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Nigeria Religion And I: A Rejoinder

July 11, 2010

Let me start by praising the efforts of Chikadibie Okafo at pointing out without fear or favour the problem with Nigerian masses. I agree with Chika a whole lot of 95% and the other five percent is what I am here to correct. Having said this, it means that I am in agreement with those areas this rejoinder fails to cover. Please pay more attention to read up the middle chapters in order to appreciate my major arguments.

Let me start by praising the efforts of Chikadibie Okafo at pointing out without fear or favour the problem with Nigerian masses. I agree with Chika a whole lot of 95% and the other five percent is what I am here to correct. Having said this, it means that I am in agreement with those areas this rejoinder fails to cover. Please pay more attention to read up the middle chapters in order to appreciate my major arguments.
The area I need to touch concerns his take on Christian and particularly Catholic teachings which does not also mean that they are tested truths, but that they have reasonable explanations to which Chika alluded to in the final paragraph of his article. I am also a Catholic who grew up like Chika did and had to attend catechism classes in order to receive First Holy Communion and be confirmed as soldiers of the faith. But the difference between me and Chika is that after he was confirmed, Chika restricted his Christian practices to only Sundays Sunday medicine and that is what formed his incredulity.
Immaculate Conception.
Chika does not understand the Immaculate Conception or the reason why Catholics pray through Mary. Here again, my aim is to provide the reason behind it and you don’t need to attack me whether it is good practice or not after all no one is sure of anything. You may be surprised to learn that the person you call your father is not really your father, yet u can kill for it before DNA test considering your faith in your parents. Catholics believe that Jesus is not just the Lord, but God according to John chapter one making allusion to Genesis Chapter one verse one. If Jesus is God and God is Spirit, he does not have Flesh because God is spirit.

Thus for Jesus who is God to come here and live with us, he needed flesh and had to borrow it from Mary. Catholics also believe in original sin which brought expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and through which corruption of the flesh started. If Mary conceived Jesus through sexual union, then Jesus shares original sin with us and if so, he cannot save man from the same original sin. A blind man does not lead a blind man.
Catholics also believe that although Mary’ parents Joachim and Ann got her through sexual union; she was exempt from sharing the original sin so that she cannot transfer the same to Jesus. In fact Catholics believe that Mary’s body which is the same with that of Jesus knew no decay. If Mary’ body decayed, then resurrection is rubbish since the origin of that body also knew corruption.

These are just speculation but which are so important that once it is disproved and divinity of Jesus denied, then Christianity not just Catholicism becomes baseless. If Jesus is considered a man, then it is either his coming is useless or there is no original sin making baptism worthless. Even John wondered why Jesus should be baptised believing that Jesus is God and does not share in original sin to need baptism. But because Jesus had to borrow even his clan, he had to baptise as the Jews did and became a Pharisee so he can have access to teach. Thus Immaculate Conception has the divinity of Jesus at its base and once you disprove it, Jesus’ cry on the cross ‘consumatum est’ might mean another thing which humanity cannot just start researching again now after all these years.

CATHOLIC TRADITION AND THE BIBLE: We have to understand that Catholic Church has come through many ages, endured many schisms and heresies and thus has amassed so much to teach both in morals and doctrines and people should agree with me that you don’t teach these on Sundays within just less than 30mins some priests deliver homily. The church knew this and for the benefit of those who cannot read, avenues to learn these teachings about catholic morals and doctrines abounds. The most conspicuous of them is the Sunday evening instruction where the Bible readings of the days are explained more in details and questions allowed from the faithful.

We must know that Catholic Church’s calendar has three years (AB&C) for Sundays and Two years (A and B) for weekdays where it is presumed that a faithful that attends masses on Sundays for three consecutive years must have heard or read the bible from Genesis to revelation. Moreover if one attends morning masses on weekdays for 2 consecutive years, he must have heard or read the same bible from Genesis to revelation. Thus in three years, a devout catholic must have read the bible twice and if he/she attends the evening instructions on Sundays, he must have heard or asked questions about in depths and explanations of the bible.

But most Catholics do not devote the time they devote to frivolities when they eventually leave the church. There are church laws, but people do not keep them because there is no immediate punishment and thus they fail to learn anything. But when they join secret societies, they can even go to the extent of killing to keep its laws. Those who leave Catholic church must ask themselves one question: “Was I active enough and have learnt all and understood the teaching before in I ‘repented’”? This is Just about working hard. There are people, who read just Igbo literature, but they are influential people in the world today while there are others who read Medicine, yet they could not get a good job. Did you work hard where you started? If you leave Political science where u don’t even read and go to medicine and work hard and be successful, there is nothing wrong with Pol. Sci., it was about you and your effort. So wake up and learn!

The Catholic Church has many other avenues one may learn and work out his salvation which I cannot come here to recant but which those who need should go and ask their Parish priests.

CATHOLIC CHURCH AND MIXED MARRIAGE: It is not true as Chika claimed that Catholic ladies are not allowed to marry a person who is not a catholic. Rather it is expected that permission must be granted by a local ordinary before such marriages. Chika should have gone through Cannons 1124 to 1128 before making his claims. The most apt of these cannons are as follows: 1124, Without the express permission of the competent authority, marriage is prohibited between two baptized persons, one of whom was baptized in the catholic Church or received into it after baptism and has not defected from it by a formal act, the other of whom belongs to a Church or ecclesial community not in full communion with the catholic Church.

Canon 1125 The local Ordinary can grant this permission if there is a just and reasonable cause. He is not to grant it unless the following conditions are fulfilled: Canon 1125.1 the catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith, and is to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power in order that all the children be baptized and brought up in the catholic Church; Canon 1125.2 the other party is to be informed in good time of these promises to be made by the catholic party, so that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and of the obligation of the catholic party.

 The reasons for these cannons are not farfetched. Catholic Church believes they are the oldest Christian faith and hold the truth about Jesus Christ (This they believe, forget about its veracity at least for now). So to make sure that Catholics are not led astray considering the warnings of Matthew’s Gospel chapter 24 and John’s Gospel Chapter 10, such marriages and loss of faith is forbidden. If a Bishop in the church believes that other Christian faith’s are making mistakes, why would he leave his doors open for his faithful to join those faiths? If he does, then it is better he closes his own entirely and join those others. In fact it is those who are not sure of the veracity or authenticity of their faith and teaching that would allow such defection with the word “after all we are all Christians” Yes we are all Christians, but we are not all true Christian faiths. Some has histories and original documents in the original languages and cultures of Jesus who we worship, others originates along major roads into big cities in Nigeria while others are near the beaches in Lagos. The truths they teach are not the same and if I am a Bishop, I won’t make laws that will mislead you into understanding that the churches are all the same. However, the church is not stopping any one physically.

Catholic Church cannot also be a one person’s church and thus may be difficult for a priest to deceive you on personal grounds. But these new churches can easily deceive since they have one man origin. I had such opportunity when I came up to London newly and delivered speech in a religious gathering. A pastor approached me with an offer to become a junior pastor in training in his church, today I regret not accepting that offer, because, man! he is now a rich man.

FATIMA APPARITION OF BVM TO THREE SHEPHARDS OF FATIMA: Let me start by saying here that Catholic Church has both private and public revelations. Bible is considered public which the Catholic Church considers a must for every faithful to accept. Private relations which include such mysterious appearances may be accepted by the church but you are free to reject them which Chika here just did. Although some of these things can be manipulated by overzealous priests (I am philosophers and cannot be caught in such) the Catholic Church tends to accept these private revelations based on their collaboration of history and present events. For example, if the three children of Fatima were not manipulated by overzealous adults, then it is hard to refute the children’s story with links to the Second World War which ended the following year and which they were even too young and uneducated to understand.  The Lourdes apparition also needs certain questions to have happened when the catholic hierarchy was debating Immaculate Conception and featuring a lady not educated to understand such things. Was this Lourdes apparition also manipulated so as to show the divine support of such doctrine? We may not know. But I have seen no disadvantage in believing in them and none in rejecting them.
Considering the story of the children collaborated by the media then, I don’t want to reject the story or accept it since there are possibilities in this life. However despite all my philosophical studies I find myself taking Jacinta the youngest of the three as my Matron Saint. The children were separated and interviewed after each apparition and most striking are two points. They were asked separately the colour of Mary’s dress, the colour of her feet and the direction she took when departing. While one of the children thought she wore white stockings, the other thought she wore no stockings but her feet were white in colour. They got the colour of her dress and direction of her departure. While these details were not supposed to be occupying the minds of children under 10years old in such apparition, they however collaborated each other’s story.

With a critical mind though, spirits are supposed to be invisible and these children were securely guarded once the story became public and thus the veracity of these interviews may still be in doubt. Thus one must not accept them nor believe in them. If Chika follows Public revelations in catholic faith, surely that is enough and it does not support political inactivity.

PRAYING THROUGH MARY: The Catholic Church believes that its family are divided into three- the journeying church which represent those of us here, the suffering church who died but have not attained heaven and the glorious church who are heaven. In the same way prayers and honours are reserved in the family based on where one is in the church. Latria is honour or worship reserved to God alone because he is the head of the church and is present in all three sections of the church. Dulia is reserved to all the saints in the church for the trials they underwent and become glorious. Hyperdulia is reserved to Mary the mother of God because of her special role in the history of salvation which the church represents.

Recently Grail Massage is trying to promote the sacred feminine through a way I am yet to understand. But Revelation Chapter 12 seems to refer to Mary and his role in the birth of Jesus. Just like the wedding of Cana in Galilee, at the instant of Mary, Jesus performed his first miracle. This sounds ridiculous because it presented Mary as a commander or in fact above Jesus, but as Christians we believe in the bible and that is bible teaching. Emotional plea does not transform into command. Moreover, sometimes when I have not even paid my house rent here in UK, my mother always makes request for those who need help and which I must do something about. Ordinarily, I don’t think I would, but I find myself planning in advance to accommodate those people. In the same way, if Jesus obliged his mother here on earth why not now she is supposed to have some authority at the instance of his son?

Catholics believes that she is the queen of heaven, no matter its veracity, queens do have authority, not by their own power but by the power of the people she reins over. Don’t forget too that all those powers was left to peter to bind and unbind (read John chapters 19-21). The Catholic Church through his head Jesus made Mary the queen of the church and they believe that she has the power to influence Jesus whatever they mean or understand by that.

Conclusion: One does not argue from a pointless point. We have to start from somewhere in life. We need faith anchor in this confused world and more especially in Nigeria. If you ask me, the truth we have about God is not up to 1%, yet I am a believer, a strong Catholic. I am a philosopher and I admired Socrates for dying for what he believed in. Aristotle was accused of the same at age 75, but he ran away lest government commit the same sin against philosophy the second time. Yet he died the following year. They were not sure, but they had to believe in something. Me I believe in God, Jesus and Catholic Church. These may all be false but why don’t I start from somewhere in the face of nothing better on offer?

What if we are just ‘dreams’ by a bigger being? The day he wakes up, we cease to exist. What if human sufferings, death, western subjugation of Africa are just minute in the scheme of things? Surely if these suffering in life, the injustices of existence are paramount, God if he exists would have done something about them. But believe me, the apparent silence of God or his/her inactivity means that in the scheme of important things, Nigeria and her situation occupy the lowest level. Time for Kids to settle among themselves for their WHORTLESS toys if they actually need peace or fight it out to claim what is theirs!!!

Okonkwor Joseph is a PhD student in Philosophy.

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