By Mal Vickers
I’m not necessarily anti-religious. However, when a religious issue crosses into something so thoroughly against reason and potentially dangerous to human life, I think it’s time to speak out.
Melbourne is scheduled to play host to a Nigerian pastor named Pastor Enoch A. Adeboye who will speak at two evangelical events on 12 & 13 November 2013. The visit to Melbourne is part of a tour of other Australian cities and the Pacific Islands.
A pastor visits Australia; no big deal, you might think. Pastor Adeboye has 98 thousand followers on Twitter, 1.2 million ‘likes’ on Facebook, is head of a church that claims to own 14 thousand branches in 160 countries and owns a private jet.
Now, add some interesting comments about homosexuality and the existence of witches and you have some understanding of why I’m concerned.
This is a skeptic blog; however, I’ll try to work through the evidence and apply some critical thinking.
Here’s a comment attributed to Pastor Adeboye:
“Same-sex marriage is an anathema to the will of God for human beings to be fruitful, replenish and multiply on earth. Anything contrary to that is evil….If this evil is allowed to stay, there will not be newborns again in the world. As the older generation dies, will there be a new generations to succeed it? Even plants and animals have new generations to succeed them.”
How does this claim stack up against the evidence?
One of the premises behind this statement is that if homosexuality is allowed and tolerated in society, the idea of homosexuality will spread to take hold of everyone, the result – “there will not be newborns again in the world”. Where is the evidence for this?
In contrast to this view of reality, the people in the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community in Nigeria, Adeboye’s home country, are persecuted and killed. Nigerian politicians have passed a law banning gay marriage.
Another premise in Adeboye’s statement is that homosexuality is unnatural. He mentions ‘plants and animals’.
Sexual orientation has been studied extensively in both humans and animals. The bad news for people who argue that homosexuality is unnatural is that homosexual behaviour has been observed throughout the animal kingdom.
Then there is the Appeal to Authority logical fallacy. It’s “…the will of God…” no less.
What evidence does Adeboy deliver to support this statement? Apart from a connection to a higher being, no additional evidence or reasoning that I can find. That’s a big problem when it comes to trying to understand what he’s saying and why.
Adeboye has a huge following in Nigeria. A number of sermons held in massive venues can be found on You-Tube. Adeboye isn’t the wealthiest of the Nigerian pastors; that reputation goes to David O. Oyedepo.
The news of Pastor Adeboy’s impending visit came to me from prominent Nigerian humanist and skeptic, Leo Igwe. Leo has had a long association with the Australian Skeptics. He’s given us valuable consumer warnings about the many scams, particularly financial scams, involving a ‘Nigerian prince who urgently wants to deposit some money into your account’. Leo is also very concerned about widespread homophobic hatred and the branding of people as witches in Nigeria and other nations.
To be fair, amongst the volume of material produced by Adeboye, it wasn’t easy to find anything about witches. This is from a summary of one of his sermons written by a Nigerian blogger.
“Every evil force that is trying to block your way shall be cleared out in Jesus name”.
“If God be for you, witches and wizards cannot stop you!”
To me, this appears to be a perpetuation of the myth that witches exist. The comment certainly doesn’t help in trying to stop the vilification, torture and death of women and children branded as witches in Nigeria and other countries. Readers might like to visit this webpage by Stepping Stones Nigeria, a volunteer organisation trying to address the entrenched belief in witches and also support the families and children affected.
It might be best if I give you a statement direct from Leo, who living in Nigeria, understands the issues well. You can make up your own mind about the worth of Adeboye’s impending visit to Australia. Quite clearly, Leo is deeply concerned and so am I.
“This is another reason why you should raise your voice in protest against Pastor Enoch Adeboye’s planned tour of the Pacific in November. We need to end witch hunting around the globe. Witch persecution ended in Europe and most parts of the western world centuries ago. But this violent campaign continues in many regions of the world mainly due to the activities of some Christian churches, pastors and other religious actors. To stop witch hunting, witch-hunters must be check mated and stopped. Witch finding initiatives must be nipped in the bud. Witch hunting movements must be exposed. Witchcraft claims must be challenged and critically examined. Any scheme to export witch hunting goods and services to other countries and regions must be opposed.
By protesting this evangelical tour, you will be drawing attention to a process that is likely to compound efforts to eradicate witch hunts in the Pacific region.
Witch hunting is a problem in Africa and among Africans. Witch hunting is also a cultural scourge that is ravaging many countries and communities in the Pacific region. Recently cases of witch hunting in Papua New Guinea-one of the countries Adeboye is visiting-attracted worldwide outrage and condemnation. The people of Papua New Guinea and other countries in the region would not want to have another spiritual movement that will add or compound this problem. They do not need an evangelical group that will revive or re-ignite these savage beliefs and practices. The people of the Pacific region would not want any pastor or church to export or extend a Christian-Pentecostal-coated African witch hunt to the region. The pacific brand of sorcery is bad enough.
Witchcraft beliefs pre-date Christianity in Africa, African people have been engaging in witchcraft accusations and witch findings before Christian missionaries arrived the shores of the region. Christian missionaries condemned witch beliefs and practices and coerced Africans to abandon the pagan beliefs and embraced the Christian faith. Witchcraft entrepreneurship has been the business of witch doctors, not Christian clerics and churches. But today things have changed. Witch finding is now the business of Christian clerics and churches, particularly Pentecostal charismatic churches. Evangelical pastors, like Enoch Adeboye, are the modern day African witch doctors. They bind, ‘cleanse’ and cast away the demonic spirit of witchcraft.
Many African priests and pastors have, in the quest for spiritual relevance, material wealth and prosperity, competition for members appropriated the roles of witch doctors and turned their churches into witch hunting spiritual movements. They have made witch finding and deliverance part of their spiritual business and industry. Pastor Enoch Adeboye is a stakeholder in this business. He is one of the clerical gladiators in the imaginary warfare of witchcraft and sorcery in Africa. Adeboye is a witch believing pastor, and his church- the Redeemed Christian Church of God- is a witch delivering spiritual movement.
Adeboye devotes his sermons to denouncing the witches and wizards in the families and communities. He organizes ministrations and gives prophecies against witchcraft and other imaginary diabolical agents threatening the lives and estate of the church members. Pastor Adeboye delivers sermons proclaiming God’s superiority over all witches, occultist and diabolical agents in the communities.
These sermons are literally misguided and inciteful. They are evangelical propaganda crafted to poison family and social relations. Adeboye’s sermons contain gospel narratives that reinforce witchcraft mentality and enchantment in the minds of the people. The activities of Pastor Adeboye and his Redeemed Christian Church of God instil witchcraft fears and anxieties. Their evangelism nourishes witchcraft suspicions and insinuations. Adeboye’s ministry recharges witchcraft images and imaginaries, and spreads witch frenzy, panic and hysteria. His sermons drive church members to attribute their problems to evil spirits or to evil magic and machinations of enemies within the families and communities.
Is this the brand of evangelism Pastor Adeboye wants to extend to the Pacific region? If Nigerians have allowed themselves to be manipulated and exploited by this virulent form of evangelism, does Adeboye and his church members think that other parts of the world will condone it?
The evangelical charade of the Redeemed Christian Church of God should not be taken to other countries. It has no place in an enlightened society. But those who decide- for some reasons- to take this virulent form of Pentecostal Christianity and spiritual abracadabra to more civilized countries should be ready to face ridicule, protests or prosecution.”
A number of people and community groups, similarly concerned about Adeboye’s views and his evangelical tour of Australia, have got together and set up an on-line petition to try and halt the tour.