RE – In Defense of the Nigerian Jet Pastors
BY Justine John DYIKUK
As a TELL reader, I enjoy Tundun Adeyemo’s reflections. Her piece on ‘Religion, Pastors and their Jets’ dated December 3, 2012 was on point and timely too. Despite its revolutionary stance, I feel that it has some food for thought for every pastor of soul. How could one have predicted that heterogeneous readership with varied opinions was going to present a counter opinion? As I impatiently opened the latest edition of the magazine of December 10, 2012, I came across a rejoinder written by one Olufemi Arinsiola to the aforementioned reflection. Perhaps TELL fans and admirers of their house-style would ask, ‘who is this man daring one of TELL magazine’s most prolific columnists?’ Those with such sentiments would soon realise that print journalism like any other form of journalism allows for freedom of expression via this visual platform. The TELL mail box, an ancient forum for reader feedback, offered Arinsiola that MasterCard. Does he have the pin code? Would access be easy? I admit the zealousness and promptness with which Arinsiola parcels his take on this controversial issue. If the matter at hand were not timely, interest-generating and one seemingly begging for disciples on either side like the biblical sons of Zebedee, I should think that he would not dare spiking Adeyemo’s views with the cynical question: ‘Is it because of want of something to write about?’ Though he accuses the TELL columnist of slander, (a word which may be larger than his thinking cap) he is guilty of same. Yes, slander of truth. Truth is either hundred percent or zero percent. Market place analysis or popularity of this sort cannot buy a pigeon!
In his frantic defence, the pastor-defender suggests that the lot cast on Jesus’ garment by soldiers at His crucifixion was a sign of wealth. In his words: ‘that surely does not sound like the rag you are trying to paint about Christianity.’ This mentality may not be unconnected with prosperity gospellers who insist on John 19:24 – Jesus’ seamless undergarment as evidence that He was rich. Throughout the scriptures (gospels), the said garment was not mentioned until His crucifixion (Mark 15:24); throughout Church history no one ever made a big deal of this like today’s prosperity gospellers; the 4 soldiers didn’t tear Jesus’ clothes because, they wanted to cast lots on it to fulfil the Scripture (Cf., Psalm 22:18 & John 19:24).
Further exegetical notes on dressing at the time of Jesus indicate that a male Jew wore five clothes; the outer garment, undergarments, head gear, footwear and ornamentation. This means that He wore five clothes and there were four soldiers. Since casting lots was a perquisite (gain, stipend, incentive) that accrue to soldiers after crucifixion, after each took a piece of Jesus’ clothing he wanted, they decided to cast lots on His undergarment which was the last wear He wore. One wonders how a mere underwear would have been a priceless item; not even in our time. Do not forget that Scripture speaks of people who funded Jesus’ ministry (Cf., Luke 8:3).
It is important to be convinced of one’s beliefs but not be bewitched by them. In that way, one learns from the creeds of others to enrich his. This can only be if a person thinks outside the box. Such is the magna carta of living in a pluralistic society and medicine for peaceful co-existence. The writer was insensitive and unkind in his thin-thought when he wrote: ‘If you are not a Muslim, I’m so sure you are one of the Christians still in the Orthodox Roman Catholic or Anglican Communion…’ What is wrong in being a Muslim or an Orthodox Christian? The likes of you are the problem of Nigeria! Does your creed teach you religious eugenics? Come on, step up a bit; wear bigger lenses. A proof of knowing your faith and growing in it is respect for the religious sentiments and sensibilities of others. I wouldn’t think you will have God’s benediction on this!
The sarcasm which you display betrays an uninformed mind seeking for further truths. Your submission ‘I really pity your level of ignorance, because I was once in the same shoes as you, but thank God for salvation’ is far-fetched. What salvation are you talking about? An immature faith that judges others? A bellicose creed that is self-conceited? A belligerent affirmation of sure hope of salvation in the rags of confusion? Would the pastor and Jesus-of-your-salvation you are zealously defending and advertising canonize your submissions?
I dare you to do your home-work about the Orthodox Church you are accosting. Every objective mind around the globe knows how the bible you are using came about; the current Gregorian calendar the world is using came to be; the structure of what you call church today anywhere in the world came to fruition; the cream of intellectuals (with intimidating credentials) the Church has offered the world (whom you have known, heard of or read about; that is if you care) in every part of the world who are silently advancing the cause of global growth, charity and (praying for world peace)!
You seem to have a problem of understanding what religion and Christianity is all about and the smoke also affects your grasp as well as your purview about Church attendance. Can a dry Church be more than two thousand years old? Perhaps a dry mind is more culpable of failing to see things as they are – a sure case of mixing oranges with pineapples. An uncooked experimental intellectual gossip of this kind further enflames the embers of division within and outside the church! The church is not a platform for propaganda as you appear to present it and number does not necessarily mean legitimacy. Adolf Hitler had more followers than Christ. What does that say to you? You make a false claim of decline in Orthodox Churches to the favour of Pentecostals. What are your facts? Where are the statistics? Are you pitching your argumentative tent on large billboards, alluring advertorials, persuasive membership, talismanic manoeuvres and tithe-for-blessing magnets? Besides, outstanding and meaningful results should be the Church’s’ focus not numeral strength alone!
Christ started his life from the cradle of Bethlehem to the cross of Calvary. As such, no amount of sugar-coating the gospel can reduce its worth. In a country where the majority of the masses are wallowing in shameful and agonizing poverty, dying of hunger, sleeping under the bridge and on bare ground in flood camps; the children of God are suffering the assault of Boko Haram in the north yet someone is speaking in favour of pastor-jet worth millions of dollars; source of the Jet money may even be questionable! In sum, Jesus was not rich – he borrowed a crib to be born, a donkey to ride on, a pulpit to preach on, a boat to sail on, a house to stay, money to pay the customary tax, a home to eat the Passover and needed funding which was why Judas kept the money bag. His possession of a robe did not in any way prove that He was wealthy or flamboyant. Christianity does not preach that we should be mendicants or rag-tag-fellows. We must learn to live within our means and not lose our moral voice as pastors because our hands are stained. The bible teaches us that He lived a simple life and taught the apostles same. ‘How much of a wardrobe did he have? Perhaps He didn’t have a different seamless garment for everyday use but the same one worn throughout the week and throughout His ministry. Intellectualism greased with objectivity would not attack an institution or ministry but issues which affect nationhood as they are presented by individuals. I wouldn’t think that from her reflection, Adeyemo was attacking the person or ministry of jet-pastors, as Arinsiola suggests in which case he directly assaults Orthodox Churches and I am not either. The focus here is an attitude of affluence (flying jets) over and above the people by a man of God called to minister to them!
Are JET PASTORS justified by Jesus’ use and ownership of a garment? He was rich in all things mundane but no JETS. Is a materially minded and profit making ministry which has no regard for the poor, weak, oppressed and village apostolate able to fly the JETS over this earth to the great beyond? Card declined – Stop the aspersions!
Fr. Justine John DYIKUK, a Catholic priest, freelance writer/poet and Public Affairs Commentator writes from, Centre for the Study of African Culture and Communication, Catholic Institute of West Africa, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where he is a post-graduate student in Pastoral Communication!