For the essence of religion is morality.
—Mahatma M.K. Gandhi
There is no gain-saying the fact that there are powers and mysteries in this world, the world itself being a mystery. There is a God. What I can’t say assuredly is whether God is a christian, Muhammedan, Buddhist, naturalist, Taoist and what have you. But the fact that God exists is not in doubt, there is a metaphysical supreme entity.
I was outside last night and saw the variation of stars in the sky. Some appeared smaller while some looked bigger and shined more brightly. There was the moon, beaming through the whole world from its location, sometimes you see it in the West sometimes in the East. There is the sun, only one but shines at the same time in many countries. It was once sunny in Nigeria and I tuned my television to a football match being played in the United Kingdom. There it was, the same sun shining on their pitch without prejudice in a country several square kilometers to mine. You look around and see green plants, different trees and plantations. All I see is abundance, greatness and wealth.
Only God could have done things like these. No man could have been so impartial while deciding where rain would fall and where sun would shine. Rain falls and sun shines even on gangsters, rapists, liars and killers. When nature happens, there’s no prejudice to profession, status or character. The good news is that nature happens every time and everywhere. Everything is nature. Religion is one of the most important aspects of life of human beings and man is by nature religious.
Fellow christians, ours is a universal God who does not discriminate with His grace and goodness, so why should we? Gotthold Ephraim Lessing made a profound submission when he said;
“There are good men in every land. The tree of life has many branches and roots. Let not the topmost twig presume to think that it alone has sprung from mother earth…We did not choose our races for ourselves. Jews, muslims, christians – all alike are men. Let me hope I have found in you – a man.”
In my dealings with all men and women, before our religion comes into discussion I always look out for good human character. For there is no solid foundation for even religious thoughts to lean on if the character is bad or wounded.
On Page 172 of Gandhi’s ‘My Experiments With Truth’, he narrated how on a trip from India to South Africa their ship was in a violent storm amidst the southern sea. He was amazed how the sight of common danger or imminent death could unite people of diverse backgrounds and religions.
“All became one in face of the common danger. They forgot their differences and began to think of the one and only God -Musalmans, Hindus, Christians and all. Some took various vows…His Will be done was the only cry on every lip.”
Gandhi wrote further, of how after trembling for about 24 hours, the storm calmed and people’s faces beamed with gladness. With the disappearance of danger came the disappearance of God from their lips, eating, drinking, singing & merry-making again.
Human beings aren’t so different from one another after all, no matter how much we like to hide under religious canopies, calling ourselves christians, muslims, Jews etc for effect. I’m a strong exponent of Irving Goffman’s dramaturgical analysis, the study of human interaction in terms of theatrical arts. In Nigeria, you see muslim politicians go to mosque during Eid-el Kabir, meanwhile, they also go to church for their friend’s wedding anniversary, all amidst heavy media coverages. Religion has been politicized for votes and fan-friendly appearances, not to really please God. People don’t practice a religion for the sake of religion, it is because of what they stand to gain!
In our bid to quickly outdo each other’s religion we forget the common foe of mankind which is SATAN. Churches are not meant to compete with each other. Christians are not meant to compete with their muslim neighbors. We have a common goal to resist evil. Anybody who truly believes in the existence of God will equally recognize the presence of the devil as the opposite faction. There is no other faction, you either stand for God or for evil, good versus bad, dark versus white, truth versus lie, pleasure versus reason, right versus wrong, cause versus consequence and so on.
Many christian leaders are quick to identify who will make heaven & who will not, they always seem ready to point out the dichotomy in people. But my Bible tells me it is a sin to prejudge fellow humans (Matthew 7:1-3 ). Also posited by Dr. Johnson, “God himself does not propose to judge man until the end of his days.” Why do we then judge each other unnecessarily? I don’t suppose God would wipe off the Dalai Lama and all the Tibetans in Asia in His apocalypse. I don’t believe Malcolm X will burn in hell for having unstable beliefs in religions. I can’t agree with any school of thought that Gandhi will burn in hell for being Hindu and not christian, a man who had the God-nature and godly inspiration. I read his autobiography and sometimes confuse his insights for some angelic revelations, for his points of view showed extremely-deep introspective reflections.
Who says Mahatma Gandhi won’t get to heaven for not being christian? A man who rejected gifts of gold chains and diamond rings because he felt this ran against his own teaching of a simplified life. He had been exhorting people to conquer their infatuation for jewelry & he just couldn’t break his own rules. Now, that’s a honorable being! That’s a pious man. A man who in an act of true faith refused to apply eggs and chicken to treat his ailing son, contrary to the doctor’s prescription and only because the application went against his Hindu religion of preservation of all life, including animals. Doesn’t that remind you of how Abraham wanted to sacrifice Isaac under God’s command in the Bible? Gandhi knew well, that refusal to follow the doctor’s prescription might kill his son, but he was willing to let the boy die rather than go against his belief!
How many christian clerics today reject expensive gifts? Rather, they receive gifts from armed-robbers, corrupt politicians, thieves, prostitutes and fraudsters. They even encourage their congregation to be idle by coming to church everyday of the week, when obviously this is wrong even according to the practice of the early christians. Everyday was not synagogue day, that’s why Sabbath was really special. Now, what we have is a church full of ‘beggars and paupers’ but mega-rich pastors. Christian leaders now have fleet of cars and private jets, even though Jesus Christ didn’t own a donkey in his time! Materialism has taken over spiritualism in the church. I go to church at times and all I hear is money, money, money! Is money the new pathway to salvation? I don’t believe these set of people will make heaven before Gandhi.
Where do we place religious leaders who endorse politicians, even corrupt ones? Before the March 28, 2015 presidential elections in Nigeria, several popular clergymen allied with the incumbent, when he didn’t win they changed camps by supporting the winner. A particular famous Reverend was raining curses on the candidate he didn’t like, publicly on the altar and it’s on record. I’m sure that pastor has fleet of cars too, while his followers are impoverished! How many christians follow the truths in the Holy Bible? How many muslims follow the profound words in the Holy Quran? According to Gandhi, “truth is like a vast tree, which yields more and more fruit, the more you nurture it.”
The truth is there to see for anybody who picks up those sacred books.
History abounds with stories of people who weren’t even ‘religious’ but were highly humane and moral. Obafemi Awolowo, a free-thinker whose footprints & fingerprints are forever entrenched in the development of Nigeria! Tai Solarin, an atheist but his blueprint for mass education is what we still use today in Nigeria and some parts in Africa! Bertrand Russell, the agnostic scholar who showed us the beauty of thinking outside the box, even if we have our reservations! Stephen Hawking, the atheist who has proffered more critical and realistic solutions to our daily problems than a lot of religious leaders!
Some christian friends have walked into my library before and questioned why I keep books on other religions or spiritual knowledge such as the Holy Quran & The Grail Message. I always let my friends know that the rationale behind my study of other religions is simply to have a proper understanding of as many religions as possible. No seeker of knowledge can afford to discriminate. In fact, human beings can better co-exist if we’re willing to really understand each other’s beliefs. Here, I’m not talking about politicizing religion and how some crooks identify with other religions just to get sympathetic following from such groups. I’m interested in the genuine accommodation of each other’s beliefs.
Human beings are social animals and no man lives successfully in isolation. It would be an exercise in futility if I should imagine that I’d not deal with muslims in my public works or talk to agnostics or even voodoo practitioners. Besides, how many people really chose to be muslims or christians? If I were to be born in the middle-east, wouldn’t I be muslim automatically? If I were to be born in Jerusalem, wouldn’t I be Jew from birth? So if nobody chose where to fall in, why do people still judge others? Why are there so much fanatics these days? I think I’d blame some clerics for that.
One of the greatest prophets of the 20th century, A. W. Tozer once said,
“Yet we must confess that the evangelical church today is bogged down with moral boredom and life-weariness.”
I’ve read some Hadiths of the prophet, listened to some Waasi (sermon) and found them more morally profound than some christian preachers. I see a lot of hypocrisy in our faith. We’re probably the most hypocritical people in the world, we say a lot of things we don’t want to practice. Our leaders mislead us many times. If a study is conducted, Nigeria would definitely be most religious nation in the world yet, corruption & immorality are institutionalized. We have the most number of mosques and churches in the world, some shenanigans are just cashing-in from the ‘business’ of religion.
Today’s christians have forgotten that people don’t listen much to what we preach or say, but they note our behaviors, especially when it’s towards them. We christians can win more to our course if and only if we let go our self-righteousness and sense of sole-entitlement to God. We must embrace those who worship God in ways different from ours. We must demonstrate the love of Christ and his holiness. According to Tozer,
“It is not enough for preachers in their
pulpits to try to define love. The love
that God has promised must be
demonstrated in the lives of the believers in the pews. It must be
practiced as well by the man who
occupies the pulpit.”
Christianity is not really a religion, it’s a lifestyle. The disciples were first called christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26) due to their way of life. Christianity is more than attending church. Unfortunately today, people visit churches just to receive miracles. It’s dangerous when you receive a miracle without actually receiving into your life the giver of those miracles. God is the miracle worker & all men must know Him. That’s exactly what Jesus Christ came to do, reconcile man with God (John 3:16).
Human beings! That road which leads to destruction is the one we take, no matter all the dangerous signs we see on that route. Humans have always coveted danger & death since the beginning of time, it’s written all over the history books. The Greeks with their arenas, the Spartans, the Romans (even with all their ‘civility’), Egyptians, self-imposed havocs are everywhere. The Israelites in the time of Moses, despite seeing God face-to-face and hearing directly from His prophets, they still went back to their sinful ways. They still molded for themselves golden & bronze images. Men are like filthy pigs sometimes, it’s useless to try to make them clean! But God never loses hope in man.
According to A.W. Tozer, “You should look upon your faith as a miracle. It is the ability God gives lost men and women to trust and obey our Savior and Lord.” Faith is a gift from God, it is a rare privilege.
Make God proud, from today, endeavor to start living a life of love with no prejudice.
…To be continued