Thursday, April 26, 2012

Get Rich or Pray Trying

Staff Writer

The Road to Salvation is Paved in Gold

There is a ubiquitous presence in Africa, one that preys on the simpleness of common Africans and the continent’s desperation for salvation from their destitute condition. The culprit is religion in general, and Christianity in particular. The gospel and the salvation from earthly burdens that it promises has morphed and blended with the promise of riches and prosperity. Africa is now pioneering a new genre of Christianity called prosperity gospel that preaches and affirms God’s earthly rewards to his faithful and tight-giving followers.

The men who run these houses of God are themselves shiny examples of the “rewards” the divine showers on his followers—especially those who are in the know of God’s miraculous ways. Bishops, pastors, and reverends now easily make the rich list of their respective countries. Some countries have a more pronounced presence of this new type of gospel than others. West Africa, with Nigeria and Ghana in the lead, is the epicentre of this phenomenon. Churches may very well be the most popular type of small business in Africa, but it is the mega-churches that are responsible for the growth of and the level of wealth now associated with this new “industry.”

Mega-churches endow their owners with the kind of personal wealth once reserved for global business elites, sport stars and, notoriously, Africa’s corrupt politicians. Africa’s top five richest men of God are Nigerians. Obviously, the talent required to filch this level of wealth makes these men very capable businessmen in their own right. And, it would appear, they selected the right “business” to exercise their talents. Mere Sunday tights and offerings are not enough to amass these men their millions, they have made themselves a hot commodity through expert branding—which their followers seem to never get enough. The backbone to the system, which they all employ, is corporate synergy of all their respective ventures under their brand. And the ventures are many. They include, in the case of Pastor David Oyedepo, billionaire businessman and presiding bishop at the Living Faith Church (a.k.a Winners’ Chapel): multiple universities, high schools, publishing houses that print millions of sold copies of his works, internet cafĂ©, and others. He is reported to have a couple of private jets and fine houses in the United States and London. The rich list includes: Temitope Joshua Matthew of the Synagogue Church Of All Nations (worth between $10m and $15m); Matthew Ashimolowo of Kingsway International Christian Centre (worth between $6 million and $10 million) and Chris Okotie of the Household of God Church (worth between $3 million and $10 million).

Pastor Oyedepo
The fact is that Mr. Oyedepo and his fellow men of God are entrepreneurs who have found the gullible masses to feather their nests with gold. However, if this was being done through the capitalist system, without the convenient and pliable words of the gospel there would be no call of foul play being involved. There are many complaints that Africa could use more innovative entrepreneurs, but the deft and calculated manner of this level of thievery, preying on the poor judgement and desperation of their congregation, is little less than what is expected of Africa’s dictators. These men provide false hopes and encourage the little wealth, if any, that their victims possess routed into their personal coffers. They then turn around and present themselves and “their” wealth as testament of what God will endow those who follow their wealth-obsessed preaching.

Unfortunately, it does not seem this trend will abate any time soon. There are numerous countries where it is now the norm to have multiple churches on the same street—all competing on Sundays for as many followers as possible and the title of the loudest source of the gospel. Too many people are now convinced, thanks to this new breed of men, that the fruits of righteousness are riches, visa to America, and large contributions to your church in thanks to God.

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