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Image, Brian Stauffer, CT

A recent provocative article was written by Professor Sunday Bobai Agang – a leading Nigerian theologian who believes the real danger to Christianity in Africa is not Islam – it’s the state of the church.

Many horrible acts have been committed under the banner of radical Islam, and there is a real danger. But the truth is this: Overblown fears about a supposed “Islamization agenda” may actually be distracting Christians from the true threat that is stealing away the authentic witness and authority of Christianity…

Today, many Christians are deeply involved in corruption and flaunt decadent and immoral lifestyles. Our greatest threat is the sin in our own lives

Sliding Into Decay:

Christians in Nigeria are dancing on the brink of moral and ethical collapse. Many Christians who hold public office have become corrupt or immoral, betraying their public Christian testimony. They lack integrity and cannot present a strong moral and ethical witness. They lack the virtue of honesty in public life…

But as the well-known and respected Catholic priest George Ehusani has noted,

‘Alongside religiosity, corruption in its many shapes and sizes is booming in Nigeria—from the petty bribery taken by the clerk in the office or the policeman at the checkpoint, to the grand corruption by which huge project contracts are hurriedly awarded, not for the sake of the common good, but because of the greed of the awarding official, who requires some money via contract “kickbacks.”’

He also notes that activities like embezzling and cheating—ranging from school children to high-profile public figures—often go hand in hand with outward expressions of piety. Many Nigerians obtain fraudulent medical certificates, as well as fake birth and citizenship certificates, to be admitted to good schools or to get choice jobs. They evade taxes, over- and under-invoice customers, perform fake audits, and on and on…

Professor Agang says that Father Ehusani is merely describing what is common knowledge to all Nigerians. “These matters are more lethal to the Christian faith than any Islamization agenda.”  We need look no further than the West to see the seeds of it’s own destruction.  Agang goes on to describe what he calls:

“The Corruption of Prosperity

In the 20th century, indigenously founded churches sprang up across Africa, particularly in Nigeria. After the Nigerian civil war (1967–70), Christians who saw the conflict as a sign of the end times embarked on a massive campaign to spread the Good News of Christ across Nigeria…

Sadly, today the story has changed… the undue emphasis on health and wealth has permanently changed the face of Christianity in Africa and the world at large. Pastors and church members are now more interested in building beautiful and massive edifices than in reaching out to the unreached people groups of the world. Many pastors are obsessed with material possessions, sometimes owning one or more private jets!

The corruption of Christian moral values has now given way to the worship of materialism and pleasure. Our real god is now mammon (Matt. 6:24). We have become devoted to what American theologian and social critic Reinhold Niebuhr called self-love, self-interest, and the will to power.

No Place to Lay His Head?

In an earlier post, I asked,

“How would He who had no place to lay his head respond to those among the prosperity gospel gangs who scavenge the vulnerable, and who threaten to co-opt the Christian gospel message as thoroughly as western Islamists have claimed that ISIS has co-opted any other Islamic message.

For years I have had to endure correcting misconceptions – pointing people to Jesus revealed by Scripture, and by my own humble lived-out spirituality (humble as in “not spectacular,” or “mere”), over and against the misrepresentations by that most pernicious of American mutations: the prosperity gospel. This lesser gospel that is no gospel at all is in contrast to the “audacious subversion of prayer“. Alan E. Lewis writes in reaction to the prosperity gospel’s “sickening abuse”:

To ask for things from God, as we witness with constant embarrassment in public displays of self-regarding religiosity as well as in the private recesses of our egos, can be prayer’s most sickening falsification and abuse.

The sickening abuse actually contorts into a mutated sense of entitlement where the worst of bad theology expects “God to owe us something for what we pay him” (so to speak), as Eric Demeter writes in “The Prosperity Gospel Creates Poor Christians.”

Making Space for God

For a better perspective – go to “Me, My Stuff, and God: Making Space in a Culture of Want.”