Rev. Asante Antwi¹S Tainted Conscience

Tue, 17 Aug 2010 Source: Amenga-Etego, SaCut

There has been great controversy over comments purportedly made by a 'man

on the pulpit' in the Methodist church of Ghana during a visit to that

church by opposition leader Nana Akuffo Addo of the NPP last Sunday. His

comments were varied but suffice it to say that the man on the pulpit

publicly declared himself a member of the opposition new patriotic party

during sermon time on the pulpit whiles asking for the rejection of the

ruling NDCgovernment in the next general election in 2012. Whiles many

members of the NPP are gloating over what they perceive to be a political

plus, many others especially the supporters of the ruling NDC have been

embittered greatly by his remarks. Some have expressed disappointment in the

'man of God' for dabbling in party politics. Government spokesman and deputy

information minister Okudzeto Ablakwa was the first to lament over his

comments from government-expressing absolute disappointment in his Œlack of

neutrality¹ on the pulpit. I have also heard supporters of the Rev. Samuel

Asante Antwi former President of the Methodist church of Ghana say that what

the man did was engaging in 'liberation theology'.

I have my own view of this situation that has been variously observed by

different schools of thought.

First, I don't believe this is the first time a 'man on the pulpit' has

engaged in government criticism.And this particular man is widely known to

have been an open critic of Chairman RAWLINGS during the reviving days of

the PNDC. He was also reported in 2008 to have put on his cell phone a

ringing tone that also served as a campaign signature tune for Nana Akuffo

Addo. Just this time, he was more pronounced in his declaration of support

for the opposition and indeed, his disdain for the ruling party.

Nobody can convince me that his utterances on the pulpit last Sunday

represent liberation theology. Why? What does liberation theology teach? It

teaches that 'Christians must work for social and economic justice for all

people'. If The Rev. Minister is really espousing a liberation theology,

then he ought to be learning from Jean Bertrand Aristide of Haiti whose

liberation theology led to his ex-communication from the Roman catholic

church as a Salesian priest and who continually organized mass protest

against the Jean Claude Duvalier regime and protecting the rights of the

poor in Haiti or take inspiration from the Zapatistas of Mexico who in 1994

took over official buildings in the state capital and proclaiming war for

the 'looting of our natural resources'. Or again, this 'man on the pulpit'

can draw some lessons from the Sandinistas in Nicaragua where some priests

who professed 'liberation theology' decided to join Daniel Ortega and the

urban resistance campaign to oust Anastasio Somozain 1979. That was pure

concrete liberation theology.

That is how far liberation theology is practiced. And I do not think that

the Rev. will want to begin his liberation theology only after he retired as

the president of the Methodist church Ghana. Besides, where was his

liberation theology when President Kuffour's NPP government proclaimed

themselves 'enemies of the poor' in Ghana under a 'property owning

democracy'? Indeed, liberation theology and property owning democracy are

running parallel to each other. Where was his liberation theology when the

military turned Ghana into an experimental state where coups had become so

fashionable and poor people got poorer and social justice got buried until a

certain chairman RAWLINGS came to halt it all with his version of

'liberation theology'? where was Asante Antwi when other clergy joined J.J

Rawlings and the his colleagues to work for economic and social justice for

all in Ghana?

Having said all that, I do want to say that I have nothing in principle

against any man on the pulpit actively and openly engaging in party politics

like the Rev. Samuel Asante Antwi. Indeed, many of them-if not all-are

already engaged covertly in party politics. And as a political youth

activists, I have enough experience to conclude that the real political

actors aren't necessarily the ones who are loud on the campaign platform.

There are many 'hidden hands' whose works for political parties are more

strategic than what Chairman Rawlings, Kuffour, Atta Mills or Akuffo Addo

will do on the campaign platform.

This Rev. has obviously been one of those 'hidden hands' that has influenced

a lot of support for the NPP in that Methodist denomination in Ghana. Is he

the only one? Absolutely no! I know one 'man on the pulpit' who used his

sermon times during the 2008 general elections to campaign for the NPP. How

do I know? Of course I was not in the congregation but my party member who

was also a member of this church left the church in a loud protest-The

church lost a member-and the NPP didn't win more votes as a result.

As I have indicated, there are also other 'men on the pulpit' who were a

part of the PNDC movement in 1979 and are still a part of it now. Just

recently, a priest from east Africa-who espouses liberation theology-joined

believers and adherents to the AFRC/PNDC movement to commemorate 31 years of

the june4 uprising in Tamale. I didn¹t see anything wrong with it.

Severally, many lovers of our true democracy have denounced our religious

leaders for hypocritically keeping mute over glaring social injustice in

Ghana. I have heard the former President Rawlings and many others asking the

'clergy' to not keep quiet over social injustices or during political

upheavals. Interestingly, many of them have decided to make 'selective

comments' as and when it suits them and their interests. And for me, that

behavior by our religious leaders smacks off hypocrisy in the highest order

akin to the biblical Pharisees. It will be really useful and progressive

for our religious leaders to get loud on issues bordering on social and

economic injustice. They must get political when the need arises but they

cannot engage in the usual NPP-NDC politics and call it liberation theology.

They must speak against injustice whether committed by NDC or NPP. After

all, they're already covertly engaged in politics as I have stated already.

People will make arguments about separating church and state. Yes. Let¹s

separate them by all means but we can only have a cosmetic separation like

the one between our 'legislooters' and our executive. We all know that there

is no such real separation of powers between these two arms of government.

So my argument is that all the 'men on the pulpit' must begin to speak

openly about what they feel or see wrong with our social, economic or

political order. If for nothing at all, they will be enriching our

democratic debate, plus, they will be clearing their tainted and Œpharisaic

conscience¹. But let no one even try to convince me that the Rev. Samuel

Asante Antwi, the retired Methodist bishop is pursuing liberation theology

with a sycophantic praise of the opposition leader. For all you know, this

man is covertly negotiating with Nana Akuffo Addo for council of state

position in the unlikely event that ever becomes president of Ghana in 2012.

That will just be a prudent move by the man on the pulpit!

SaCut Amenga-Etego

(YFL General secretary)

Columnist: Amenga-Etego, SaCut