Monday, October 12, 2009

Combating the Invading Army of Charlatans

But these speak evil of whatever they do not know; and whatever they know naturally, like brute beasts, in these things they corrupt themselves. 11 Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. -Jude 10-11

They may not lay claim to the swiftness of Julius Caesar’s marauding battalions nor the coordination of the allied forces but they are as tenacious in their campaign as any purposeful army. Except that their goals are not ideological, they are materialistic. Through the magic of radio and TV, propelled by microwaves, they invade the sanctity of our living rooms. Not only do we have to protect our children from violent and lewd movies, but also some supposed Christian services. But for the grave consequences their actions have on ordinary Ghanaians, we would have consigned them to the world of comedy and allowed them to jostle for space with the likes of Agya Koo.

They masquerade as anything that is noble in scripture, Prophets, Bishops, Reverends, and more. They murder the scriptures without mercy, shock our sensibilities, and pollute the atmosphere with profane insults that I don’t hear anymore in the streets of Accra, yet they still command large followings. Out of the abundance of their hearts flow curses that even though of no effect, will not be acceptable in any heathen shrine. Yet they lay claims to the only Lord that is Sovereign. If this is not the abomination that causes desolation (Mat 24:15, Dan 11:31) then what is?

That our society tolerates these charlatans is ample evidence of the fine balance we have to tread between personal liberties and public order. But I believe these guys have done enough to at least attract a caution from a court of competent jurisdiction. Since Joy FM aired some of the ludicrous outbursts of these characters, there have been calls to restrict religious liberties because of these bandits, but it is my opinion that we should jealously guard the freedom given to us by our constitution to worship freely. We cannot throw out the baby with the bath water. We can weed out the chaff through other freedoms guaranteed by the constitution.

It is important we recognize the fact that religion by its very nature is amenable to such grave abuses. Because God has no physical address accessible to mortals to go and clarify arguments about divinity and divine instructions, he has become subject to human interpretations of a myriad of scriptures and revelations purported to have been seen over the centuries. Out of this deep valley of confusion, has sprung various religious sects and denominations. Unfortunately, some scoundrels have identified Man’s inclination to seek his Maker as fertile ground to ply their scams and have decided to take advantage of our deep religious bearings. The mass following Christianity enjoys in Ghana makes it most vulnerable to such abuses. It is therefore no surprise that most of these unbelieving villains who have no respect for God or his son Jesus Christ confer holy titles onto themselves and parade the corridors of spiritual notoriety incognito. Through unsubstantiated miracles, they amass a following of gullible Ghanaians who throng their services by day and night. They get away with their nefarious acts because many Ghanaians refuse to question anything that purports spirituality. How many people can attest that the deaf man who was healed was deaf before the church service? I have always argued that the rate at which we hear reports of miracles, it should be easy to find Ghanaians who actually know a cripple, who lived among them, that was healed in a crusade or service. It should be easy to find a community in Ghana who lived with a man born blind, who went to a crusade one day and the next day he could see. Try looking for any of these and you will be better off finding a hawk that has a chicken for a girlfriend. Simply put, most of these miracles are faked! Hardly a day passes without hearing strange things from these scam artists; “A man of God sells canes to whip the devil”, “A pastor washes genitals of a woman at the beach” , “One prophet sleeps on a woman on TV to heal her”, “A preacher inserts his fingers in a woman’s private part whiles her husband stands next to her, in the name of healing a barren womb”, Aba! Can’t they even fake the decency that the office they usurp deserves?

I think identifying a fake man of God should not be difficult. I propose three simple rules.

i. Character before charisma
ii. Common Sense (Yes Common sense)
iii. Congruence

Charisma refers to spiritual gifts and powers, more importantly, it can be faked. People fake healing, tongues, prophecies etc. Character however, is more difficult to fake over the long term. The bible is clear about what constitutes the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5:22 - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. It Goes further in verse 26 to state what they are not - Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. How can we then ignore the characters openly exhibited by these men as they curse, boast, fight and openly challenge each other? They even go about threatening to change people into vultures. My proposition- Character first, charisma next. Identify them by their fruits not by their gifts.

Many people believe common sense cannot be applied to spiritual things, but I beg to differ. Many preachers encourage that train of thought because they know that with your thinking caps on you can easily decipher between a miracle and a ruse. When Moses saw the bush on fire yet not consumed, it was common sense that made him take notice. When Jesus Christ healed blind people and lepers, there were always people who attested to the fact that the people had been blind from childhood. There were times Christ asked them to show themselves to the priests. If a “preacher” asks your wife to strip naked and asks you to look away, please listen, your common sense is right, this is supposed to be spiritual healing not a medical examination. Clothes are no barriers to the spirit. If a preacher appears on TV to say he has raised the dead, please remember, the stage was set by him, take it with a pinch of salt until you have reason not to. If we do not exact the highest level of proof from miracle workers, we will remain pawns in their carefully hatched schemes. God gave you the brains and the senses for a single purpose- to use them, please do so without feeling guilty.

My last anti-Charlatan dose is Congruence with scripture. If the man appears and says he is working miracles based on the Christian bible; then use the bible as a meter rule to measure his deeds. The bible describes the people of Berea as having greater nobility because among other things, they used the scriptures to authenticate the message they received (Acts 17:11). The bible explicitly warns Israel against Necromancy (inquiring of the dead), yet one of these “Men of God” appeared on TV and claimed he was speaking to a woman’s dead husband. The fact that he still has a congregation says a lot about the scriptural foundations of the people who sit at his feet.

Religious pretenders have led many to their deaths in tragic circumstances; some of them have destroyed families and many lives. The fact remains that you are the only one who can save yourself from these charlatans. The law is inadequate.

Combat the Charlatans with Character, Common Sense and Congruence.

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