Pastors and Private Jets: Is There an Airport in Heaven? – Mike Akhariale
The recent remarks by the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Rev Matthew Kukah, which seeks to question the moral and spiritual validity of the practice in which men of God are now fighting for space in the glittering world of opulence and razzmatazz with modern day traders and money changers, and the flak it drew from the body that ought to know better, Christians Association of Nigeria, through its spokesperson, Elder Sunday Oibe, has exposed the obvious contradictions that have emerged between what the Church was originally set up to achieve amongst humanity on behalf of God and what we are witnessing today.
The apostasy is such that church leaders are shamelessly trading places with CEOs of Fortune 500 businesses. The old picture of Christ as the simple and humble man from Galilee has been replaced by that of the rich and arrogant man with swagger, who has no need for God’s help because all that makes the material life meaningful are already with him. The picture of heaven that we were given as kids at catechism and Sunday school classes was that it is a place of bliss and endless peace, as against this present world of suffering and sacrifices.
The new recklessly opulent lifestyle of those who call themselves “men of God” seems to ask the question: Why wait to die before you have a taste of heaven when you can financially acquire it right now? Of course, the natural exclamation you will hear when you peep into the luxurious cabin of a typical private aircraft is “This is heaven!”
What Kukah said and which was largely similar to what another man of God, Tunde Bakare, and other piously minded people are saying, is that Christianity is being unwittingly misrepresented by the unbridled materialism that has taken hold of the church, which has the potential for perverting the central message of Christianity which is holiness and reverence, publicly and privately.
The position of Rev Kukah that “the stories of corrupt men and women being given recognition by their churches or mosques as gallant sons and daughters and the embarrassing stories of pastors displaying conspicuous wealth as we hear from the purchases of private jets and so on, clearly diminish our moral voice” is actually the sad story of the worldly and corrupt Nigeria of today.
As a Christian, I am surprised — in fact, disappointed — by the ecumenical filibustering that was offered by CAN to the challenge that was being rightly posed. In the words of Oibe, Kukah should not be taken seriously because “If there is any clergy man in the country whose constituency is government, it is Bishop Kukah, who served every government in power in the last decade. He thinks people have forgotten in a hurry how he served in Obasanjo’s government and turned round to attack the former president…” I wanted to hear Oibe list the number of executive jets that are now in Kukah’s fleet as a result of his association with those men of power.
Was this really an intelligent response to the strong moral charge being leveled, namely, that there is something not quite right in men of God wanting to outdo men of the world in material pursuits?
Pastor Ayo Oristejafor is the latest of the long list of men of God that are flying across the globe with private jets while the faithful church members are struggling to make ends meet after paying their burdensome church tax which they call tithes.
With respect to the advice that church leaders should be careful in their interaction with political leaders, I think the Church should have taken it to heart with all the seriousness that it deserves, rather than seeking to deflect the accusation by pointing accusing fingers at those who are raising the issue.
I am not too bothered about the incidents of church leaders fleecing their members to support a lifestyle fit only for earthly principalities and powers because my kobo will never stray into their till willfully; but I am worried about the looming political and constitutional danger present in a situation in which the church and the state are in active collusion to undermine the wellbeing of the masses.
It is going to be difficult for a man of God who is hobnobbing with temporal men of power now to be able to face them like the prophets of old and tell them of their sins that have constituted a reproach to the nation for which we are presently suffering.
That was the point that Kukah was driving at when he counseled fellow clergymen that “Unless we distance ourselves, we cannot speak the truth to power. We cannot hear the wails of the poor and the weak. We should not be seen as playing the praying wing of the party in power.”
More importantly, I think they diminish God before His creations whenever they see his “preachers” in the company of their tormentors, flying in the same jets and lodging in the same champagne-filled five-star hotels where anything evil is possible. It creates a huge ethical problem for those wise few who can see the contradictions therein. The sad fact is that the majority of the church faithful will never see it that way. As far as they are concerned, “it is the will of God;” and that is why it remains the unassailable truth that religion is the opium of the masses.
Why would anyone bother himself with the heavy sacrifice of a holy life on earth so that he can make heaven when, indeed, he is actually living his heaven on earth? I get the feeling that these gluttonous men of God think they can actually fly their way skyward into heaven while the rest of us would still be waiting for the illusive rapture or the certain last day.
I still think that Jesus Christ was right when he gave the parable of the eye of a needle and the camel as far as making heaven is for the materially affluent. The reality of God is made a little more doubtful by a lifestyle that God Himself had advised against. They say their God is “not a poor God” as we now hear every service day; but that assertion does not resonate as the central theme of the life that Jesus bequeathed to His disciples.
My hope is that someday, the people will begin to see the differences between the will of God and that of man.
- Mike Akhariale
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