Not Your Granny’s Church
I went to church last Sunday. This is nothing special by itself, the south-western Nigerian society is as church infested as a Vatican street. More than half of the Lagos population are consummate church-goers. Sundays in the modernistic Lagos Island still retain the medieval feature of being the day you put your best dress on. For many, it is the major social occasion for the week, a time to catch up on social networks, catch the latest gossip, and send up a prayer to God for the downfall of your wicked boss in the coming week.
However, for a hardened secularist like me, it was a highly unusual event. I was literally dragged to the venue by a female friend (who also conned lunch out of me afterwards) amidst my protests of irreverence and sophisticated heathenism. The point, I told her in plaintive notes, was that I could not honestly worship in an institution whose rituals I no longer had faith in. it would be, I protested, like an undergraduate attempting a sincere attendance at nursery. I was too sophisticated.
I forgot, however, that Christianity, unlike its counterparts, is a constantly evolving religion (ironic, for a theology that disapproves of evolution), a continuously changing one. It was started over 2,000 years ago by a band of roving fishermen in the hillsides of Judea whose rediscovered faith in their executed leader inspired them to profound acts of courage and missionary works. Their humility was touching, their message was simple: the Kingdom of God is here. Repent.
So with the self assurance only an unrepentant sinner can muster, I went to church and got a rude culture shock. The modern Christians I joined in worship floored my pretensions. They surpassed my secularism. The church had moved beyond my ideas, and throughout the preaching, I felt as old-fashioned and out of place as a Buddhist monk in a shopping mall. By the end of the service, I had made up some helpful guides from my observations. This should help you on how to be a modern Christian.
1. A bible is only as good as its physical condition: you do not want to show up in church toting the worn-out family bible your grandfather got baptized with. Better to swing your empty hands into the sermon than drag along a weary script with half of Genesis in someone’s trash and the books of Jude and revelations hanging on—literally by a thread. Your bible should at all times be clean and minty. Leather bound, gilded edges, with exotic commentaries and fancy footnotes. The pricier the better. Don’t highlight the text, don’t scrawl on the margins and don’t fold the pages. Keep it locked up in a compartment in your car or handbag all week –until Sunday morning. Naturally, to aid in keeping it in its factory condition, your modern pastor is going to make little or no reference to it in the course of the Sunday sermon. That’s why you should keep up with CNN and Business Day—there’s more sermon material in there.
2. Remember the Sunday, to keep it holy: because, practically and theoretically, all other days are ordinary and commonplace. You are granted Monday to Saturday to cheat, lie, backbite, quarrel, keep malice, fornicate, swagger, jamz, party, swear, hiss, curse, get your groove on, ignore people, murder, assassinate characters, those six are days when you are meant to be vainglorious, impatient, arrogant, rude, cruel and generally get on with life. On six days you should labour, send e-mails, make calls, crack jokes, meet deadlines, set more goals, watch TV, read the papers, flirt with the ladies and be coy with the dudes and basically get rich or die trying. But Sunday is a truce-day: on that day you show your respect to the creator by hitting the pause button on your carnal sidekick and acting nice to the co-sinner next door. Monday is another day.
3. Love your neighbor—but not as much as your pastor: because brand identity transcends universal brotherhood. These days it’s all about image. A successful image needs a great brand. Choose your church, revere and emulate your pastor, and fight to maintain the integrity of your church’s brand. A modern church requires a classy and sophisticated brand with a logo designed by Alder and the ad campaign handled by DDB. The pastor must come with a brand identity and his pictures must reflect the values of the modern church—wealth, prosperity, and luxury. God help the poor sinner who call’s your pastor’s name in vain. Remember, even if your pastor cannot say: “In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up and walk”, he should not be heard to say: “Silver and gold, I have not…”.
4. Go ye into the world and beat them at their game: actually, in the original script, Christians were to be a people apart from the world. But that concept is archaic; the world, well, our world, is Christian (and Moslem—but the characters are the same) and since you cannot convert a land where everyone else is converted, the next best thing is to show the power of God in your life by being part of the Jet Set. You can reach more people and show them the way to your brand of Christianity by dressing in tailored suits and fancy gowns. It should be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for a street beggar to enter your church—and relax. A failure in earthly riches is a sign that God is displeased. The more successful you are on earth, the more the people of the earth respect you—after all, you are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. How can you trudge around on foot? Even the Lord got a donkey at the end; the least you can do is buy a jeep. Preferably a Hummer.
5. Be cool and trendy and hip and smart: and flow with the latest Hollywood, Nollywood, Bollwood and other woody gossip and news. Feel free to drink (champagne and red/white wine), smoke (cigars), smooch around (occasionally), club (for business networking) and generally be the cool dude or babe on the red carpet. Be a social butterfly—an ice cream boy, a La Casera girl. Say “shit”, and “damn”, and “fuck” when necessary. In fact, you are allowed to use them in the course of a Sunday school lecture. Just be a Christian, you don’t have to be Christlike. You don’t have to ask “what would Jesus do?” before every action—that is being stupid. Not smart. Anyway, there can only be one Christ and you can only be a Christian. Even better, God looks at the heart and he knows you love him.
So, boys and girls, those are a few points for you to digest, I’ve not consulted God on them, but I’m sure he approves my observations, if he doesn’t, then three quarters of the Christians around have frightfully left the narrow path and are massing on the broad way. But if you think these points are too tough for you to live by, I sympathise, these modern Christians scare me too. But, remember, a Christlike life would lead you nowhere—on earth.
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