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Opinions Fri, 16 Feb 2018

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The dilemma of the rational Ghanaian Christian

In the aftermath of Ebony’s death, some prophets of doom have, as usual, emerged to claim that they foresaw her death and had prophesied that she will die in 2018. Others claimed that she died because of her ungodly conduct. Some Ghanaians have expressed outrage at such insensitive comments. Others have endorsed them.

Why are Ghanaians so superstitious? Why do we attribute accidents, poverty, misfortune, etc to evil forces, voodoo, gods, devil, etc? Why do we reason inductively by cherry-picking evidence? In general, why are we in hurry to look for spiritual explanations or causes of both good fortune and bad fortune? The rational Ghanaian Christian will describe the Owusu Bempahs and Obinnims as too superstitious. I will argue in this piece that the rational Christian faces a dilemma.

In 2009, Bishop Dag Heward-Mills published a book titled “Why Non-Tithing Christians Become Poor and How Tithing Christians Can Become Rich.” In it, he stated that: “There is a specific curse for people who do not pay tithes. It is one of the top twenty-five curses in this world. This curse on non-tithers only comes to compound the existing multiplicity of curses handed down to us from Adam, Noah and other generations.” In the same book, Bishop Heward-Mills stated that:

“Often, when a thief is discovered, the wrath and contempt of society are poured out on him. Police are called in and the person is arrested. In primitive societies, instant justice is meted out and the thief could be beaten to death. In some societies the thief’s hand is cut off so that he will not steal anymore. All these are expressions of wrath towards thieves. Is it any wonder that God’s anger is stirred up against those who steal from Him? Do you expect God to behave any differently towards people who steal from Him? Indeed, God is angry with all thieves who have deprived His house of what belongs to Him. When you do not pay tithes, do not expect the blessing of God. Expect the wrath of God to come upon you!”: http://ghamsuknust.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Why-Non-Tithing-Christians-Become-Poor-a-Dag-Heward-Mills.pdf

In 2014, Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams spiritually “commanded” the falling cedi to “rise”. Of course, the cedi did not rise. It continued to fall precipitously. Two years later in April 2016, Duncan-Williams’ wife Rose Whitaker said that “I don’t know why people thought it was funny, if you believe in the unlimited power of God and you have a currency crisis, why would you not apply prayer to that"

In 2003, the management of Ghana Airways invited a Ghanaian evangelist, Lawrence Tetteh, to lead an all-night prayer vigil to seek divine solutions to the airline’s problems. Ghana Airways collapsed. Its problems were the result of mismanagement, not the work of any devil.

I am not claiming that it is wrong to be a Christian or worship God. But Ghanaians seem to worship God, including some who may describe themselves as different from the Obinnims and Owusu-Bempahs, in a manner that gives rise to prophets of doom and charlatans. If prominent pastors like Bishop Dag Heward-Mills and Archbishop Duncan-Williams believe that spiritual forces can cause the cedi to rise and non-tithers are cursed by God, why can’t Prophet Richard Gyimah and his followers believe that Ebony’s death was the work of negative spiritual forces, the devil? Why is one set of beliefs rational while another set of beliefs is irrational? On the basis of the story of Job in the bible, there are many Christians who believe that God can allow the devil to bring misfortune and calamity upon Christians or anyone. God gave Satan permission to torment Job. By the way, if the cedi rises, the dollar and pound will fall; it’s a zero-sum game. Which negative spiritual force has this effect on the dollar and pound?

When I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, the standard response to “how are you?” was “I am fine” (add “thank you” for me). But these days, the standard response is “by his grace”, “dromor eh” (Ga), “Mawufeamenuv3ve” (Ewe), “adom ooo” (Twi), etc. This is based on Ephesians 2: 8 – 9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Clearly, this passage attributes salvation (“going to heaven”) to God’s grace. But most Ghanaian Christians whose response to “how are you?” is “by his grace” seem to give the impression that their success on this earth is by grace, not by their works or their efforts. What has grace got to do with “how are you on earth, NOT in heaven (yet!)”. By extension, misfortune — at least to many — is the result of a lack of grace or the devil’s work. There is a method to the madness.

Ey3 adom araaa kwa. The battle is the Lord’s. When the response to a very basic and daily question like “how are you” evolves from “I am fine” to “by his grace”, it is a reflection of the extent to which the attribution of good and bad fortune to spiritual forces is deeply ingrained in the consciousness of a people.

By all means pray, if you must. Believe in God, if you must. But get the basic things right before blaming your misfortunes on the work of the devil. Fix the roads, don’t give licenses to those who cannot drive; punish bad drivers; stop collecting bribes from bad drivers, stop victimizing old women and children as witches, etc. Ebei … Abonsam abre!!!

Columnist: J. Atsu Amegashie

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