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article imageOp-Ed: Nigerian prosperity gospel churches fleece the poor

By JohnThomas Didymus     Nov 5, 2011 in World
Lagos - Evangelical churches are doing brisk business in Lagos, preying on the anxiety of millions to escape poverty. They have little time for pie-in-the-sky hopes of afterlife bliss. The focus is on here-and-now, in the most materialistic terms possible.
Nigerian Evangelical churches are modeled loosely in the pattern of the Evangelical churches of the United States, but with a generous infusion of local cultural preoccupation with demons, spirits and witches as the agents of the ubiquitous Devil who holds its victims in lifelong poverty.
Nigerians throng these churches with only one thing in mind, miracles of prosperity. The hopes of their followers go beyond mere fulfillment of their basic needs such as health and long life, but reach out grandiosely to hopes of wealth, riches and power: new topflight jobs, six-figure incomes, flashy cars — nobody, it seems, holds to the traditional religious hope the late Afro-beat icon Fela Anikulapo-Kuti spoofed in his famous song as "suffer suffer for world, enjoy for heaven." Twenty first century Nigerian Christians want their enjoyment not in afterlife but now in this world. Their pastors know just what they want and have modified their pulpit sermons to suit popular tastes.
The "prosperity gospel" brand of Christianity promises material blessings to Christians as the major sign of God's approval and salvation. Poverty is a curse to be banished from the lives of spirit-filled Christians not only through prayer vigils and exorcisms, but also through Christians giving generously to the Church.
A leading Nigerian preacher who presides over one of the largest "prosperity gospel" churches in Lagos, Nigeria, once said in a television sermon on prosperity, "When you give to God in teaspoonfuls, he returns blessings to you in shovel loads."
Members, millions of them, giving to God in "teaspoonfuls," have feathered the nests of many Nigerian prosperity preachers. Nigerian prosperity pastors are among the richest and most influential men in he country today.
Recently, Nigerian Daily News reported on what it describes as a new "up-and-coming" preacher in Lagos, Dr. Sign Fireman, presiding over a church event called the "Burial of Satan." Nigerian Daily News reports:
"Sick members of the congregation come forward for miracle healing. Dr Fireman claims to have God-given powers...raising people from the dead to curing earache. One man tells the crowd he is crippled and blind. Dr Fireman then channels his powers to help the man walk and see again. Yet, earlier the team had seen the man walking unaided. At the close of the event the crowd swarms forward and throws money at Dr Fireman's feet. There is so much cash it has to be collected in dustbins...With the service over, Dr Fireman leaves in his yellow Hummer 4x4...He travels everywhere with his bodyguards in one of his three yellow luxury cars with a combined worth of more than £150,000."
(See Dr. Sign Fireman "miracle" videos below)
Probably the biggest and most influential prosperity gospel church in Nigeria today is the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) led by Pastor Enoch Adeboye. God Discussion reports that a few years ago Enoch Adeboye made Newweek's list of top 50 Global Elites. God Discussion reports,
"Pastor Adeboye was the only African on a list of the world's most influential leaders which included Pope Benedict XVI. According to the Newsweek, Adeboye is one of the world's most powerful people."
Adeboye is a very influential man in Nigeria, consulted by powerful and influential politicians seeking spiritual guidance to political success. Pastor Adeboye responds to accusations of preaching "prosperity gospel" without apologies:
"Pentecostals have such an impact because they talk of the here and now, not just the by and by…We pray for the sick, but we pray for their prosperity, for their overcoming of evil forces and so on. While we have to worry about heaven, there are some things God could do for us in the here and now."
In recent times, the fabulous wealth of Nigerian pastors and their flair for public display of the "blessings of Solomon" has attracted "bad press." Recently, Nigerian media widely carried stories on the fabulous wealth of Nigerian church pastors. A list of richest Nigerians who own private jets was dominated by pastors and church leaders. God Discussion reports:
"Top on the list of Nigerian multimillionaires who own private jets were the 'megapastors' whose private wealth come from the contributions of millions of impoverished church members. Bishop David Oyedepo, leader of Winner's Chapel, one of Africa's largest and wealthiest churches is also widely reputed as the wealthiest gospel preacher in Africa...Oyedepo maintains a private collection of four luxury jets which include three Gulfstream jets and a Challenger 604 Aircraft. He acquired his last jet, a Gulfstream V jet valued at $30 million, in March 2011. Bishop Oyedepo is building private hangers in Lagos and Accra to accommodate his 'flying toys.'" expresses the feelings of many Nigerians about their flamboyant pastors:
"...Nigerians frown at…flagrant displays of opulence, particularly...of their clergymen given that 60% of Nigerians still live below the poverty line. Paradoxically the same people who complain about the extravagant lifestyles of their spiritual leaders are the same ones who finance it. Every Sunday...worshipers rush to church to give away their hard-earned money to the pastors coffers...with the [delusional] hope of multiplied financial blessings in return..."
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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