NEW CHRISTIANITY AND THE 2ND COMMANDMENT
Some children were asked to define love and one of them, a four-year old said, 'When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different, you just know that your name is safe in their mouth'. There is profound wisdom in this child's cute statement, which we Nigerians, ever mindful of our titles and how people call our names, can attest to. How safe is God's name in our mouths?
Fire-brand new Christians and their pastors have filled our country not only with fear of demons and curses against enemies but with profane and irreverent language. A large proportion of these new ways are coming from the United States of America noted for Western tough-talking and foul-mouthed language.
America, speaking culturally, is not as polished as Europe and the older countries of the world, but it is ironic how, because of the USA's advances in science and technology, modern art and distorted new values, cultures that are better honed are imitating that county's aberrations and vulgarities. In our copy-cat and sheepish manner, Nigerian Pentecostal pastors have brought down, wholesale, the American mode of worship, full of levities theatrical showmanship and loquacious phraseology. Some Catholic priests who have veered off into modernism and Pentecostalism have also joined the chorus of loud and pagan-type mode of prayer.
These are known as 'spirit-filled' priests, even though the Magisterium does not officially recognize any set of priests as special. Rather, the Vatican and many Bishops are wary of modernist and Pentecostal priests who deviate from canonical and laid-down texts of the Sacred Liturgy and other disciplines. It is the lay faithful who have been mesmerized by such pastors that use fanciful terms such as 'spirit-filled' or 'powerful' priests.
One consequence of deviant new Christianity, apart from abuses of traditional Christian terms and words like Amen and Alleluia, is the abuse of the Second Commandment: You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God in vain. God and His Holy Name are integrated in the same way any man or woman's name is fused with that person. Being our Creator, Lord and King, God's Name deserves veneration, worship and adoration. Devout Catholics at any mention of the names referring to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit give a slight bow of the head and there are litanies honouring these Holy Names, including the Holy Name of Jesus and the Most Precious Blood.
It is a symptom of the Great Apostasy, which has enveloped Christendom, when you hear in the roadside churches and in commercial buses pastors hollering the Holy Names of God in vain and in utter disrespect. You hear God, Jesus, Blood of Jesus, Holy Ghost and so on shouted so repeatedly such as 'In Jesus' Name!' 'Blood of Jesus!' or 'Holy Ghost! Fire!' It is just as disrespectful as if you were to appear before President Jonathan and, instead of respectfully giving him a chance to hear your petition, you interject, after every one or two statements, 'Jonathan, Jonathan, Jonathan, Goodluck Jonathan…' Certainly, Mr. President will not have any of this and may motion the security guards to march you out of his office.
The prayers of the Holy Mass should be our model. They are precise and terse, beginning with a petition to the Eternal Father and invariably ending with 'through Christ our Lord' or 'through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen'. Priests that resort to 'In Jesus' Name' in the prayers of the Mass are being Pentecostal.
The Israelites of old were so much in awe of God that they very rarely mentioned His Holy Name. Rather, they circumvented it by saying the Holy One of Israel or El-Shaddai or Yahweh. Before God we are like so many little ants and in the life to come we shall behold His unspeakable glory, and only by the help of His Angels and His Mercy can we stand in His Holy Presence. When Isaiah was called as a prophet and beheld the glory of God, he uttered: 'There is no hope for me! I am doomed because every word that passes my lips is sinful, and I live among a people whose every word is sinful. And yet with my own eyes I have seen the King, the Lord Almighty'. (Is. 6:5).
A good Christian respects not only every Holy Name of the Blessed Trinity but also other names relating to all citizens of Heaven, the Church and the sacred objects (icons) concerning God's chosen people. It is the Holy Spirit who helps us to discern people, including pastors, and attitudes that incline to God. Piety is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. One Catholic document states: 'By gift of piety or godliness, the Holy Spirit infuses into us a reverence for God and divine things and gives joy in conversing with Him.
Piety inclines us to love God as the best Father, to love most tenderly His dearly beloved Son and the holy Mother of that Son. Piety moves us to love not only the Saints and Angels, but also our fellow men as the image and children, actual or potential, of God…' A situation where there are pastors who question the relevance of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Angels and Saints and the sacred objects that facilitate worship inclines such pastors and their followers not to God but toward blasphemy which is counter-opposed to the proper respect and reverence that should be given to God and all that surrounds Him.
But it is the lack of holy fear, another gift of the Holy Spirit, that induces blasphemers to invoke God's Holy Name in an irreverent manner. St. Paul encourages us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12-18). But today's Christians do not reflect this holy fear; many of them, in their audacity, treat Jesus and the Holy Spirit as beer-parlour mates. You observe that some people when they sneeze or yawn sometimes shout 'Jesus Christ!' or when angry they ask, 'For Christ's sake (God's sake), why did you do that?'
Then they proceed to curse or utter angry or vulgar words. Even though scripture asks us to love our enemies and to pray for them (Mt 5:43-47, Romans 12:7-21), modern Christians resort to the blasphemy of 'Holy Ghost! Fire!' They forget that the Holy Spirit is not a destroyer but manifests as a tender fire of love which consumes our sins and imperfections. God, in His omnipotence, can send different fires. The fires of Hell or the one that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah or that swallowed up Elijah's sacrifice are different from the burning bush, which Moses saw in Exodus, and the tender tongues of fire that descended on the Apostles at the Upper Room.
The Archbishop of Lagos, Antony Cardinal Okogie, has been warning Christians to desist from the blasphemy of invoking the Holy Ghost to destroy their enemies. Swearing is another way we violate God's Second Commandment. Ours is a society full of inveterate and habitual liars. Yet, you will hear many even those who should know better, swearing in order to vindicate themselves. Jesus said, '… But I say to you, do not swear at all.
Let what you say be simply 'Yes' or 'No'. Anything more than that comes from the evil one…' (Mt. 5:33-34). Daily in our courts, and at the swearing in of top government officials, many deliberately commit perjury, swearing by the Holy Bible or Koran to uphold the truth when, in fact, they have no intention of honouring such oaths.
Christians should be careful not to fall into the trap of pastors who claim to converse with God. Virtually all such claims of 'God told me' or 'God said to me' are false. There are many spirits in the world posing as light, but in reality, they are visiting from the pits of Hell. No doubt, they inspire false prophets and pastors who now proceed to deceive souls.