Okay, so this is where I stand on Christianity. I am Christian. I believe in God and Jesus Christ (One and the same in my opinion). I’m NOT a frequent church goer and don’t intend to become one. I can’t stand the charismatic Christian movement. And finally and most importantly, I think that most Christians in this beloved country of mine are among the worst hypocrites in the world!
Furthermore, I believe that my relationship with God is a personal one and I should be left alone to explore the depths of this relationship with no judgment from the Ghanaian Christian right-wing.
Phew, that’s said! I can’t believe it, I’m still alive and not smelling like smoky bacon after being smitten by God!
Before I most recently left Ghana in 2002, I used to fall asleep to the dulcet tones being broadcast over the air by Joy FM. Inevitably though, I’d be rudely awakened the next morning by one preacher man or the other, spewing forth sulfur, brimstone, molten lava and other such menacing substances. A truly horrid experience in the best of cases. The session would almost always culminate in the listeners being asked to place their hands, feet, head and/or other body parts on the radio in order to receive the healing touch of the Holy Spirit. I remember often wondering whether there were people listening, who had squatted over their radios so as to place their swollen piles on it for Holy Spirit healing. Aaaanyway…the point I’m trying to make is that, on the surface, Ghana is a deeply and viscerally Christian and church going country. Or not…?
Peel away a few layers and I find a somewhat different story. A reality that’s far less beautiful than the African print clothing, bend-down boutique (obroni w’awu) garments, lovely costume jewelry and other apparel and adornments that accompany the typical church going Ghanaian to the ritual of Sunday church service. A reality that is nowhere near as pleasant as the commandment given all too often in the bible to ‘…love thy neighbour as thyself.’ (Matthew 22:39, Leviticus 19:18, Luke 10:27, Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14, & James 2:8). In reality, what I’ve found is that while Christians absolutely adore the pomp and pageantry associated with Christianity and church going in Ghana, very few actually live their lives by the lessons they learn from the church.
And here comes the disclaimer. I am no means a model Christian, flawed in many ways. I try to do good to others by being kind, empathetic and considerate etc etc…Let me give you 3 instances (among the many I have experienced since returning to Ghana) where
(Names in the following anecdotes have been changed to protect the privacy of the
individuals hypocrites concerned)
True Story 1: “Laptop blues”
Early last year, around February, Ighodaro, a good Nigerian, church going Christian friend I was working with was in dire need of a new laptop. I had another friend in the US who was in the business of procuring electronics and selling them in Ghana for a small profit.
The stars had aligned and the conversation with Ighodaro went like this;
Osei: ‘Yeah, I’ll speak to my contact and he’ll buy one and send it to Ghana. Because he’s getting it for me, there will be no delivery charge, you’ll pay just the cost of the laptop.’
Ighodaro: ‘Really, do I have to pay all upfront or can I pay in installments?’
Osei: ‘Well I’ve spoken to my friend and he says I can split the payments into three and settle over a three month period. Will that work for you?’
Ighodaro: ‘Osei, that’s great. I can’t thank you enough. I’ll definitely settle within 3 months. GOD BLESS YOU!’
I imagine you can see where this is going…Suffice it to say the following; more than a year later, Ighodaro has paid less than a third of his debt. However he has managed to buy himself a Kindle Fire, a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and a couple of other cool devices I’d have liked for myself. His debt to me is $800.00.
True Story 2: “Camera Fiasco”
Just before I came to Ghana in 2011, my wife and I had become shutter bugs. To that end, we got a great deal on a brand new Sony α100 DSLR camera. Not the best camera in the world, but more than good enough for amateurs like us who simply wanted to capture images of our young kids and family. Brought the camera into work a couple of times and eventually a really good friend of mine (let’s call him David) asked to borrow the device. Hey…what’s the worst that could happen right? Anyway, David was a conscientious individual who I trusted to look after my camera for me. Besides, David was kindred spirit and a budding shutterbug himself.
Unfortunately for David, one mishap led to the camera’s rear LCD display being shattered. Of course, the camera was still usable but there was no way to check the settings, preview pictures etc etc…
Hell, sh*t happens right? No problem, just get it fixed and let’s move on. Right?
Wrong! That was in 2011! Camera, still broken! No effort or urgency to get it fixed.
In the meantime, David has gotten himself some really cool gadgets too; a really cool android tablet with a detachable keyboard, a couple of really cool Windows and Android phones. David has even got himself a very nice Canon DSLR of his own. Apparently, my camera is of little or no significance to him so long as he can continue to fund his lifestyle with the things that he wants. Screw anyone else.
True Story 3: “Payday Blues”
Okay, so this particular one is a bit petty but hey, I’m on a roll so to hell with it. Let’s call this friend Emil. Now Emil is a cool dude! Quiet, seemingly shy and a bit of a ladies man. He’s also great fun to hang out with.
Anyway, in one particular month in early 2012 our company was behind on payroll. We were going to be paid a week later than usual. Widespread panic and fear set in. People would die and angels and other celestial beings were crying because salaries were delayed.
Emil, my cool friend, approached me because I was obviously earning more than he was and I seemed to have my sh*t together enough to have some money saved away for these kinds of situations.
Emil: ‘Osei, please lend me 50 GHS. I’ll pay you the moment we get paid.’
Osei: ‘Cool, that’s no problem at all
*important note – we all got paid exactly two days after the incident
18 months after this incident, Emil is now the proud owner of a 57” 3D television (Samsung or LG, not sure which brand), Sony Vega sound and entertainment system, a top-of-the-range Mac Book Pro (bought for about 4800 GHS).
‘Where did all this money come from?’ I hear you ask. Well Emil recently completed a very lucrative contract for a software application for one of the top TV broadcasting stations in the country. However, for Emil, 50 GHS is far too small an amount of money to consider paying back.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met a couple of really cool Christians since coming back home. Those like Stephanie, who don’t force-feed you her beliefs while summarily passing judgement on everything you do. Others like Kim, whose lifestyle and attitude towards everything and everyone is so positive that one simply can’t help but be a better person around them. Still others like Simi, who are young and growing Christians but do their best to pay their debts (no matter how small) and respect their fellow colleagues irrespective of colour, religion and background.
I salute these people.