When I lived in Ghana, we pretty much had a limited number of religions and they were very structured with many falling under structural leaders who were head quartered overseas. Today we continue to have those structured religions along with many unstructured ones. In short, anyone calling himself a pastor, a Bishop, Rev. Dr. or what have you is a man or woman of God and enjoys the benefits that our God fearing selves give them. I have no quarrels with this but I see signs of trouble and we need our government to step in and set some sort of a requirement before things get out of hand.
I am sure it will be no news to anyone if I say that people kill all the time in the name of God. I have long found it amusing that people find the Bible in America when they go to prison. I can name a few famous religious leader who found God when they went to prison; some for killing. I have often said that what makes for a good preacher is what makes for a good con man. A turn in the wrong direction and someone who would otherwise be a brilliant preacher will wind up a very brilliant con man.
I have read stories of vulnerable people falling prey to men of God who they ran into in the street and putting all their trust in them. Some have been sexually molested. I believe this past week, there was an accident that claimed the lives of some who were on a religious “pilgrimage”. As I write, my sister is in Ghana preparing to return after attending the funeral for someone who died along with many people on their way to a religious “pilgrimage”. On a visit to Ghana a few years ago, my family and I had to endure the “slaughter” of an “all nighter” right outside our house. A good night’s sleep was out of the question. My wife who is not a Ghanaian thought it was rude and she wanted to go and rudely interrupt them. I admonished her telling her that you don’t go to someone’s country and try to get them to conform to your standard especially when those who permanently live with it don’t complain.
The point I am trying to make is that anyone with charisma can wake up tomorrow and start a church and do whatever his God tells him to do and many will follow until they fall victim and there will be no recourse. Traditionally a Bishop was someone who had been a priest or a minister for a few years and have earned a promotion to a Bishop. A Bishop used to have other ministers or priests reporting to him. Today anyone can call himself or herself a Bishop without any responsibility besides filling a church on Sunday or whatever day.
I am writing this opinion article because the Charmaine Speirs or Charmaine Adusah’s death in Ghana wreaks so bad and it smells to me like there is a Bishop smack in the middle of it. How does a man, a man of God at that, arrive in Ghana at a Bishop’s house and have his wife sleep in the Bishops home while the husband sleeps somewhere else especially in Ghana where it is not unusual for a man and his wife to leave their bedroom and have a guest and his wife stay there for hospitality’s sake. At best, I will say the Bishop was not very hospitable for a Ghanaian; at least not in the name of keeping a married couple together; at worst, (and this is only my opinion which can be as wrong as two plus two is ten) somebody, and I hope not the Bishop, was giving Mrs. Adusah something that she was reluctant to leave behind.
Where does the government come in the mist of people’s morality? Can we have a government that will require that these pastors at least let the government know who they are, what their structure is, who the “top” person in the hierarchy reports to; a board or to himself; what their code of conduct is and what their reporting structure is; in other words, if a pastor in the church is molesting young children, are there requirements to report such things to government officials. Lastly there should be no way that any church should make unnecessary demands on children. I am saying this because I read of a 13 or so year old girl in Tema who was going home from an “all nighter” one early morning and was raped and killed or something like that. Government regulation should at least require that children, usually younger than 18, should be exempted from such religious conformities like “all nighter” or that the church will be responsible for such children until their parents take custody of them or they arrive home safely. This is not interfering with religious freedom, it is conforming to societal norm and decency.
For those who will cry that this is interfering with religious freedom, I will say that in the US, where this religious freedom comes from in the first place, each church will obtain government permit just like any business before the doors are opened to welcome worshipers and they have to meet some requirements for that. If a church keeps a neighbourhood up all night, you can bet they will get a knock on the door by the police. Ghana, vulnerable as we are, need some guidance until we mature and government has to do it. Please do not leave us to the whims of charisma.