeared at the Square to greet them.
But what he said melted their hearts the more: “pray for my brother [Ağca] … whom I have sincerely forgiven” the saintly pope said as his first appearance remark.
In case you’re unaware, Vatican has the highest crime rate in the world, when measured against its tiny population. That’s because the millions of pilgrims/tourists who throng through St. Peter’s and Vatican museums annually are tempting targets for pickpockets.
On Christmas eve of 2009, a 25-year old Swiss woman jumped the barriers inside St Peter’s Basilica and mortally pulled Pope Benedict XVI down to the Basilica’s marble floor while he was on procession to the vigil Mass. The Pope, already frail in health, risked crashing his forehead on the hard surface, but for the intervention of his security team, he was unharmed (at least physically, for the trauma can only be imagined).
At the Mass, during the rite of homily, the Pope forgave his attacker and asked that she be freed.
A yawning contrast can be drawn between the two Popes and Apostle Suleman’s reactions to their ordeal. The former examplified sobriety and intoned forgiveness, the latter exuded incandescence and intoned vendetta.
Apostle Johnson Suleman’s flippant emphasis that why he couldn’t be killed was because he is a “child of God” is an indirect jeer on the souls and families his co-travelers who took his bullets. He also gave the impression that the only proof of faith in God is safeguard from attacks of the ‘enemies.’
However he was said to be encased in a bulletproof car, while his acolytes who paid the ultimate price were in plain vehicles.
But no one should be surprised at his disposition. He and his contemporaries had been engaged in convenience gospel, adorning christianity with the garb of temporality. And that’s one of the by-products of prosperity eulogy from the sanctuary. Hedonic ephemerality reigns supreme.
And so it was established by their brand of pentecostalism that any christian who encounters misfortune is not faithful to his calling. Material welfare is a validator of true christian spirituality.
Another side to the incident was the incoherent logic of cynics who asked why men of God should use such sophisticated cars, since they claim that attaining the sonship of God is enough shield. This line of argument is the basest form of sarcasms aimed at ridiculing Christianity.
We all believe in God as our shepherd, but still resort to hospitals, take medications, vaccines and immunizations. Believing in Christ doesn’t immune one from facticity of life. The idea that Christ has conquered the world and his believers’ only duty is to enjoy and merry, is derisive. God also guards us through ingenious technologies like bulletproofing mechanisms which He inspired in men to invent.
May daylight spare us!