Role Of The Church In Political, Social Development
IN the early days of Christianity, the relationship between the State and the Church was tragic, attended by brutal recriminations, rivalry and suspicion under the Roman Empire. However, with time, it improved to cooperation on contentious issues of divinity and temporal authority. Though the Church is important in character formation, the reverse is now the case; it has lost divine voice against societal vices.
This stench, like an open sore, reminds us of our failings despite the proliferation of churches that have beautiful cathedrals but lack spirituality; moral decay has eaten so deep that the Church co-exists with evil. With corruption and immorality entrenched, indecency and prosperity replaced redemptive gospel. Our women dress to reveal anatomical features before a compromised Church that states: “What you put on doesn’t defile you; your heart does.” The danger to this unspiritual development is glaring.
But Governor Okowa of Delta State has demonstrated courage in repositioning values in tandem with Christian teachings. Acknowledging sycophants as slippery venoms that derail leadership, he admonished all “not to bow or kneel for him” because he is human. The Church, in fulfilling the Lord’s Prayer – “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – must be spiritually stable in salvaging its people. The prevalence of societal ills is the result of disobedience to laws and values by people enmeshed in materialistic greed and avarice. Despite the Church’s achievements, it cannot exonerate itself from failures orchestrated by the clergy and laity.
The Church is not a place where worshippers seek God for material gratification but where we serve Him without conditions: loving our neighbours; treating others well, as we would want them to treat us; and desiring that whatever we need should be able to benefit others. We bear witness to Christ when the Church becomes a moral voice against societal ills. Christians, to fulfill their obligations, must stand by truth through exemplary living and be fearless in illuminating spiritual values. A Christian cannot serve two masters – mammon and God. A Church that sees wealth as a means to an end needs rebirth.
Governor Okowa, in his transformation plan, seeks a society that has timeless Christian and traditional values of honour, labour and sweat, rather than deceit. Government’s programmes need protection and appreciation. The Church, considering its divine functions, is a platform for rebirth and making government to succeed. The vices of prostitution, armed robbery, baby factories, et cetera, despite the presence of the Church, question our humanity.
The Church, in catechesis and human development, must be our spiritual standard, and living in cold indifference to social ills is unacceptable. We must stop public defecation for the reward of heaven and eternal life. The clergy are so contaminated that they have abdicated their responsibilities in pursuit of vanities. We have churches without spirituality amid dehydrated membership. We have abandoned things, which we should have done and done those things, which we ought not to, turning the Church into a market, a thing Jesus opposed in Jerusalem.
Through compromise, the Church has become filthy; a place where all manners of characters worship God in pretense, where ill-gotten wealth is accommodated, where the more money the clergy receives in gifts, tithes and offerings, the more important the giver becomes. The admonition, “God loves a cheerful giver”, is manipulated for greed and avarice. There are deep divisions, factions and recriminations within the Church. Hypocrites whom Jesus condemned are now adorable characters that occupy front seats and acquire Christian titles, giving a wrong impression that ill-gotten wealth is a yardstick to eternal life.
The clergy in unholy alliance fall to these ills, as they strive for promotion and juicy postings to parishes. This acrimonious method is not without support of the laity, who sometimes writes petitions against the clergy whom they feel don’t fit into their strange lifestyle. They discredit and humiliate them. Unfortunately, each side invokes God’s name in this demonic and materialistic attainment. Christians must dethrone this tyranny of flesh. The years of military rule and civil war have entrenched corruption that has devalued our humanity. Nigerians have developed casual cynicism and contempt for honesty. Lawlessness is rewarded with prayers from a compromised Church.
Can we exonerate the clergy and laity from this stench as prophets of Baal, Pharisees, Sadducees and the Sanhedrin? Nigerians desire spiritual direction and a Church with a voice against societal ills; one that speaks fearlessly; a Church that rebukes evil; that forgives and sustains Christian values, regardless of dangers. Government efforts in tackling economic and political woes need Church participation, because a spirit-filled Church is a wealthy nation.
The Church needs partnership in Okowa’s SMART agenda, to curb unemployment, because both are to entrench a better society, where peace and justice reigns and poverty is reduced. Has the Church achieved Christ’s desires? Has the Church tackled corruption within its ranks? The Church must not be compromised on sectional, partisan, ethnic and tribal considerations. Jesus stated the relationship between Church and government; he enjoined the Church to pray for those in authority, pay tax and not seek vanities.
Jesus severed Himself from discriminatory norms and explained genuine spiritual wealth in lesson on the Widow’s Mite. Governor Okowa expects Delta State people to accept that “God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. This transcends parochial pursuit of vanities. The Church, to live in action and deeds, must have courage for truth and must not compromise standards for fear of loosing financial members. This is how to sustain the dignity of man.
• Prince Abugo is Special Assistant on Social Advocacy to Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.
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