Worshipping God in nightclubs and forests

By Casmir Igbokwe

Published: Sunday, 12 Aug 2007

Last April, the Ararat Baptist Church in Cardiff started what it called church in a bar. Every Sunday, it holds services in a nightclub called Clwb Ifor Bach on Womanby Street. The pastor, Rev. James Karran, 26, reportedly said he liked going out to pubs and into town on nights out and he thought it necessary to combine the two. In her official website, the church says the idea is to make church relevant and accessible to a 21st century, post-Christendom society.

The new bar church called Solace adds that her service “mercilessly strips away everything from church that is mere tradition and endeavours to get back to the core of what church is really all about. Don’t expect sermons, hymn singing, pews and pulpits here.” What visitors should expect are worshippers who drink alcohol at the bar and listen to live bands. Evening “service” starts about 9pm.

The question is, what really does a citizen who doesn’t lack the basic necessities of life want from God? More entertainment of course! Last weekend was nicknamed “Big Weekend” in Cardiff. It was carnival-like. Roads were closed to accommodate different types of heavy entertainment equipment. Musicians like Jimmy Cliff, Soul II Soul, Bobby Kray, the Magic Numbers and many others played live. Entrance was free. Thousands of people had a weekend of great fun. More of such types of entertainment are billed to take place this summer.

Britons don’t joke with their lives and welfare. This is what Hindu worshippers in Wales failed to appreciate last July. The Hindu sacred bullock, Shambo, had tested positive to bovine TB. Hence, the Welsh Assembly Government ordered it destroyed. But when its officials made attempts to remove the animal from its pen at Skanda Vale, the multi-faith community in Carmarthenshire, Hindu worshippers resisted them. They said the bullock was sacred and must not be harmed. They formed a human shield around it. This was after the community had lost the legal battle to save the animal at the appeal court in London. Scores of police and government officials later took Shambo away for slaughter.

Our ancestors also had their own sacred animals. That was when traditional religion was in vogue. Now, Christianity and Islam have taken over. But these two foreign religions have even made Nigerians more passionate about God than our traditional religion. A survey by the BBC three years ago put Nigeria as the most religious country in the world. Ninety-one per cent of the people, according to the survey, said they regularly attended a religious service. Almost every street has a church or a mosque. Never mind that this has not reduced the rate of crime in the country.

Last month, a bizarre twist was added to this religious fervour. Eleven students of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife retreated into the forest to await rapture. They are members of a Christian group known as the World Ablaze Fellowship. The students, who reportedly claimed they received a message from God to rapture, fervently fasted and prayed that God should immediately spirit them away from this sinful world.

About a decade ago, a relation of mine had anxiously prepared for this same rapture. She bought such sacramental as crucifixes, medals and candles and had them blessed by a priest. She used masking tape and thick papers to cover every hole or opening in the house. The blockage was to prevent access to a great force that would soon descend on the world and eliminate every sinful being. Only those inside a house, she believed, would survive the purge. Thereafter, God’s guardian angels would come to take survivors to heaven to live eternally with the Lord. She continuously fasted and prayed to be part of the Lord’s chosen. Today, wind has blown away those blockages from the weather-beaten house.

Wrong interpretations of the scriptures seem to have made religion the root cause of many problems in the world. From the crusades and jihads of the past centuries to the incessant conflicts in the Middle East, religion has brought more sorrows than smiles in the world. Just last July, scores of people were killed in a face-off between Muslim militants and soldiers at the Red Mosque in Pakistan. The militants had killed three Chinese nationals seen as infidels in Peshawar. They had kidnapped some prostitutes and branded Western diplomats’ wives immoral for wearing sleeveless shirts. In the US, end-time preachers such as Jim Jones and David Koresh had led their followers to commit mass suicide in the name of religion. In 1996, our own Gideon Akaluka was beheaded by overzealous Muslim youths in Kano for allegedly desecrating the Koran.

The unfortunate thing is that some people see religion as an escape route from the problems of existence. This is why people like Karl Marx thought that religion was an illusion. Religion, Marx had noted, provided people comfort in their miserable circumstances. As he put it, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the feelings of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of non-spiritual conditions. It is the opium (painkiller) of the people.” In other words, religion makes people forget their sorrows and focus on a blissful life to come after death. A 19th century German philosopher, Ludwig Feuerbach, added that religion was human beings’ consciousness of the infinite.

The fact is that most people are Christians because they were born into Christian families. Or they grew up to discover that it is part of their cultural beliefs. It is the same for Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and so on. Many Chinese I know do not believe in any religion. They were probably raised that way. Communist China does not encourage the flourishing of religion. Their religion is that people should live a clean and straightforward life.

Just as I was about concluding this piece, I got an email message from a church called Praise God Africa International. The message, signed by one chaplain Joluwaseyi Joseph, reads: “For everyone who is passing through a taunting situation right now, the Lord will show up and dumbfound all that are expecting your shame. In Jesus name, the blessings God has prepared for you shall be presented to you. Every evil desire (will) be disappointed in your life in Jesus name. Those who mark a day for evil ahead for you shall be the victims of such day. Every stubborn and disobedient roadblock on your ways (shall) be crushed to powder in Jesus name. This month, you shall have full cause to say ‘HALLELUYAH’ (emphasis not mine) to God in Jesus name, by the power in the Holy Spirit…”

I claim these wishes. But more importantly, I pray for divine transformation of nightclub and forest parishioners in our midst.

1 Comment »

  1. […] Posted by cigbokwe on August 12, 2007 at 6:52 pmFiled under THE PUNCH Column Articles1 &nbsp| | Trackback URI2 […]

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