Using Religion As A Veritable Tool for National Security and Peaceful Co-Existence in Nigeria
If there is any concept that can be considered to be a great force that can be used for human development for the benefit of the entire society, if properly channeled, it is unarguably Religion. The reason for seeing it in this light cannot be farfetched as religion plays the role of fostering unity in any nation because it links all to a common origin and ancestry, since it deals with the relationship between the human person and God. If religion preaches that God is the father of all, the implication is that all are brothers and sisters. Argued from the foregoing perspective, it is a veritable tool that could be used to foster national security and peaceful co-existence in the Nigerian nation.
However, it is expedient to say in this context that religion on its own cannot engender security and peaceful co-existence among the people without the pastor or imam preaching message of peace from the pulpits. In this context, it cannot be out of place to recall that Ernest Hemingway once commented about his craft. According to him, “A writer's problem does not change. ... It is always how to write truly and, having found out what is true, to project it in such a way that it becomes a part of the experience of the person who reads it." Analyzed from the foregoing view, it is expected that in the same way that pastors, whose call is to discover God's truth and the realities of the gospel and God’s kingdom, should as much as possible endeavor to always present their sermons in ways that allow listeners and observers to experience that truth, even as it pertains to something as divisive as politics so that everyone would imbibe the virtue living peacefully with others.
It is unfortunate that rather than preaching peace to the people that some pastors in the Christendom have biasedly and suddenly become critics of government policies to the detriment of the oneness and unity of the country. For the sake of clarity, it is expedient to say in this context that peace prevails where everyone has fair and equal access to justice and an atmosphere to live in security. Peace sustains only in a situation where everyone is able to participate in shaping their destiny and decision makers are accountable to the people. Peace is, therefore, a state of order, of freedom from fear and want, of being secure. In such a society as Prophet Micah says, “Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid” (Micah 4:4). To my view, pastors should be in the position of preaching sermons that would engender peace within the immediate community they operate in, and not to biasedly resort to criticizing the government’s policies.
On the contrary, it is a matter of serious concern today that we are forced to live in situations where peace is threatened and justice is denied. The greed of powerful nations and individuals exclude others, concentrate only in accumulation of wealth and exploitation of resources, leaving others dispossessed and impoverished. The domination of the rich and the powerful causes discord and adds deprivation. All these factors increase domination, marginalization, violence, conflicts, wars, poverty and sufferings in human life. It is not God’s will that is fulfilled in such a situation, but it contradicts the purposes of God’s ways of living together in the household of God. The living together in the household of God with a collaborative, mutually recognized and respected atmosphere will make the household a place where peace with justice and security prevail. Such a situation requires a radical reversal of the existing systems and conditions, to a context in which “justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). Peace is basically a gift of God, and is related to God’s blessing and God’s graciousness.
To my view, it is expedient Pastors and men of God generally eschew the exhibition of interest in politics; both domestic and global through their sermons. They are not in this context urged to stay away from politics completely as man is by nature a political animal, according to Aristotle. However, it is noteworthy to say that as clergymen that they should show interest in political issues, and should not allow that to overshadow their interest in the gospel. I believe that many pastors and Christian leaders have allowed their interest in politics to subvert them from preaching the glory of God and the grace that flows from the cross of our Savior.
It may not be wrong to say that political and cultural issues do affect the proclamation of the gospel. I am also aware that political decisions do give direction to cultural trends. Furthermore, the Biblical doctrine of common grace means that Christians should actively work to bring betterment to human society. We do know that issues, like abortion, reflect upon the value that is placed on human life. Issues surrounding sexuality and sexual identity do have implications on everything from marriage to the structure of a better society. But, my point is that if we achieve a better society but lose gospel influence, we have lost the greatest part.
In this context, it is expedient to say that followers of Christ, including pastors, are not to let anger ferment in their hearts so that they become wrathful and seek vengeance on others. According to the Scripture, a man who is an elder or leader in the Church must not be an angry man. The reason for the foregoing cannot be farfetched as a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers (Titus 1:7–9).
Without any iota of exaggeration, pastors need to speak the truth, expose evil, and warn their congregations about false teaching and deception. Just as a shepherd is vigilant and will defend his flock from dangerous predators, so a pastor should address difficult issues with courage and determination. However, in doing that he should not get enmeshed in the quagmire of politics. The reason for the foregoing cannot be farfetched as the cost of ignoring evil is destruction for a congregation, as well as for a flock. In his approach to the sheep, a good shepherd should not be violent, but patient. Likewise, a pastor should approach his congregation, and even pass messages to the government with care and wisdom. It should not be done in such a way that would erroneously suggest that the Pastor is a card-carrying member of the opposition party.