Posted on: 2015-05-11

Bashing religion

Most people know cynical quote about religion being the opium of the people. Some even call religion cyanide of the masses. Such pronouncements portray religion as enemy and curse of man and of society rather than a blessing. What we really need answer is, how come so many people of class, status and means of all professions, languages and interests still cherish religion as they do. The answer is as straightforward as the Bible gives it. God said to his people: "I shall put my spirit within you and move you to follow my decrees and keep my laws" (Ez. 36:27). "As a deer longs for flowing streams so my soul longs for you, O God" (Ps.42;10  The Bible is right on point. Every human being deep inside him longs for a higher being, a longing difficult to deny. Things clamour for their owners. "Our hearts are restless Oh Lord until they rest in thee", said Saint Augustine. The truth is that religion has always been necessary to help man better manage himself. Demonising religion for all the oppression and injustice perpetrated by religious people is much like condemning cell phones because they are sometimes used to detonate explosives. One of the positive roles religion plays is to remind man of the constant need to seek reconciliation, reparation, restoration and renewal. To paraphrase Jonathan Swift, the problem is that some people have just enough religion to make them hate, but not enough to make them love other people.  


The "war" in Nigeria

War! That is what elections amount to so far  in Nigeria. In spite of all entreaties for civility and decency, elections in our country have yet to become safe and secure in this country. During the recent elections allegations of arms pile-up by groups and individuals who would prefer the bullet to the ballot box as a way to power, had most people on edge. By God's grace however, Nigeria survived the "war", an electoral contest in which many politicians and citizens threw courtesy and decency out the window in their bid to grab  power and position. Out the window, along with civil values, went religious principles as well. We saw emerge even in many highly- placed people the animal called man, in his undiluted raw state; greedy, self centred, brutal and murderous. As is often said that in war rules, and codes of conduct take a back seat, betrayals, backbiting, calumny, became preferred tools of relationship. In spite of the best efforts of the electoral umpire, many otherwise decent people simply became champions of indecency, just to secure victory


The ravages of war

Since the electoral results came out and jubilations subsided, many people have receded into near-passivity, savouring the relative peace and simply waiting for the handover day from when "miracles would begin to happen". But the aftermath of war is never all pleasant. Many contestants in the elections emerged physically and psychologically bruised, maimed or even bereaved from the elections, still lamenting and weeping. Many people's name and reputation were damaged and they still hurt. Therefore in this tentative/tenuous peace the future demands to be built and secured. Serious challenges abound and the nation needs all its energies and best resources to overcome them. One of those challenges is that of reconciliation of all who have hurt each other. Without it the nation cannot fully enjoy the fruits of the elections that have just taken place.


The texture of reconciliation

The task of reconciliation demands honesty, humility and attentiveness to the voice of God and conscience. According to the Midrash, "a reconciliation that does not recognise that error often lies on both sides of a case is not a true reconciliation" In the murky waters of politics it is doubtful if a completely innocent party ever exists on any issue. Citizens, especially Christian and Muslim politicians have a big responsibility in this regard. Reconciliation is needed to provide the platform for the healing that can bring the best out of Nigeria. In other words, love, meeting with humility and honesty is the recipe for the perfection of society. Religious people have the special privilege and sensitivity to procure reconciliation even when it is neither demanded or deserved. Saint Paul wrote: "For while were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly... but God shows is love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:6-10). Such reconciliation of course requires a readiness to forgive and be forgiven.


Love is the answer

Eastertide, this period between Easter and Pentecost is great for the ministry of reconciliation for Easter is the celebration of the victory of love over hatred and of light over darkness. The persistent call of Jesus that his followers love one another is a good healing strategy as we eagerly wait for another handover of power in Nigeria. It is as if St Paul were talking directly to Christians in our situation: "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2Cor.5:20). Forgiveness is the final form of love, what Jesus Christ practised from the cross right at the final hour of his agony. Unsolicited, he said: "Father forgive them for they know not what they do" (Lk. 23:34). It is what we propose at this period to all authentic Christians to adopt. "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you..." (Jn. 15: 12-14). It is an opportunity that Christians, especially those in politics must not lose to confirm their identity as ambassadors for Christ to by the power of their forgiveness and reconciliation, make love break forth in Nigeria and renew the face of the earth.