By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo
Every father owes his children a little marriage talk. Fears and idiosyncrasies, regrets and dreams , magic and blunders will intermingle. Political correctness won’t feature. The father wants for them – a head start. If the father thinks marriage is blissful but sacred , and divorce is a catastrophic last resort , his wisdom would be cautionary. Age sees beyond the shimmer of youth . It has witnessed the death of too many fantasies. Old eyes may dim from wear but the benefit of retrospection makes the old, despite its tears, more reliable. Hindsight ,they say, is perfect vision.
Pastor Adeboye is not an ordinary father. With ecclesiastical preeminence comes celestial responsibilities. The head of one of the largest churches in Africa lacks anonymity. And cannot claim the right to privacy of a barber. His words are no trivia. On his shoulders therefore rest special moral burdens. His advice, even to his children, must therefore meet certain moral requirements because the words are authoritative .
He is an authority because millions rely on him for practical reasons – authoritative directions. On many issues, once he has spoken , many would forgo the balancing of reasons . Consequently any seemingly controversial position he adopts merits intense scrutiny. Because such positions can easily be read as normal. If such a position borders on the perpetuation of gender discrimination in an environment where women live in literal hells, an inquisitorial flare up is no nuisance.
But scrutiny must be objective and fair. So what did he really say? He spoke to church workers – committed members of the church. It is doubtful to what extent the character of the audience may relieve him of moral scrutiny. The rampancy of divorce and the proliferation of broken marriages are threatening the unity of the body of Christ. So it was a worried father that started by telling his pastors to flee from matchmaking.
He thinks that when churches and pastors recommend suitors and fix marriages, they do so largely ignorantly. And their presumptuousness often sells false comfort to one or both parties. Then, premarital research goes from being a meticulous endeavor to being superfluous and dispensable. The church then, inadvertently, becomes a blind guarantor of a marriage built on myth. Done with the emphasis on freedom to contract, he offered a few tips for the enhancement of compatibility. And drew the ire of many.
Pastor Adeboye heads a Pentecostal church. That position makes certain claims on the public. It puts him forward as a man of integrity who will preach Jesus and live the Bible; who will uplift the dignity of all women; but who cannot espouse positions that contradict the letters and spirit of the Bible. He doesn’t possess the freedom of a humanist, though must love everyone like himself.
The Christian conception of equality is – equal moral concern for all. A Pastor’s conduct is unimpeachable if it is biblical , paints Christianity in good light and does not infringe the laws of the land. It is important that the actions of clerics meet the threshold of constitutionality. Issuers of Fatwas and lynchers of suspected blasphemers must not find any justification. On what objective ground then has Pastor Adeboye fallen short? None.
The Bible thinks that any man who cannot fend for his family is an infidel. This foists on the man breadwinner duties. So Pastor Adeboye, a professor of the Bible, urged his daughters not to accept the proposal of any jobless or homeless suitor. He doesn’t think love should be so blind. He thinks marriage into joblessness or homeless is a recipe for disaster. The ascription of bread winning role to men may be termed sexist. But the Bible is not a treatise in radical feminism. While it holds men and women as moral equals, it crowns the husband the head of the home.
But it was when Pastor Adeboye declared publicly what many parents tell their sons privately that the hornet’s nest was stirred. He was emphatic : ladies who can’t cook or can’t pray for one hour aren’t ripe for marriage. The implied prerequisite of premarital domestication of women may echo inferiority.
But it is not moral inequality. Pastor Adeboye’s position is a corollary of biblical division of duties and hierarchical order of Christian homes. Those who are skeptical of the truth of the Bible are entitled to their opinions. But they cannot query the integrity of the Pastor’ s advice to his Bible believing children without questioning his right to freedom of religion. Christian marriages are voluntary.
Some criticisms came from Christians – the Pastor was too prescriptive , and his pedantry was anachronistic. This group would not contest Pastor Adeboye’s paternal rights and the biblical roles for women. They won’t contest the data that marriages are becoming increasingly less successful.
Why then would they think that the past cannot supply answers to a bumbling present? If marriage subjugates women then it is the morality and social acceptability of that institution that should be reappraised. A pastor’s job is to keep and preserve the institution with all its imperfections.
Another set of criticisms erroneously assumed that Pastor Adeboye was quoting the Bible. A pastor is allowed to disseminate personal thoughts. He made it clear – it wasn’t a sermon. How then did the conclusion that he doesn’t hear from God because his advice lacks apparent secular objectivity come about?
To buttress the fact that he wasn’t enunciating inviolable cardinal principles, he told the gathering that he would expect them to marry members of the RCCG. That isn’t good for national unity, right? My mother once told me that she counted on me to marry from my tribe. And I didn’t dismiss her as parochial. It could be paternalism, it could be paranoia. Parents are parents. The statistics are alarming. Marriage is a perishing social institution.
Then there are the radical feminists and their sympathizers. They think that the advice is patently misogynistic. They chorus the sentiments that men and women are equal to the point of sameness. Radical feminists discount many differences that exist between the sexes are social constructs. They insist that there are no such roles as feminine roles. They view patriarchy as the origin of the oppression against women. They suggest that the Bible only reflects the domination of the society by men.
They will argue that the recognition of the rights of women will not contradict the Bible materially. Just as the recognition of the abomination in slavery by its abolition didn’t. The job of a pastor is to portray Christ and Christianity in the best possible light. Faced with any moral conflict , that which is Godly and has better moral appeal would be the superior interpretation of the relevant doctrine.
And that is why despite the ambiguities of the old testament, the abolition of slavery is Biblical . In Abolition , “love your neighbor as yourself” was amplified. The institution of marriage, however, is different. The Bible provides express definitions for marriage. No pastor can alter its founding principles in the name of humanism without contaminating Christianity.
Cultural feminists will support Pastor Adeboye who believes in women empowerment without turning women into men. Pastor Adeboye ordains women as priests. He is not misogynistic. Marriage would need to retain a bit of Pastor Adeboye’s conservatism to survive. The gift of nurturing and caring should however be better rewarded.