che-liberationThere is a certain type of religious person I meet in Ghana, unfortunately usually a Christian, who makes the accusatory statement – “Why should you care? What’s it to do with you?” – when those of us who write, or are activists, make critical statements about what we perceive to be religious, political or societal wrongs. This is often supported by “leave it to God” or their misunderstanding of the bible passage “Thou shalt not judge”.

Whether our observations are right or wrong is rarely debated: their statements are demands to be silent. One might ask the stereotyped question “What would Jesus do?” because it’s clear he defended the oppressed, spoke out against injustice and challenged the religious leaders of his day.

2004-01-24-Money-Who-CaresThere is the argument that religion is a comfort for the hopeless and perhaps this is the root of the problem. When religion is seen primarily as comfort it becomes about the feel-good factor. It’s a form of selfishness that offers all sorts of promises in return for ‘just believing’.

It’s possible this type of Christian has realised, either consciously or sub-consciously, the failure of religion to solve all their problems because the result seems to be existential despair. They have become nihilists and given up on life, and, blaming themselves, they pray more, church more, withdraw from the world into a closed domain of Christian anxiety, relying on the promise things will be OK when they die (if only they aren’t judged as wicked and sent to hell).

They have embraced a form of Christianity that is ‘soulless’, amoral and impotent.

Some Christians seem to believe that the end justifies the means when we look at a lot of the clearly fake stories they distribute on Facebook to scare and cajole people into accepting their beliefs. But I would suggest the means can determine the end. Giving a false or misleading impression of something in order to ‘save a soul’ may end up creating a selfish world which feeds into alienation.

The only way through this is to become ‘worldly’. The world that the bible says God so loved (that he gave is only begotten son) is the place where we find meaning and hope by our engagement with it not avoidance of it.

There are times where we need to be angry and where we have to develop the confidence to speak out, not fearing how others will judge us, holding those with power to account. If we don’t, we fail to develop our own empathy and compassion and allow ourselves to become dehumanised, unfeeling about the abuse and suffering of others and the way that the powerful attempt to manipulate us for their personal gain.

Life is obviously not always comfortable and there is no one product that can change this. Rather we need to deal with this fact as quickly as possible, reject false hope and the desperation to be in a state of comfort, and to care about the world around us. If Christianity is now an obstacle to this it must be challenged. It must be challenged because Ghana deserves better.