11th April, 2012
Bamidele Johnson writes on some worrying aspects of Christendom in Nigeria today
As a child, I went to church regularly. From those days, I do not remember any member of the churches I attended fawning over their pastors. They respected them as they did any other member of the church. Nobody, to the best of my knowledge, treated a pastor like he was God’s running-mate. Nobody felt the pastor was entitled to Biblical immunity. Nobody, at the sight of a pastor, giggled like a pubescent girl backstage at a Justin Bieber concert. Pastors were simply pastors. One, an Anglican priest, regularly visited my father. I do not remember any member of the family quaking with undue excitement whenever he came. That is no longer the case. The emergence of diva pastors, with a vast array of grand titles, has since bred a culture that promotes near-deification of preachers.
Preachers are now “spiritual fathers” ,“daddies” or “mummies”. This is not exactly strange, given that ours is a society that demands deference to age and authority. What has had me in a funk is the promotion of the belief that those occupying positions of spiritual authority, especially pastors, are above scrutiny. While I concede to anyone that wishes to be blindly loyal to preachers or be reduced to putty at the sight of them the right to do so, I do not believe that religious leaders are granted immunity from scrutiny or even rebuke. This is a straightfoward matter, according to the Bible–the framework for the Christian faith.
Curiously, it is those who attend the alleged Bible-believing churches that promote–very vigorously–the belief that the Bible disapproves of scrutiny or interrogation of the words and deeds of preachers. What is frequently trotted out, whenever an attempt is made at scrutinising pastors, is: “Touch not my anointed; do my prophets no harm” (1 Chronicles 16:22). This verse is feverishly seized upon by those opposed to the examination of pastors’ ways or as a defence against anything convicting. In short, it is construed as an immunity clause in the Bible. Loyalty to your spiritual father, daddy or mummy is good–if it is for the truth.
In Proverbs 17:150, the Bible says: “He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.” And to find out what is true or otherwise, there is a need to look at all the sides before arriving at a verdict. “Anointed,” in the context in which it was used, (the Lord’s anointed), is an allusion to the kings of Israel (1Sam. 12:3,5; 24:6,10; 26:9,11, 16,23; 2 Sam. 1:14,16; 19:21; Psalm 20:6; Lam. 4:20). The mention of prophets, is a reference to the patriarchs (Psalm 105:8-15; 1Chron. 16:15-22). And this use is exclusive to the Old Testament.
Psalm 105:11-15 says: “Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance. When they were but a few men in number; yea, very few, and strangers in it. When they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people; He suffered no man to do them wrong: yea, He reproved kings for their sakes; saying, touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” In this scripture, God protected His anointed (Israel) and His prophets from the enemies of Israel against physical harm.
“Touch,” in this context, means physical harm, not saying something true about another person publicly. The evidence of this can be found in David’s relationship with Saul. David refrained from harming God’s anointed, who was King Saul at the time, but spoke out publicly against him. Samuel also did same when speaking out against Saul’s disobedience. God told Saul to “Smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not…” (1 Sam. 15:3). But Saul “spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord…” (v.15). Samuel described his action as idolatry (v.24). Saul was God’s anointed, remember? He later lost his throne.
In 1 Sam.16:13-16, David, a shepherd boy, was anointed before God took away Saul’s position. Physically, David refused to touch Saul, but it didn’t stop him from speaking the truth about him– publicly. In 1 Sam.26:11, we are told that David spurned the chance to put Saul to death or at least, harm him. Rather, he stole upon Saul, took his spear and water jug. And in verse 15, David rebuked Abner for not guarding Saul and saying he deserved to die. Saul overheard him and came out of his cave. And right before his troops, David rebuked Saul and asked him why he wanted to kill him. This forced Saul into contrition, which he expressed by calling himself a fool. David would return his belongings, saying: “For the Lord delivered you into my hand, but I would not stretch out my hand against the Lord’s anointed.” Does this suggest that he did not speak against Saul? No. It only suggests that David did not take up the option of physically harming Saul.
An important element of the Saul/David story is that it was Saul who was hunting David because his (Saul’s) position as king had become threatened. Does this bear any resemblance to what we now see in the church? I do not think so. What we see is that those in positions of spiritual authority, allegedly anointed, are using their positions to discourage scrutiny by encouraging the mangling of the scriptures.
They have conditioned followers to believe that it is “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” to speak against a “man of God”. Those who warn us not to touch God’s anointed have been clearly conned into thinking they that are fighting God’s corner because they rarely ever look at the facts presented. This encourages a one-eyed view of events, breeding disinterest in the other side of the story. The default setting is Pavlovian. Even when shown evidence of false teachings and prophecies, they respond the same way: blunt refusal to accept invitation to scour the Bible and find out if certain concerns are genuine or otherwise.
From my interactions with modern church goers, very few of them have the balls to crosscheck what their pastors teach or do from the Bible. My observation is that preachers conscientiously discourage followers from reading portions of the Bible that could lessen their hold on them.
Apostle Paul, regularly quoted by the modern preacher, is recorded in the Bible as having faced scrutiny in Berea. Today’s diva pastor would never have endured that. He would have invoked the immunity clause presumably offered by “touch not my anointed”. Paul did not. According to the Bible, Paul, who had preached in Thessalonica, had his teachings scrutinised in Berea. He did not go into defensive mode. Instead, he praised the Bereans for their willingness to check if his teachings were in tandem with the scriptures. Acts 17: 11-12 says: “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore, many of them believed and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.” We also see the example of David, even after he became king, accepting rebuke and correction from Prophet Nathan. There is no debate about David being anointed, but he did not scream “touch not my anointed” in self-defence.
Another verse frequently used by blind defenders of preachers is Matthew 7: 1-5, which says: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull the mote out of thine eye; and behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
Except this verse is being read backwards, there is no way it could be taken as a warning that we should not judge others. What it warns us against is hypocritical judgment–the type that makes you accuse another man of something you are guilty of. Luke 17:3 punctures assumptions that we should not judge: “Take heed… If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” And in 1 John 4:1, the Bible says: “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.” Ephesians 5:11 also tells us to “take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.”
Frankly, I do not see how these verses grant exemptions to pastors the way an examination body does to a certain category of candidates presumed to possess qualifications entitling them to such. I cannot recall any of the apostles claiming that being anointed precludes them from scrutiny.
If someone is truly anointed, he or she would want to encourage others to discern what is true and what is not. He or she would encourage people to seek the truth no matter where it would lead, so they could be shielded from falsehood. Is it so in the current dispensation of superstar preachers? Nope.
Still, we need to ask if pastors are the only anointed class of people. Are they, really? Certainly not. And the evidence for this is there in 2 Corithians 1:20-22, which says: “Now, He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”
The New Testament teaches, in very unambiguous terms, that all Christians have the same anointing, the same Holy Spirit. “But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him,” says 1 John 2:27. A preacher was caught on video slapping a young girl, presumably possessed, for saying she was a witch for Jesus.
The video, which went viral , shows his congregation howling with delirium. And when criticisms of the act erupted, there was an army of conned followers yapping that he was above criticism. Unsuprisingly, what they relied on was that weapon of mass deception: “touch not my anointed.” They ignored the fact that exorcism, at least in the Bible, did not employ vicious slaps. Some said the preacher slapped a demon, not the girl! Did Jesus or any of the apostles slap any demoniac? The Bible has no evidence of such. That can only be found in pastortainity, the worship of pastors, not Christianity.
—Bamidele Johnson. E-mail:[email protected]