Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pastor Tony Rapu on Occupy Nigeria

(Taken from his Facebook page):

Following the Government's removal of the subsidy on petroleum products, Nigeria has been convulsed by widespread protests. Citizens are taking to the streets and airwaves to air their vehement opposition in the strongest possible but peaceful terms. Unfortunately, the protests have not been without loss of life, politicization of the issues, and hijack by miscreants. Petrol pump prices have jumped by more than one hundred percent, and collateral increases will surely affect transport, food and other areas. To most Nigerians, the Government's move deepens the intense economic hardship they already grapple with. This is a chance to voice and act out the people's dissatisfaction with the insensitivity and corruption in Government. In reality, the protests have taken on a life of their own and the issues have gone beyond increased petrol prices. They have become the cry of a nation in its birth pangs; the travail of a people desperate to take back their nation from the hands of kleptocrats.

Many are inquiring about the apparent silence of Christian leaders, in the face of the intensified suffering of the people and the wave of activism sweeping the Nation. More vehement critics have accused the clergy of being turncoats, callous and insensitive people who are beholden to corrupt officials and therefore unwilling to stand with the masses to resist injustice. The people are angry, possibly like no other time before now, and are calling into serious question, the credibility of Christian leaders, politicians and others in positions of authority.

But we must be careful not to conclude that all clergy who are reticent about public protests or opposition to the Government have been bought over by politicians. Many such leaders are uninformed, politically, and thus remain passive about policy development, despite heightened awareness in some issue areas. This might be due to their ministry training and understanding of the Christian mission. Many, concerned about slipping into a social gospel and a misconception of the Church's role in society, have avoided involvement in social action. Other leaders may be silent because of their felt need to balance the imperative of spiritual awareness with their social responsibility. They may recognize the twin demands of personal righteousness and social justice: that on the one hand, we have a responsibility to pray for the Nation and its rulers, engage in intercession, prophetic acts and spiritual warfare – yet simultaneously translate these into action in the public arena, policy and government.

The Bible teaches that God intervenes in the affairs of men and charts the course of nations and peoples. As such, these leaders are aware of their responsibility to communicate the need to be sensitive to God’s movement and agenda, and to allow such sensitivity guide our actions as citizens and as members of the society. These are not "either/or" propositions. Christians must operate with both sensibilities. There can be no such thing as being so spiritual as to cease involvement in society. Conversely, we must not become so submerged in social action, that we lose prophetic awareness and sensitivity to the urgings of the Spirit of God.

There is a place for prayer, but there is also a place for seeking accuracy of governance in society. We must enthrone the virtues of God's Kingdom, infuse systems and institutions with the right ethics and mentalities, and ensure public policies are grounded in the right ethical and theoretical frameworks. The development of righteousness in the soul parallels the construction of a just society. Therefore, throughout the Bible, we see God's unmistakable concern for both personal righteousness and social justice.

It should be acknowledged that some pastors have opened the door to criticism through uncritical alignment with politicians. They may assume that such liaisons signal influence and authority in society. These leaders have thus earned the ire of the masses for refusing to condemn the same politicians when they do wrong. Certainly, the judgment of our Nation’s decadence will involve a judgment of any unholy alliances between corrupted power and corrupted clergy.

There is also a category of leaders for whom social activism is uncertain, unfamiliar territory. Unsure of the nuances and details of politics and economics, they are unwilling to dabble into matters of which they are uncomfortable and do not have the requisite competencies. This group sees the need for activism, and their awareness of the generalities permits them to make measured pronouncements of support and understanding for the activists; however, they know too little to become hands on activists, and so limit their utterances to the pulpit. The rationale is that it does one no credit to engage in a fight in which he lacks the requisite information or conviction.

Clergymen are expected to stand in opposition to injustice and corruption, and to defend the downtrodden. Happily, activism can take different forms, from participating in street protests to direct involvement in party politics, or even pursuing social change by working with the poor and disenfranchised, providing amenities where Government has failed to do so.

There is also the place of combating the negative ideas and value systems that sustain the corruption and degeneracy that we bemoan in society. Opposition to evil is not only physical; it is spiritual, moral and intellectual. Those who are opposed to evil and desire change should therefore be gracious to one another; for we are essentially on the same side, differing only in our choice of strategies and the means of effecting revolution and transformation. There is room enough for tactical variety in tackling societal ills. Some pastors are much more comfortable in direct social activism, because of their temperaments, experience and callings. Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King Jnr. and Janani Luwum (the Ugandan Archbishop murdered by Idi Amin in 1977) are examples of clergy who vigorously resisted racism, apartheid and oppression. In any event, we cannot expect absolute unanimity from Christian leaders on all social and political issues.

Jesus said to His disciples "Occupy till I come". He wanted Christians to infiltrate world systems and operate in every sphere; from corridors of power in government to the catwalks of the fashion industry, operating as 'salt' and 'light' and sanitizing the world…until the "kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord" and "the knowledge of God covers the earth as the waters cover the seas".

The question of a person's public activism also rests on where he is on his own personal spiritual odyssey. Clergymen who are reluctant to publicly challenge the status quo may quite simply not have attained conviction about public witness and prophetic activism. Contrary to popular belief, pastors are not all-knowing oracles. They also have to mature into their callings. However from a Christian perspective, there is a time when more prayer becomes spiritual escapism, just as there is also a time when social action guided by nothing more than raw emotion and adrenalin becomes an ineffectual "striving in the flesh". There is a time to withdraw in order to obtain fresh spiritual and moral strength for the struggle. This was Jesus' method. He said He only did what He saw the Father do. There is also a time to stop praying and actualize what has been received in prayer. As with all things, the key is discernment of what is needful for each season, and striking the appropriate balance.

Ultimately, the project of redeeming a nation, like that of individual salvation, is a journey rather than a destination. Our constant posture should be the empowerment of Christians to act as agents of renewal implementing the redemption of society, systems and structures. Pastors should equip people with tools with which to accurately decipher their roles and increase their impact in society.

The Church shapes the character and thinking of the people, who in turn shape the character and direction of the Nation. It is said that America’s greatness was rooted in the churches. However, it was not just any church, but those whose pulpits were aflame with the message of righteousness, and a message encompassing all of life. To "occupy", whether in the activist sense of protesting governmental corruption, or the apostolic sense of transforming earthly institutions into zones of peace and prosperity – is our calling. 


Anonymous,  8:29 pm  

It's no surprise the religious leaders are quiet at present. The people have finally shown some backbone, shoving aside all that prayer, pitiful subservience and lack of backbone that these religious leaders seek to instill (how else would they get their money/power/influence?) Perhaps these leaders are petrified of the people going the whole hog and getting rid of religion and its peddlers altogether in favour of taking their destinies into their own hands.

The sad likely truth is that Nigerians, rather than speak up with a louder voice and back it up with action, will like all times before simply fall silent, retreating to their prayers and religious leaders, who will once again raise their voices to herd their flock.

huntella 12:36 am  

got it from p del on blackberry
well it an eye opening article

Anonymous,  7:43 pm  

tony rapu is always on point. he's one pastor who doesn't stay silent. and i like that he doesn't condemn/judge others for not being like him

Anonymous,  9:58 am  

We must also never underestimate the power of prayer knowing that we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers. Selah

Anonymous,  10:49 am  

His note is commendable cos it shines a lot of light on why some of the clergy remain silent. It will inadvertently give a crutch to those who choose the easy way.

Those who should be the conscience of our nation are so busy swimming in their stupendous wealth and the adulation of their members they can't come up for air and see the pain and suffering around them.

The moral compass of our nation has wavered, the people no longer know right from wrong.

'Thou shalt not steal' shouldn't be tucked away somewhere in the dusty parts of our bibles (and it shouldn't be too hard to preach from the pulpit either).

In our churches, any testimony of increase is celebrated no matter how ill-gotten. The young people are watching and will emulate what they see; looting politicians are rewarded with a song and a dance, while the poor are derided as the scum of the earth; some consider them 'infertile ground' to be hated and scorned.

airmanchairman 1:47 pm  

Some things never seem to change, do they? From ancient Biblical accounts:

§ The people said 'Your predecessor put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter'-- and were told: 'My little finger is thicker than my predecessor's waist'.

§ And now whereas my predecessor did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: he hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.

§ The ruler by judgment establisheth the land: but he that receiveth gifts overthroweth it.

§ When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.

§ That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.

Which leads the long-suffering people to hope that:

§ The wicked are overthrown, and are not: but the house of the righteous shall stand.

§ When the wicked rise, men hide themselves: but when they perish, the righteous increase.

§ I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.

Surely, the only certain thing that we seem to learn from History is simply that Mankind learns nothing from History

What a bizarre paradox!

Anonymous,  4:32 pm  

As predicted, Nigerians have fallen back on their religions and prayers, their brief revolt already being consigned to history. Lives may be harder, yes, but they'll probably conclude that it's more prayers that are needed... no real action, as usual.

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