In the middle of Lagos- Benin expressway, before the Ore junction, sits a rusty disabled car with a partially burnt-out engine. It has been there for weeks, abandoned by the owner and by the state. There is no light where the car rests, yet thieves have managed to visit at night and extract anything of value in the car. Meanwhile, at their home in FESTAC, a patriarch and his family are preparing to travel to Onitsha. They have packed their luggage and taken them into their Honda Pilot jeep. They pray for God to grant them safe trip. The parents speak in tongues and the children sing choruses. Their neighbors and friends come out and wish them journey mercies. As they drive, they play gospel music and sing more songs and praises. Near the site where the rusty car rests, the patriarch of the family swings the car to avoid a pothole. By the time he regains control of the car, he is face to face with the disabled car. The last thing that comes out of his mouth before the car slams into the abandoned car is, God.
Over two hundred years ago, the French used to attribute everything to God. They revered their leaders as people chosen by God. They worshiped their clergies as men anointed by the Almighty, even as evidence mounted that these men and women of privilege were ruining the lives of the poor French citizens. In a sporadic uprising, the French society yanked off the yoke of ignorance and subservience and kicked out the so-called men and women handpicked by God. They declared Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, French for "Freedom, equality, brotherhood". They demanded empirical proof for assumptions and superstitions that dominated French life and society of those days. The events of those days are today known as the French Revolution. Now the French people have no problem arresting their leaders and trying them for wrong doings. They have no problem questioning the proclamations and actions of religious leaders amongst them.
When the Americans in the British colony revolted against the King of England they insisted that the role of God be separated from the affairs of the state. By doing so, they created a space for Americans to be able to determine their own destiny. It ended reliance on God as the source of societal transformation. The power to bring about change reverted to the people. This paradigm shift was embedded in the most important line of the US declaration of independence. It says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
We are endowed by our creator with rights. We are given the tools to pursue these rights. The greatest scandal in Third World countries is not the sheer depth of corruption and incompetency swallowing the people of these nations. Instead, it is the gross abdication of responsibilities by citizens of Third World countries to God. It is probably the only difference between the First Worlds and the Third Worlds. The countries that have crawled out of the underdeveloped world into the developing world are those who have assumed the responsibility of making for themselves the kind of country they want.
It starts with the separation of religion and state. Whatever God you believe in, the core belief of every religion is that God gave man all the tools he needs to transform his environment. The unfortunate thing is that man has failed to apply himself but, instead, put himself in a subservient position and waiting for God to come down to save him.
Even when God performs miracle, he does so using people. In the Bible story, God did not wave a wand to save the world. He sent down his son to do the job. Those who believe the Bible ignore the fact that stares them in the face. The son of God assumed human form to come and save humanity. He underwent the same challenges that humans encounter. He did not call on his father to use supernatural powers to save him and transform the world. He worked on it, hitting the streets with his message, fighting the Pharisees and paying the supreme price.
There is nothing in the holy books so far written that doesn’t show that the books were conceived with the limited knowledge that man had of his environment as at the time of their composition. The societies that have advanced are those that have moved away from the literal interpretation of these books and have embraced the core values and ethics behind the stories.
It is important to remember that God is only understood in relation to creation. If there was no creation, there would have been on need for God. God is therefore a word we use to fill a void. If there had been no void to be filled, there wouldn’t have been a need for a God. So, on so many levels, God is like a drug. He is there to cure what we do not know or understand. Sometimes the cure comes by distraction. At other times it comes by illusion. But most often, he is a smokescreen. Removing God will leave a void. And nobody wants to behold a void. It is scary.
Different explanations have been advanced as to how we got here. The only thing that is certain is that today’s answer is not the final answer. It wasn’t the answer some 3000 years ago. And going by the pace of discoveries and scientific advancement, it won’t be the answer some 300 years from now. The idea that God created us is not foolproof. It may well be the most foolish of all the ideas out there, except that the alternatives have not fared any better. We cannot free people from their belief system without first providing them with an alternative. There are superior alternatives out there but they are yet to manifest themselves in their glory.
The advantage of being God is that your worshipers are so enthralled by you that they give you credit for all the good things that happen and have others take the blame for all the bad things that happen. It’s a win-win situation for God. But as a people we owe it to God and our supposed reverence for him to live up to his billing for us.
In the Bible God asked, “Who shall I send? Who shall go for us?” It is the same question that every other religion asks of its adherents.
In matters big and small, those pleas are still on the table. Who shall go and stop corruption for us? Who shall I send to restore ethics in our public service? Who shall go and kick out the false prophets in our midst polluting our temples and turning them into centers of iniquities and shame? Who shall I send to confront the brutes amongst us who wish to impose their archaic understanding of life on the rest of us? Who? Who? Who?
They are the real pleas of God. It is not a call to kneel down and pray until God comes down from heaven and remove the broken car in the middle of an unlit Lagos-Benin road. Removing the car is the only way to avoid an accident that will happen despite the fact that the occupants of an approaching jeep prayed for hours before they left their home in FESTAC. It is an accident waiting to happen despite dozens of friends and families who wished them journey mercies. If someone had answered the call and moved the disabled car, the accident would have been avoided. At the same time the prayers of the car occupants would have been answered. But nobody did. They only prayed to God. And the family perished.
There are times when God is not enough.