By Emmanuel Jigbale
THIS paper is not to dwell on the purely academic, philosophical, sociological, economic, psychological aspects of the topic but it is an attempt to bring to the fore the fact that Corruption, loss of religious and societal values are symptomatic of a breakdown or putrefaction of spiritual, moral, social and reli-gious values as directed by Jehovah, the Creator and designer of the human mind. It will also point out or proffer solutions based on the present circumstan-ces of this evil world and her systems or measures and finally put it on record that the ‘desire of all nations’, the New Jerusalem, and God’s Kingdom, remain the perfect, ordained, determined, and divinely designed condition or state or place where all these will be confined to the dust bin of history.
Of all the words used to connote the debased, depraved, perverse, or immoral state of human societies, civilizations, generat-ions, systems, governments, pow-ers, personalities, values, collect-ively and individually, the word Corrupt and its various conjug-ations grammatically or ety-mologically, stands out clearly as that which concisely describes the sordid and sorry state of affairs of any person, people, or place, system, or thing that is dis-connected from God and His values or religion in absolute and relative terms.
Corruption is actually a spiritual disease of the mind with many manifested syndromes. It is the corrupt mind that churns out corrupt devices which include, “all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, malic-iousness; envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despite-ful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affect-ion, implacable, unmerciful”. Words synonymous with corrupt are rotten, unprincipled, un-ethical, immoral, defiled, impure, dishonest, fraudulent, crooked, obscene, bribable etc.
Global corruption was what led Jehovah in manifestation of His power and infinite justice to destroy the first world saving righteous Noah and his family of seven. This also serves as a pointer to how He will destroy corruption that has ravaged this evil world.
Religion permeates the life of every human being as well as every society throughout the world, and every religion has norms, values and acceptable standards contained in its doctrines. By inculcating in adherents these norms and values, religion is expected to promote social or societal control and acceptable standards in the society, thereby reducing vices such as corruption. Thus religion and corruption are seen as having a symbiotic relationship. Focusing on the Christian religion, we argue in this paper that the prevalence of corruption in the Nigerian society today is an indication that Churchianity is apparently failing and is losing its potency to correct the vices in the society.
Nominal Christianity has been bastardized and commercialized to the extent that it is losing its appeal as a promoter of right values and spiritual standing as a result of factors such as quest for prosperity/materialism by ad-herents and religious leaders’ quest for power, victory over perceived enemies; selfish int-erests, sycophancy and the like, all at the expense of the virtues and moral standards emphasized in the Bible.
Worldwide, religion does not only prepare adherents for life after the existence in this world, but also ensures that adherents live a holy and pure life. Adherents are expected to imbibe some values and virtues to promote peace within the society. This implies that religion serves as a means of social control. Unfortunately, religion as practiced by both religious leaders and followers in Nigeria today, has become com-mercialized to the extent that anything goes. From theft of church money to ritual killing in the name of money; from deceits by religious leaders to willingness of followers to engage in dastardly acts; from fornication and adult-ery by leaders to hero worship of criminals, fraudsters, election riggers and sycophants; acquisi-tion of titles and self procla-mations such as Bishop, Most Senior Apostle; His Holiness; Bishop of the whole world; Dr, Founder; Prophet; Pastor; Evange-list and so on. The only thing that is yet to be seen is the outright inclusion of ‘limited or PLC’ after the name of these churches, yet what they do therein is much more businesslike than the so called limited or public companies.
The prevalence of corruption in the society is an indication of the failure or failing role of religion to serve as a social control. Social or societal values, beliefs and religion are all interrelated concepts. According to Durkheim, ‘religion is a unified system of beliefs, doctrines, and practices related to sacred things.’ It unites all who adhere to those beliefs. This means beliefs are part and parcel of religion. In societies in general religion is of core value. It is a rich source of moral and social values. When Israel as a nation was in its infancy, the importance of building their society along the laws given by God was stressed. In social values and institutions religion is one of the five recognized institutions. The five basic institutions in social values are, Family, Education, Economy, Politics and Religion. These can however be compressed to three to agree with what the Holy Book reveals…..Politics, Religion, Economics or Commer-ce in Revelations 13.
Although, there is often difficulties in defining corruption, because it means not only different things to different people, and even to the same people different things at different times. Also sanctions which usually are attached to corrupt practices hide them and give them subtle or hidden forms. Some people see “corruption” as a conscious and well planned act by a person or group of persons to appropriate by unlawful means the wealth of another person or group of persons. To others, it is the act of turning power and authority to ready cash. It affects the military as well as it soils the hands of the civilians.
The effects of corruption in Nigeria have been significant. From multi-internal effects such as under development, lack of basic infrastructure like good road networks, misuse of natural resources, inadequate power and water supply, mediocrity in professional and leadership positions, defective leadership outputs, fuel scarcity in an oil pro-ducing nation, falling standards of education and work output, high unemployment rates, the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor to mention just a few, to the international effects such as the tarnished image of our country in the international circles and the caution exercised by foreign nationals in entering business transactions with Niger-ians thereby weakening the economic sector. The multiplier effect has been the mass spread of poverty and our unenviable position in the list of poor and under-developed countries amidst rich natural resources.
In Nigeria, Religion features at the beginning of the nation’s constitution. Chapter 1, Part II (10) prohibits the adoption of any religion as state religion and Chapter IV (38) gives freedom to all citizens on the religion to practice and that no religion should be forced on any citizen against his will.
The question then is, what is the situation on ground in Nigeria? As a matter of fact, most Nigerians are religious. Ever since the spread of the gospel to the country, Nigerians have embrac-ed and adopted and practiced it with fervor and passion. In the recent past, the spirit of ‘born againism’ has taken over. Church-es are found in all nooks and crannies of the streets. There are churches in the forests, riversides, on hilltops and mountains. Crusades are organized daily. Worship sessions and vigils take place every minute of every day of the week. People go in large numbers on pilgrimage taking pride in being addressed as Alhajis or Jerusalem Pilgrims [JPs].
Sadly however, what many reli-gious leaders are doing is all showmanship, eye service and vanity worship, religion without piety or depth. Most topics of crusades are coined in catching phrases such as ‘your miracle is today, overcoming the devil, victory at last, march into your wealth, claim your fortunes today, possess your possessions, my blood is bitter, altar vs altars, my bride has gone mad, roll the stone away, etc’. These phrases serve their desired purpose of attracting followers. They steal the words of the Holy Book and use them to lead people astray. They make salvation and entering God’s Kingdom look like a dreamer’s world or like Alice in wonderland. The largest bill boards on the streets are those advertising one religious crusade/faith healing or the other. Religious phrases such as praise God, Halleluiah, Jesus is Lord and so on are commonly on the lips of people anywhere and anytime of the day. Some establish their churches and make them-selves the General Overseer or Papa, their wives Deputy General Overseer or Mama or Treasurer, their son the Secretary and so on.
Thus from all indications and outward manifestations, Niger-ians seem to be incurably religious and perhaps the most religious in the world. But in the face of this fervor and religiosity, should order, peace, love, selfless-ness, charity, humanity to man, and other fruits of the spirit listed in (Galatians 5:22-23) not be clearly visible and manifested in Nigeria? Put in another way, should there be corruption, rancor, poverty, inhumanity, poor governance and so on in the land especially in Christian dominated areas? Is the Christian religion serving the desired purpose of increasing moral and spiritual values? The situation on ground in Nigeria does not appear to show that the Christian religion is serving these functions. From all indications, it could be seen that long before the global economic meltdown currently being experienced, Nigeria has been experiencing religious melt-down and not only has it failed to curb corruption, but it has in itself become a channel of corruption. Religious leaders kowtow slavish-ly for any government in power.
What factors then encourage corruption in this country? First and foremost, Nigerian leaders over the last 40 years have created an environment that is conducive for corrupt practices with a disoriented and impoverished followership, and anybody else operating in this environment, quickly learns to tow the line and take full advantage. The system has been molded by a society where anything goes. The system has taken on a life of its own, feeding off itself. Society in turn is now a victim of that system.
Apart from the government, society itself has further encour-aged corruption through excessive hero worship bordering on mass sycophancy. Akin to sycophancy is hero worship even when we know such heroes have committed atrocities. Once they come around and throw a few material things around or when they dash out money to traditional rulers, they easily become heroes to be worshipped and at times given chieftaincy titles as a mark of their recognition.
In the face of the contradiction and the embarrassment of a booming Christianity in the midst of an environment that stinks with corruption and indiscipline, the conclusion seems to be that what is spreading like wild fire in contemporary Nigeria is not genuine or true Christianity at all, but a mass movement of some sort with Christian elements of ritualism; one that is largely shallow, superficial, noisy and devoid of substance and depth. They are spiritual frogs. Popular Christianity in Nigeria appears to be largely materialistic, unspirit-ual and with emphasis on prosper-ity, success, healing and with little attention on social morality and spirituality of the believers.
Religion has failed in its res-ponsibility to mould the character of the adherents. Religion itself has been thoroughly exploited and manipulated in Nigeria by “smart” men for political and economic gains. Put in computer terminologies, religion could be seen as an antivirus. Unfortunate-ly, in Nigeria religion has lost its potency to fight the virus of corruption and not just this, corruption has succeeded in infesting and taking over the brain box of religion.
What camouflages as popular Christianity in Nigeria and spreading like wild fire and winning thousands of souls may not really be Christianity at all, to the extent that it has thrived in the midst of corruption and social decay and has not been able to make a difference in the social morality and piety of the ad-herents. In fulfillment of Jesus’ declaration, these religious lead-ers and followers are being known through their fruits.
*Bro. Emmanuel Bemigho Jigbale is a Minister and Publicity Secretary of God’s Kingdom Mission, Enerhen-Warri, Delta State.