By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Saturday, April 28, 2012
The Bishop of the Obuasi Diocese of the Methodist Church, the Rt. Rev. Stephen R. Bosomtwi-Ayensu is reported to have warned President Mills to reject the name “Asomdwehene” or face the wrath of God. His reason? The name, which means “King of Peace,” must be used by none other than Christ.
Speaking to XYZ News, Rt. Rev. Bosomtwi-Ayensu said he is pleading with Ghanaians who continuously refer to the President as “Asomdwehene” to stop or will subject President Mills to God’s wrath (Ghanaweb, April 28, 2012).
Of all the ugly things happening in this country of late, none can be more annoying than this vain warning. I will be blunt to say upfront that this Methodist Bishop is a disgrace to Christendom.
First, Christ is not a “King of Peace,” but a “Prince of Peace.” Second, this Methodist Bishop’s rant reminds me of the Conference of Nicaea convened by Emperor Constantine (I think in 321 AD) at which he asked the Christian Religious Leaders the knotty question: Is Jesus Christ was “the same as God” or “the Son God”?
Shockingly, the Christian religious leaders at that Conference quarreled among themselves and couldn’t come up with any responsible answer. Emperor Constantine then declared that it thenceforth be known and accepted that Christ was “the Son of God.”
Christendom has ever since regarded Christ as such, regardless of any other name that anybody may ascribe to him. Had Emperor Constantine declared otherwise, the adulation would have taken a different turn.
Strictly speaking, my Muslim friends have told me that the Christian perception of Christ and that of the Muslim differ on that score, especially with Christians equating Christ to God while the Muslims regard him (Issah) as one of the Prophets!!
No doubt, there has been an age-old conflict between Islam and Christianity over this article of faith. The Crusades and Jihads just symbolize the boiling over of those doctrinal conflicts across the religious board.
What this Methodist Bishop has set in motion is nothing but a political crusade that will backfire. There is nothing “religious” or “Christian” about it.
The overarching question, then, is: What is in this name for Jesus Christ that anybody should fight over?
I must say that this is the second time that I have heard anybody turn appellation into a needless tug-of-war. The first occasion was sometime in the early 1990s when I listened to Odefuo Boamponsem, Denkyirahene, complain at a meeting with him at Jukwa that he was really upset that someone had also picked the name “Odefuo” by which to be called. Indeed, that person was none other but Odefuo Adade Bekoe, one-time District Secretary for the Afram Plains in the Rawlings PNDC era.
The Denkyirahene said he had to travel to that area to warn him to drop that name because it was reserved for him. I couldn’t believe that an enlightened traditional leader would do that. But that was what he said he did. We may forgive him because he acted as a human being in defence of what he felt entitled to.
But we will not pardon this Methodist Bishop because he is not fighting a human cause. He has taken the matter to a spiritual level and must be brought where he belongs. He can’t fight Christ’s battle for him. In any case, Christ doesn’t even have to feature in this “Asomdwehene” accolade because he abhors self-adulation or gratification. His is humility, temperance, continence, love, a life of tolerance and self-effacement.
The closest Christ ever came to being associated with a name was when the Jews sought to imply that he was the Messiah (sent down to deliver them from the autocracy of the Roman political institution, not to send them to heaven). What did Christ tell them in response?
Again, when he was being tried by the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate tauntingly asked him whether he was the King of the Jews, what did Jesus say in response? Instead of conferring on himself that title, he repudiated it with the retort: “Thou sayest so” (You are saying so, Pontius Pilate”).
Yet, at his crucifixion, he was mocked with the inscription INRI (King) on the part of the cross above his head.
But that’s not all about him, to return to why he didn’t end the matter of appellation hanging. He wanted to know whether the Jews had indeed placed him on a pedestal as an honour; that was why he asked his disciples: Who do people say I am? They gave several responses; but not satisfied, Jesus asked them: Who do you (my disciples) say I am?
Peter’s answer? You are the Christ (the anointed one), to which Jesus responded positively by authoritatively establishing Peter as his successor with the investiture “You are Peter, the Rock upon which I will build my church.”
And Peter led the Apostles to pass through spiritual encounters and the events at Pentecost, ensuring that the Great Commission was enforced.
In a turn of events, though, Jesus Christ himself is often referred to by Christians as “the Rock of Ages,” a mere adulatory term given him by human beings seeking solace in his name and ministry.
Throughout history, people have either given themselves names or have been hailed as such by others for various reasons. No name-calling has brought down any wrath of God on anybody. At worst, name-calling becomes a problem only if it is pejorative enough to instigate mob action, especially in parts of the world where illiteracy, ignorance, and strong ethnic attachments set people on edge to react violently to anything that is regarded as disparaging of their status. We have examples in Ghana to remind us of the negative aspects of name-calling. But not in the case of Christendom.
Appellations form part of Christian expression of the religious experience. How many names don’t Christians babble out in honour of God? All the El-Shaddais, Adonais, Elohims, and many jaw-breaking ones are constantly rattled out as a demonstration of one’s desire to enter a communion with God.
Where in the Bible is it stated that Christ conferred the name (“King of Peace”) on himself and decreed that nobody else should go by it?
What is our business if someone goes about calling himself GOD? Should we fight that person on that score or leave him to what we acknowledge as the Supreme Deity to tackle if name-calling is anything for that Supreme Deity to bother about at all?
I have a few more questions for this ignorant Methodist Bishop:
• How did that name (“Asomdwehene”) come to be reserved for Jesus Christ and Christ only?
• Was it Christ himself who announced that name (“King of Peace”) by which this Methodist preacher is forcing us to call him and him only?
• Was it not the human being who coined that name and all others as listed in the Christian Bible? Where is the evidence to confirm that Christ accepted that title?
• So, if by our human estimation, Christ alone is to be called by our human coinages, are we not reducing him to what we think he is? Where has Christ ever appeared to tell us that he wants to be called by that name, anyway?
In fact, this Methodist preacher is a lazy fellow to think that way. He is a classic example of the problem that our churches have created and continue to create because of the way they do things.
The name to be given Jesus (“Emmanuel,” or “God is with us”) had been established long before his birth. That “Jesus Christ” was later added to supplant “Emmanuel” is a different story.
But calling him by all sorts of names alone doesn’t ensure our piety, especially in this human context.
The problem we have in this world is that some religious leaders have taken over Christ’s (or God’s) battle to fight for him. They have been quick to appropriate the doctrines and manipulated their teachings to serve parochial interests. That is why we have fundamentalism and extremism all over the place, which is the seed that often blossoms into anti-social and deviant conduct and incubates such destructive acts as terrorism, anti-Semitism, hate speeches, and genocide, among others.
It is a clear demonstration of intolerance and paralyzing ignorance (if not mischief) by this Methodist Bishop who has arrogated to himself the role of God’s messenger to make such an obnoxious statement.
I am irritated by this kind of empty pontification on roof-top just for the sake of publicity. This Methodist Bishop must bow his head in shame for taking on something that doesn’t really need anybody’s attention.
What has calling President Mills “Asomdwehene” detracted from Jesus’ worth? Or has Jesus come down to complain to him about that name being “misused” or “misapplied” to delay his Second Coming?
Having been created in the image and likeness of God, what is wrong if we human beings act in ways to reflect the good and not the bad aspects of God? The name “Asomdwehene” symbolizes peace and must be upheld as such.
Who has told this Methodist Bishop that his own label of “Right Reverend” or “Bishop” is pleasing in the sight of Christ?
I shall return…
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