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Friday, 29 January 2016

The Clerics That Prey

I have posted a handful of articles about miracles and the wiles of christian prosperity preachers and faith healers, and have received varied responses from religious and non-religious people. The raison d'ĂȘtre of any so-called ministry is to make money. Tax-free money. It is nothing but an enterprise designed to defraud each and every single person who comes in contact with that ministry.

They ask for money so that they can reach as many people as possible, using age-old, tested and trusted psychological coercion techniques so that they can reach even more people and take their money too. There is no other goal. It is business; they just do not pay taxes, and they are criminally taking money from people while promising them miracles, jobs, spouses, babies ("fruit of the womb"), an end to their financial troubles, perpetual good health and unending joy here, and after they die. It is the longest running con in history and one that capitalizes on a very normal human emotion - fear.

Everyone knows fear. We fear to lose the lives that we have worked so hard for, and we fear to lose those we love. Fear is responsible for many of our actions and inactions. Fear is a motivator. As babies, we hardly know any fear, but as we grow older and become more aware of our surroundings and the world we live in, our fears grow. We all have something that we fear. I have seen fear in the eyes of countless people when they or their relatives are told that they have a terminal illness or a chronic condition which will require life-altering changes. I knew that fear, and also saw it in my wife, when we were told that our younger son needed emergency heart surgery. I saw it in all the parents I met at the Childrens' Hospital, some of whom, unfortunately, had their worst fears come true. It is this mind-paralyzing emotion, this deepest and darkest of feelings that is exploited daily by morally impecunious televangelists when they ask their audience for money in return for untold blessings from their god. Many of them ask for donations in exchange for handkerchiefs, holy oil, anointing water, pens, and many such bric-a-brac. Others send out envelopes containing small forms to fill, a donation card, and a prayer request form. In other words, write down what you want the preacher to pray for, and give how much you believe the answer to your prayers are worth to you.

Many ministries, usually led by one man with his wife as the inevitable second in command, and sometimes women, publish books, tapes, CD's, daily devotionals, and all manner of literature, for sale to their congregation and to as many people as possible. Many of these preachers and their spouses are international best selling authors who have a readership of millions of people from all over the world. I have read a number of these books, and they are all basically saying the same thing - nothing. They are riddled with spurious claims (such as the claims of miraculous healing of cancers and paralyses), bible stories designed to make the reader believe that they can overcome any and all challenges, and tired old cliches. These books, and audiovisual presentations of sermons are all designed to keep readers, listeners, and viewers in that state of mind which is enacted in church every Sunday. This state of mind is akin to a drug induced high; a state of euphoria and subsequent suggestibility and compliance like that used by hypnotists. All these are designed with one goal in mind - to take your money. The "praise-worship" songs, and the solemn music are all designed to give an adrenaline rush that dulls and numbs the senses, and gives a sense of well-being, enabling people in pain to do things their conditions would previously not have allowed them to do. In all this melee, 'miracles' would be wrought, and offerings demanded. Do not be confused by my use of the word 'melee' here. The crowd in a typical crusade may look like it is out of control, but the man or woman on the pulpit is in complete control of the situation which is why they are able to pass off a few magic tricks, and the tricks that the mind plays on the body as miracles, and are able to collect millions in offerings at such crusades.

In Nigeria, many pastors now own private jets, with a handful having more than one, and at least two of them involved in the lucrative luxury airline business. This has led to the neologism "pastorpreneurs." These megachurches also publish their own books, tapes and CD's, and other audiovisual materials, they own schools, from nursery to university, which are usually exclusive and so expensive that the average congregant is unable to afford it; and to think that the whole congregation was tricked into contributing to the building of some of these private institutions. 
These importunate preachers have so perfected their art, they are extremely adroit at guilting their listeners into giving monies they cannot afford. Prophet TB Joshua, whose illegal multi-storey guesthouse for the numerous miracle seekers to his church collapsed, has a case to answer in court for the death of 108 persons.

Nearly all of these preachers buy time on tv and radio stations, and many of them now have their own tv and radio stations, and are also able to stream live services and post previous sermons online. Yet, they insist they are "doing God's work" and  "spreading the gospel," not running a business per se, and should therefore pay no taxes. On display here are their arrogance and seditious contempt for secular society and the "worldly governments" which they believe are at loggerheads with the kingdom of God/heaven. They routinely expose their bigotry when they discriminate against the LGBT community, and sanction the physical abuse of children all in the name of "sparing the rod and spoiling the child."

I have often wondered how these predatory preachers are able to live with the fact that they cause so much misery and suffering while managing to dish out tons of false hope. A visit to any crusade ground will reveal thousands of people, with all sorts of complex afflictions and ailments, who have come expecting a miracle either because they were too poor to afford the medical care that would have made them better, or saved their lives, or that everything humanly possible has been done for them and they were simply waiting to die. These multitudes of the sick and the dying see these crusades as a last resort; but they are simply clutching at straws. Do these charlatans really believe that they can channel the power of their deity on to a sick and dying body and restore it to perfect health, or do they know that they do not possess any such abilities or powers, and are just making their victims feel a temporary relief from their symptoms, and enriching themselves in the process? Perhaps these vampires know something that we do not. Perhaps they also believe, or even know, that there is no God or supreme being anywhere. If that is the case, then they are just, to put it simply, evil.