Religion and Rule of Law: The Failure of Church and State
Did you know, Scandinavians are the happiest people in the world (with free health care, housing subsidies and 2 years maternity leave, I’d be pretty happy too, ha!)?
Did you know, Scandinavians are some of the most literate people in the world?
Did you know, Scandinavian societies are all among the ten most prosperous nations in the world? (a list that is absent of countries like the US and UK, and is also missing any African or Asian countries)
I am not going to pretend that the societies aren’t also ethnically homogeneous and very small compared to other places (everybody is white and speaks the same language— and if you don’t then you probably aren’t too happy out there— plus it’s cold out there. #dontNOBODYgottimeforthat), though. I know this is also an important consideration.
I am not going to ignore that their history of development is WAY different from the colonial past of most African countries (our ‘Vikings’ were conquered and then told they were worthless and then forced to adopt a system of governance that was neither organic nor authentic to their way of life).
But I am going to make some sweeping generalizations of how religion has helped them and is currently failing us.
I recall in one of the classes I took during my post graduate studies, we discussed the proliferation of women’s rights around the world. I came to realize that for a lot of the Nordic countries, there was very little separation of church and state. This meant that the morality of the church was embedded in the practices of the state which led to a far more socialist agenda than was seen in other countries. For example, when discussing maternity leave, the Church’s belief in the importance of child rearing and the role of the mother played a huge role in allowing for women to gain longer maternity leaves while still petitioning for equal pay for equal work. Furthermore, in some countries, women are encouraged to use maternity leave to bunch up on their skills before they enter into jobs that are sometimes held for them up to two years while they take time off for their children. That is unheard of in places like the UK and US where this would be seen as unprofitable and ‘unfair’ to hardworking, back breaking men who are slaving away at their desks while the women (their own wives, and often at their behest) gallivant to play dates with their toddlers (rolls eyes).
Why is this important to note?
Religion is a very important part of Ghanaian life. From movies to politics, we can see the ‘Hand of God’ in every arena of living in the nation. People file to church on Sundays, visit traditional priests on Wednesdays and greet their Muslim brothers at mosques on Fridays. Whether you hold steadfastly to one religion or you dabble in all three of the major ones, one this is certain: Ghanaians are zealots for religious practice. We love our God(s). Many a white man has traversed to this nation and written an eloquent thesis of the role of the Pentecostal church in Ghanaian livelihoods. So it is no secret.
The problem, however, is that this religious activity has yet to manifest itself into actual work for the nation. Much like the Israelites of the Old Testament, Ghanaians are one for offering sacrifices while foregoing obedience. Where the church of Scandinavia was largely the catalyst for literacy and overall education, in their push to get citizens to read the Bible, the church in Ghana is particularly dormant when it comes to the social welfare of the people. Many of the Methodist and Presby schools that exist are those established from colonial days, and they are often the least cared for, especially at the primary level. I have yet to hear of a clinic or medical center established by a church that is actually doing innovative, lifesaving medical work to help the poor and marginalized. I have yet to hear of the Christian Council of Ghana taking up one major social issue and putting money from THEIR OWN offerings from church towards alleviating the issue. I have seen beautiful church buildings though, especially during my time in Cape Coast. I have seen crusade posters and deliverance services for days. I have heard radio preachers put a price on prophesy and I have seen watch night services overflowing with people wanting to enter the New Year in good standing with the Lord. I, like MLK, have been to the mountain top (Aburi if you must know which one), and unfortunately I did not like the view.
Why is it that the church and government of Europe were able to form a better society than the church and government of Ghana? The easiest answers are the ones that look at colonialism, population size, ethnic homogeneity and other human factors. But the more difficult response, the response that I find more convicting as a person of the faith, is the one that explores our relationship with our God. Of those 71%, how many of them understand that it is their role and responsibility to take on social matters (Proverbs 31:8-9)?! And how could we understand this? How often do churches commit to preaching AND practicing these social responsibilities. I have seen and heard more about demons, witches, evil spirits, sickness and disease— then I have of our duty and responsibility to stand up boldly for what is just and right and fair. I don’t discount the spiritual nature of the Church and I am actually very grateful that there is an emphasis on that in this country. But the spirit is not absent from the body and we have to take into account the very real human needs of the people.
Here’s a difficult exercise. Take a moment to imagine Ghana if our leaders ( over 90% of whom profess to be Christian) , showcased the virtues mentioned in 2 Samuel 23:3:
The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.
I imagine that:
Ruling justly in the fear of God wouldn’t have given MP’s a 50% salary increase, increased prices for EVERYONE (with no commensurate increase in wages for commoners), and then gone for a measly 10% decrease in MP wages.
Ruling justly in the fear of God would have dealt harshly with parallel organizations like Better Ghana Agenda and GYEEDA a long time ago.
Ruling justly in the fear of God would have prompted the Christian Council of Ghana to be bold in speaking AND acting against the causes of economic troubles in the nation(see: Role of Church during Civil Rights Movement in America for a playbook).
According to the 2010 census, SEVENTY ONE percent of Ghanaians profess to be Christian and over NINETY PERCENT of the presidential cabinet is listed as Christian… that’s like, everyone.
Imagine if 71% of Ghanaians and 90% of the Cabinet, lived and governed as the early Christians in the early churches did as noted here in Acts 2: 42-47:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
There are essentially four things that we should see manifest in the church and conversely, the members of the church and, most importantly, the members of church who also happen to be leading the state:
- Commitment to Teachings
- Sincere Fellowship
- Signs and Wonders of God
- Sharing Everything
Look… I am not asking for us to be perfect. I am asking us to strive. If 71% of us and 90% of our cabinet members were daily striving for these four things… our political state of affairs would be radically shifted. It would make more sense for MP’s to NOT receive allowances at all (Why do you have a salary PLUS allowance?!). It would make more sense for our churches to forgo elaborate story buildings and focus on building actual community for fellowship (because the church isn’t a building). It would make more sense for us to be lenders and NOT borrowers, as the teachings say for us to do (how do we manage to not show up at all on a list of top 10 countries with gold reserves but we are one of the leading producers of gold in the world?!?!?!). Suddenly a lot of our indecencies would confound us and we would be forced to change our thinking.
If 90% of the presidential cabinet were visibly striving, we might still have 99 problems, but our social welfare would not be one of them.