The current interpretation of Pentecostalism that is. I had wanted to include the bastardization of Pentecostalism in my Overkill of Trends post (click here to view), but I decided that this topic honourably deserved its own post. The Nigerian constitution allows for religious freedom. Now how people choose to interpret this undoubtedly needs to be open for discussion because Nigerians do not do things (especially bad things) halfway, they do things with extremist inklings. For example, how do you explain the introduction of Sharia into a secular state by the General Olusegun Obasanjo’s so called civilian democratic government or the recent debacle with Senator Yerima child-wife or the Boko-Haram menace? Nigerians cherish their religion zealously and would do anything to protect it, so yes this religion thing has to be analyzed and structured.
The fabric of Christianity is wrapped around these words by James- Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this; To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27 KJV). The Common English bible writes it like this -True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us. (James 1:27 CEB). With this biblical quote, it suffices to say that Pentecostals in Nigeria (as expected) have totally missed it and skewed away from the basis of their religion.
Pentecostalism like all Protestant factions sought to fill a void that was missing in the foundations of Christianity. Just as Martin Luther, a German Monk sought to change the status quo in the Reformation Era of Roman Catholic domination and unnecessary indulgences, Pentecostalism also sought to change some theological aspects and it picked up steam in the 19th century in the Americas with a basis on the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit by speaking in tongues. Over the years it has accumulated a dedicated following and today, it arguably poses as the face of Christianity.
However, the basis of Pentecostalism is not the aforementioned any more but about money, favoritism and man worship, of which money takes the biggest concentration and garrulous deliberation in the church.
Today in Nigeria, Pentecostalism has been hijacked by money grubbing charlatans masquerading as men of God. This farce has been termed ‘giving to God’. They quote ‘do not rob God’ but are busy robbing from the poor blind- blatantly and shamelessly seeking for money on the altar, from the pulpit, and right there in your homes transmitting from your TV. Jesus’s teachings are fixated on giving to the poor, not collecting from the poor for some person’s egregious and extravagant visions. The church was called to be of service to the people, the needy, the brokenhearted, and the sick. It was not called to be a tax collector. The poor widow Jesus made an illustration on gave by her own volition, there was not a pastor there with a megaphone unashamedly screaming for funds to fulfill whatever visions he unfortunately woke up to that morning.
It is so embarrassing that what the world knows the church for today is money and not Jesus. It is also so ridiculous today that it is not far fetched for a supposed leader of a church to acquire a private jet, amass untold wealth, and build universities at the detriment of its members. It is important to note that some of these charlatans attended missionary schools where little to no amount was required of them, but today they head schools that cost an arm and a leg, built on the backs of contributions made by church members, majority of whom cannot afford to attend these schools. All these go hand in hand with favoritism of the biggest giver, the richest contributor and the hero-worship of the man of God which is made possible by the inherent disposition of the Nigerian to be a slave to respecting money and power. In order not to prolong this article, James 2:1-13 aptly puts all these in appropriate focus.
As Catholic indulgences in the 16th century became unbearable thereby heralding the Reformation movement, soon Pentecostalism would lose its savour and this time around it might not even be a reform of Christianity but an outright deviation and distaste for God and religion.