By Francis Kwarteng
“I found out that I was a Christian for revenue only and I could not bear the thought of that, it was so ignoble” (Mark Twain)
“Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion—several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven…”
Dabbousi's yellow journalism and Otabil's bully pulpit
This is why his corpus of journalistic writings should be collected and stuffed into Akufo-Addo’s mock coffin and buried deep in an ocean of human feces.
Thus, the rhetorical violence of Dabbousi’s journalism rather subtracts from Akufo-Addo’s political capital if, in fact, he has any to start with.
All this is not to say he should not criticize the Mahama administration where it deserves criticism. We approve this statement of his:
“I will criticize the president but of course…”
Except that it should not be essentialist in rhetorical tone because if indeed it is, there will be a deluge of quick critical rhetorical reversion to the conflict-prone geopolitics of his Lebanese/Middle Eastern background.
The essentialist pathway is counterproductive. Then also maybe, just maybe, the government is not doing nearly enough by way of fighting corruption.
But President Mahama and his government are not the originating parents of corruption in the body politic. As a matter of fact Dabbousi’s conman John Kufuor, the originating grandparent of Adam and Eve, is also the great-grandparents of political corruption.
Kufour nailed the etiology of political corruption on his two grandchildren, Adam and Eve, who have always lived in the Flagstaff House, built by the generous children of South Africa’s racist Gandhi.
And equally true, let us just say, yes, there is so much the government can do, for corruption is as much a huge problem in the Flagstaff House and parliament as it is in our mosques and churches, including Pastor Otabil’s.
In the churches and mosques it is God’s problem, God’s mercy, that is, to deal with it, but rather absurdly it is seen as an entirely different animal once it is in the court of the secular world.
Why is Dabbousi running away from this basic fact? Is it because politicians, particularly those in the ruling government, are a different species of political animals, wicked and unconscionable ones at that, and so they must be held to different if higher standards of moral critique? How about the moral corruption of Dabbousi’s own political writings?
This excruciating etiology of moral illusion probably explains why corruption cannot be traced to President Mahama and his government. Furthermore, neither President Mahama nor Akufo-Addo is or represents the deity of corruption in the nation.
The Ghanaian society is that which corrupt to the bone. The Second Coming of Christ and the Judgment Day will both surely take place in Ghana, a friend once told this author, on account of the heightened level of corruption in that country.
Fadi the Savior or, rather, let us just say Fadi the Redeemer, should simply tell us when this Second Coming of Christ and the Judgment Day are due in Ghana through his yellow journalism. He should also tell us, convince us as to why he thinks the politics of “The Satanic Verses” in the Ghanaian body politic is not unique to the two major political parties.
The above notwithstanding, we all need to come together as we direct our collective efforts toward neutralizing what Pastor Otabil calls “error of leadership.” Unfortunately, both the former (and Dabbousi) misses the bigger picture. Either he is being mischievous or economical with the truth.
Which politician in Ghana is not religious, either his [Otabil’s] kind of Christian or Dabbousi’s kind of Moslem for the most part? Those he referred to as “Christians” are already in the business of running state bureaucracies and government in various capacities.
A chunk of the most corrupt politicians are arguably Otabil’s Christians (and Dabbousi’s Moslems). These Christians (and Moslems) steal from state coffers and then dish out part of these booties to pastors and churches in the form of offertory/tithes and as donations to religious charities.
These “charitable” acts are done to confirm the spiritual effectiveness of Otabil’s prosperity theology, with the latter remaining a far cry from the tenets of liberation theology and the soteriology of the first century.
These criminal philanthropists in turn get preferential treatments in the Ghanaian church. They also make pastors fabulously wealthy. It is a quid pro quo of sorts.
It is the same with some of Dabbousi’s criminally rich Moslem and criminally rich imam. Today it is difficult telling a criminally rich politician from a criminally rich pastor.
Then again are the judges caught on Anas Aremeyaw Anas’ investigative camera not either Christians or Moslems? What are the religions of the foul-mouthed communicators in both the NPP and the NDC? What is the religion of MP Nelson Abudu Baani, the same man who suggested on the parliamentary floor that adulterous women should be stoned to death, and of foul-mouthed male chauvinist and political ethnocentrist Kennedy Agyapong who made a wild claim—without evidence—that Madam Charlotte Osei traded her womanhood for the EC Chair?
Was Adolf Hitler not a Christian? Were the architects of Apartheid not Christians? Was Osama bin Laden who openly nursed the idea of ruling Saudi Arabia someday not a Muslim? How about the influential conservative political theologian Rev. Pat Robertson, who vigorously lobbied for both Charles Taylor and Mobuto Sese Seko in the United States?
Is Mahamudu Bawumia, who lied about the voters’ register, made such a fool of himself at the 2012 petition trial, and now goes about conveniently using selective statistics to question the health of the economy, not a Muslim?
What about the religion of the inventor of “Yen Akanfuo” and “All-Die-Be-Die”? Is President Mahama who is widely blamed for mismanaging the economy not a Christian? Was the Taliban not made up of Muslims?
Fake Muslim and Christian clerics from Sheikh Ustaz Sham-una Jibril to Owusu Bempah are all into politics now, making all sorts of foolish and unscientific predictions about who is going to win the next presidential elections, creating unnecessary political and social tensions in the country.
Perhaps the major problem is that Christians, especially those Pentecostals and Charismatics, who hide behind the banner of divine grace (as well as the Bible and the Quran) to perpetrate all sorts of heinous crimes against the state and their fellow humans thinking that the benevolence of divine grace comes with no responsibility or strings attached, are not the answer to the nation’s myriad problems.
Interestingly enough, Christians and Muslims are better if not sophisticated thieves in our contemporary politics! And the contemporary church is one place, a haven, if you will, where Christian politicians and political Christians “hide” money stolen from the national coffers!
In fact, religion should be detached from politics as politicians hide behind the two major religions to commit crimes against the state. The point here is not to necessarily lump all religious folks as evil—far from it. Of course there are just too many good and conscionable Christians and Muslims out there. It is to rather reinforce the notion, contrary to Pastor Otabil’s, that Christians (and Muslims) have always been in government and politics but their legacies are nothing to write home about!
The central issue is that the problems we have as a people go beyond the simplistic formula of religion. After all, how many of our leaders have been practitioners of the Traditional Faith, atheists, Buddhists, agnostics, deists, and the like since independence?
All these examples attempt to explain why moral education and its expected remediation ramifications have remained endlessly illusionary, hopelessly useless platforms for dealing with corruption.
Thus, influential religious personalities like Otabil sometimes misuse the church as a bully pulpit in a way that it should not, although we acknowledge and endorse his practical wisdom in matters of political expediency—for the most part.
In other words they tend to explain why the moral and political fight against corruption in the country remains a mirage. At the end of the day it is not as if most Christians (and Muslims) do not want to get into politics, because politics is corrupt and corrupting, but because they themselves are corrupt and do not want to come in and make a bad situation worse.
Then again criminality in the contemporary church is nothing new, and is more than astounding. Max Romeo’s “Stealing in the Name of Jah” and Paul Kelly’s “Stealing in the Name of the Lord” capture this criminal sentiment in the modern church. Culture’s classic tune “Jah Alone A Christian” makes perfect sense.
Dabbousi and Otabil then need to answer the question of why members of their faiths in politics (and outside it) are so corrupt and overly materialistic to the point of grinding absurdity and abnormality.
What Ghana needs now are not criminal Christians and Muslims in national politics. What Ghana in fact needs now are men and women who will religiously uphold the constitution and then allow their consciences and patriotism to do the rest. Anything less spells disaster and doom!
Who is a Christian?
Pastor Otabil’s presentation assumes an answer to this very question without the benefit of elaborate caveat (s). This question is just as important as the moral subtext of his presentation. The only problem we have on our hands is that it is not an easy question to answer with statistics.
There are those who, for instance, do not see Jehovah’s Witnesses, Catholics, Mormons, and Rastafarianism to name but four, as Christian organizations. The Church of Christ on the other hand sees all other Christian denominations as non-Christian whose members are destined for hell.
And then there are the longstanding traditional conflicts between the Catholics, Presbyterians, and Methodists on the one hand and Pentecostals and Charismatics on the other hand. More so, there are many traditional Catholics, Presbyterians and Methodists who say Charismatic and Pentecostal churches are money-making machines, not soul-saving outfits.
On the other hand, Charismatic and Pentecostal churches claim their Catholic, Presbyterian and Methodist critics are spiritually dead.
Then again controversial Christian counselors, such as Rev. Cyril George Carstensen Lutterodt, who are of the view that “anyone who says thank you after eating wife’s food is stupid,” are not considered Christians by some of their colleagues. Plus, not everyone considers Bishop Obinim a Christian.
Finally, it is also possible that individuals from K.K. Kabobo, Azigiza Jr., Lord Kenya, Ofori Amponsah to Nana Kwame Amapdu may have become Christian pastors and evangelists for the love of money!
There is also the fact that some of those who claim to be Christians patronize Mallams and Traditional Priests, with some Christian clerics even going as far as buying spiritual powers from these Mallams and Traditional Priests.
Neither does toting the Bible (and Quran) make one a Christian, for if it were so Kweku Bonsam will no doubt be deemed a Christian. He can liberally, even spontaneously, quote and discuss the Bible from Genesis to Revelation in ways many Christian cannot.
These may have been why Mark Twain remarked that “If Christ were here there is one thing he would not be—a Christian” (As aside, Twain was alleged to have said that Christ learned to walk on water because Arabs who were in charge of the Sea of Galilee imposed exorbitant fees on those who both used and plied it). Yet, all these divisions and conflicts and misunderstandings are not unique to Christianity. Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and so on, all have these internal problems too.
Secular politics too have similar problems.
The point of it all is that Christians (and Muslims) are not morally superior to non-Christians (and non-Muslims) for that matter.
Even more importantly, Christians (and Muslims) are not superhuman. In other words being a Christian or Muslim does not mean a loss of one’s humanity. For instance in spite of his angelic godliness, Bishop Obinim has never publicly shied away that he is human given his defective pastoral and bishopric characterology. In another context, it is always easy to read through the rational subtlety of Otabil’s Machiavellian pretensions! This observation is public knowledge.
Are Otabil and his Christians superhuman and more politically astute than non-Christians? Why does he see political theology as foolproof antidote to the country’s myriad problems? What are his strategies to deal with the intrinsic fallibility and corruptibility of human nature? Does he see any connections among his brand of prosperity theology, greed, corruption, moral superiority, and materialism?
Otabil might decide to stand for political office and some of his church members might even vote against him. These maverick members of his church might argue that entrepreneurial and pastoral success is not necessarily transferable to secular politics.
One wonders why he is not in politics himself! Still, we have not answered the one important question of all, which is that the more religious the country becomes the more evil, heinous crimes and corruption seem to increase in statistical volume!
Beyond that, whoever says financial incentives (incentivization) do not matter in the mushrooming of churches today is not of this world. The idea behind the Catholic Church’s selling “indulgence” to some of its members of yore is not dissimilar to what some contemporary Men of God in the Pentecostal and Charismatic folds insofar as soteriology goes.
Perhaps the greatest irony is the House of the Lord and the Flagstaff House both of which have become a den of thieves!
An influential personality such as Otabil plays his politics so well, and wisely, owing his model success not necessarily to his charisma, his brand of prosperity theology, but, perhaps, to the unflinching financial support of his teaming membership and prudent investment strategies.
And by playing his politics well through selective patronage of a certain political party, perhaps the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in this case, he is rewarded handsomely with board membership on lucrative concerns owned and managed by influential political players mostly associated with the NPP.
Likewise, we have strong suspicions that Dabbousi is in politics for the benefits, not because he “hates” President Mahama and his government, should Akufo-Addo wins the presidency. Perhaps he has been promised a portfolio in a potential Akufo-Addo government? Who knows?
Ghanaweb. “Any Man Who Says Thank You Jesus After Eating Wife’s Food Is Stupid-Lutterodt.” October 5, 2016.
Ghanaweb. “I’m Not Scared—Fadi Dabbousi.” September 27, 2016.
Ghanaweb. “Error of leadership, Cause of Ghana’s Woes—Otabil.” October 6, 2016.
Ghanaweb. “I respect President Mahama—Fadi Dabbousi.” September 26, 2016.