Very short blog post.
What can Christianity do in a society? Or perhaps, what does it look like when Christianity fuels a movement for change?
50 years ago today, a 34-year-old Dr. Martin Luther King III gave the very familiar ‘I Have A Dream’ speech in Washington.
The language will be familiar to any christian. The use of biblical metaphors he used to pepper every sentence are no different from the ‘rev’ that gets Pentecostals to whoop across various churches every Sunday. The man was simply on a pulpit delivering a powerful moral sermon. Which Christian is not familiar with ‘justice rolling down like the waters and righteousness like a mighty stream’?
But there was something else.
Dr King and company also had a list of 10 demands they came with
Of those 10 points, at least 7 are clearly and explicitly economic demands. Perhaps you might demand different things today with hindsight (indeed Dr King himself later somewhat backed away from point 8) but Dr. King understood that a life of poverty is a life of NO…everything you need or want, the answer is NO.
Like many people, I used to be a better Christian than I am these days.
Lately there has been a lot of online chatter about the senior Pastor of COZA, Abuja and his dalliance with Miss Ese Walter. You get the sense that even when Nigerians are unable to articulate what they think the church should be doing, there is a larger consensus on what it should not be doing. Here are a couple of articles by Tolu Ogunlesi and Wole Olabanji that state the case for what the church should not be doing.
No doubt the problems we face today in Nigeria are different from the raw segregation and dehumanizing conditions that blacks faced in Dr. King’s 1963. But do we no longer need jobs? Or houses? Whereas Dr. King led hundreds of thousands of people to speak truth to power, these days people line up to go and listen to superstar preachers sedate them with platitudes and promises of divine riches that somehow bypass the reality of the economics in which they live their daily lives i.e. the economy might be very bad but your job is to divinely rise above it or in some cases have another person’s wealth divinely transferred to you.
Where the bible is studied, too often it is used as something to separate those who ‘understand’ from those who don’t comprehend the mysteries therein creating a client class of adherents who will always need something to be ‘explained’ to them, often for a fee.
Dr. King used biblical metaphors to ask for jobs and housing. He used his Christianity to prick America’s conscience into action. In other words, there is nothing in Christianity that is incompatible with economic development for Christians and everyone in general.
This blog post is rather pointless I suppose but it is useful to know, 50 years later, that Christianity is not simply a pain reliever or anesthetic to numb adherents from the pain that is all too real around them.
You can powerfully use biblical metaphors and verses to prick the conscience of our leaders in a way that will hasten them to provide stable electricity and accommodation for Christians and Muslims alike, not forgetting the Ifa Massive too.