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The Church Economy (2)

In the previous piece, I am sure we realised how the church economy has gained ground in the bigger Ghanaian economy and is influencing our way of life as a people. The matter is critical, and there are so many angles and lenses through which to look at this. In part two (2) of this subject, it is pertinent to look at some crucial aspects of this issue.

Topical among them is the question of who owns the church. Does the church have any bearing on politics? Should the church be paying any taxes? And aside from the spiritual comfort and relief it gives to some people, are there any other benefits to the nation? among other interrogations. First, I would like to tackle the last question before the others.

It is usually a thought-provoking sight to behold Sunday mornings. The streets are normally deserted. The typical hustle and bustle of hawkers, beggars, traders, traffic wardens, pick-pockets and fraudsters pave way for the filth – and at some places the glory and beauty of the cities, towns and villages – to prevail. Most people are going to church or resting; or gone for walks or to play various sports; or are at Daavi, drinking.

Most interestingly, you will spot Atakora, Paa, Kwame, Addai Nimosh, Borga, Patapaa and Asemasi (all imaginary names) dressed in some over-sized jackets complete with some shiny trousers and crocodile-leather shoes -the tips of the shoes pointing upwards to greet the god they are going to ‘worship’ – walking on the roadsides. The privileged ones will be riding in vehicles; daddy driving, mummy in ‘co-pee’ and the kids behind. The semi-privileged ones cramped in trotros, some in taxis and Ubers, Yango, Taxify, etc. Nice one! The city has seen some form of order.

This is one of the church’s benefits. Most of these people – trouble-makers, thieves, fraudsters, cheats, murderers, swindlers, witches, wizards, Sakawa boys and girls, hookers, cursers, ‘Azaaa’ people, drunks etc. have seen a god on Sunday, and they want to go and ‘worship’ him. Well done, church! You have managed to keep trouble off our streets and communities.

In other words, the church plays a key role in sanitising the nation by way of conscientising and regulating good conduct. Some years back in the United Kingdom, a popular Black-dominated church got in the news for some alleged wrong reasons. When it became topical, a prominent personality argued in favour of the church – noting that the accusations were far less damaging than the probable effect of all the church members let loose on the streets of London during the period they spent in church.

Again, I say, well done church! But for you, the ills in society could be worse. A survey I came across during research for this piece indicated that crime rates are lower during church days than other days. Meaning that Bra Awi is also observing Sabbath! Less crime.

Now, let’s look at who owns the church. For the orthodox churches, the picture is a bit clear. For example, the Catholic Church – the biggest Christian community, with about 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide – and the Vatican with its overseer, the Holy See, has its church ownership vested in individual dioceses. Generally, all parishes’ properties within a diocese are owned by the diocese. Peter’s Pence is an annual collection sent to the Vatican in Rome. Thus, the local dioceses own what they collect – mostly. I reckon the other orthodox churches have similar arrangements of church ownerships; or, if you may, church franchises.

For the Syncretic, Pentecostal and Charismatic ones the question is, who owns the churches? ‘Handkerchief! Handkerchief! Handkerchief!’ ‘Heeeey! Somebody sow a seed unto the lord’. ‘Nooowwww, those with GH¢1,000 raise your monies’. GH¢500 and so forth will follow. The collections are over. The harvests are collected. The bullion-van has collected the money to be deposited in that bank account. Subsequently, the church instruments have been procured. The church bus, building etc. have all been acquired. Who owns them? The church, abi? What if the pastor, apostle, bishop, prophet or Odeefuo dies? Is there a clear-cut church policy on succession? I am only wondering ooo!

That collection. That tithe. That sowing of seeds. That offering for special money. The instruments and equipment and buildings, probably a school or other facilities will be acquired with them. Other overheads paid for. The excess monies. Wherefore thou goeth? Splendid and lavish homes? Flashy cars and lifestyles? ‘Charity’? Slay queens? Politics? Hospitals? Mallam? I don’t know. I am only imagining.

Now, can you imagine! Something happens to the leader of the church. Wife and children and other relatives seeking to take over the church. Who really is the church for? The church leader? The congregation? The heir of the church leader? The wife or the side-chick? The government or who? This has been my wonder.

In recent times, stories have been told of a partner to a church who is ‘fighting’ with church elders or administrators over ownership of the properties of a church ‘owner’ who is indisposed. In this case, what happens? I am told that some big church ‘owners’, in order to prevent such situations, groom their children and heir-apparent to become ‘pastors’ or ‘deputies’ so the church properties, acquired through donations from others in pursuit of salvation, go to them.

Inheritance? Succession? Is this fair? And the big question is, are the inheritors supposed to pay taxes on such ‘fortunes’? The church economy is big! Can you imagine? For big players in the ‘god industry’, usually the buildings are huge and elaborate. The equipment and technology are high-tech; and other properties that come along with them are worth millions. All from the ‘collections’ of spiritually hungry or otherworldly people who are seeking a form of relief/comfort.

Sometimes, I wonder for the orthodox churches – for example the Catholic church whose bishops and archbishops derive their appointments and mainstay mostly from the Pope in the Vatican; the other reverends usually live modestly from their parishes and dioceses – but not so for some of the charismatic and syncretic churches. They drive posh vehicles, live in plush neighbourhoods, ‘bamber’ (associate) with the crème-de-la-crème’ in society, wearing expensive outfits and talking menacing and commanding talks. Mostly, their partners are fair and beautiful, wear nice dresses and are revered as ‘pastor’s trophies. I’m only wondering ooo! How come? The church economy must be nice.

Then, the church economy narrative moves into the realm of politics. Here, I should be a bit circumspect because every politician who wants to lead Ghana and does not seek the favour of religion would be going against the very folk-soul of most Ghanaians. Some do it genuinely. Some are confused as to where they actually belong. Some are really political artistes. Ghanaians are made up 71.3% Christians; 19.9% Muslims/Islam and the others. So, to make a big a political impact, one must identify with a particular denomination.

Thus, they must drift to churches because they have the biggest constituents. The church economy, again, is big and influential! Some ‘church owners’ take advantage of this and make false prophecies thereby giving false hope to the obviously confused ones. Some make real pronouncements based on clear and obvious evidence of accomplishments and real prophecies.

For me, the interesting point to note here is – watch carefully whomever politician is not taking an undue advantage of the church economy, flip-flopping among religions. A claim to belong to one today, another claim to belong to the other tomorrow – yet all sects scorn him or her. They cannot protect the church economy.

Shalom!

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