*Fr George ADIMIKE*
The Christian priesthood, which participates in the priesthood of Christ, demonstrates the mystery of divine presence. As one of the concrete expressions of this presence, the priesthood is a vocation to participate in the ministry of Jesus Christ. It is a mystery through which mortal men are chosen to be stewards of sacred treasures and saving mysteries. Thusly, it is the radicalization of God’s presence in a sacramental fashion. As such, it is a factor in the restoration of our squandered sonship and the reconstruction of the family of God. In other words, a priest embodies the presence of Christ amidst God’s people. Inasmuch as our baptism into Christ offers us direct access to the Father as brother-friends of Christ and residences of the Holy Spirit, the priest’s role is nonetheless necessary. Precisely, the priesthood helps us realise and actuate the divine communion.
However, some ministers’ portrayals of the priesthood tend to obstruct instead of facilitating this divine encounter. By forgetting that the ministry is not about them but God, some priests degenerate into ‘priest-craftism’ or ‘pastor-preneurship’, thereby misrepresenting Christianity. They take the place of God and emphasize what they do instead of the mystery of God’s revelation. To that extent, perhaps, inadvertently, they present their actions as more important than what God does. In so doing, they present themselves as the gods of men rather than men of God, considering themselves as members of God’s Advisory Council. Consequently, they try to use God instead of accepting their roles as unworthy instruments and pencils in the hands of God.
Undoubtedly, friendship with the Lord comes with many spiritual and worldly privileges. Like friendships in general, knowing someone intimately gives one a stake in the life and enterprise of the object of his/her friendship. Affinity comes with lots of benefits and burdens. As in the days of old, God allows humans the full spectrum of freedom to exercise and administer such privileges, but steadily humans justify their capacity to use and sometimes abuse privileges. Practically, some men who have the privilege to minister in the name of God, which utterly is a work of grace and never out of their merit, arrogate to themselves the honour due only to God. They parade themselves as if the word they proclaim is final. As such, they give impressions that they command God to follow and abide by their plans, forgetting that the oracle of God is not God. This arrogance has nothing to do with every child’s normal filial confidence in relation to his/her father or mother, but sheer arrogance, which is part of the machinations of the evil one to water down the impact of the Gospel. The evil one turns some priests into priestcrafts, prophets into fake prophets and pastors into pastorpreneurs. They turn the whole of God’s project, establishing the kingdom of God, into a deceptive mercantile project where the essential commodities are fame, finance and fun. They turn their ministries into the worship of the new golden calf of money, power and pleasure.
Such avaricious ministers negatively impact the faith by marketing their prayer and holy objects as more efficacious than the others, requiring people to pay consultancy fees or buy theirs to get their prayers answered. They run down others and advertise their ministries and sects as the best. Then again, in their self-deception, they equate their ability to preach better as proof of their enviable positions in God’s Advisory Council. Ministry for those ministers is not about God but the over-bloated ego, insatiable appetite, ignorance and arrogance of the minister in question. Such disposition turns those priestcrafts to damaging directors and pastorpreneurs to thief executives.
Priestcraftism, to give a little insight into the concept, is about the machinations and scheming of priests who self-focus on their ministries for self-aggrandisement, praise and gain in self-promotion that often constitutes a detriment to the Gospel and true discipleship. They work like mercenaries and careerists, craving for praise in their mundane mentality and outlook. Similarly, a pastorpreneur turns Christian ministry into a business venture and profits from the Gospel through exploitation, manipulation and commercialisation of the Gospel. He manipulates the Gospel for profits and abuses the ministry for mundane material gain. Pastorpreneurs, soaked in worldliness, often boast with worldly exploits; they boast with their possessions and public displace of affluence and influence. They turn tithing into a money-spinning enterprise and blackmail those who do not pay as robbing God, trumping Mal 3:10. For these pastorpreneurs, those who fail to satisfy their unquenchable thirst for money are labelled cursed fellows and criminals. In contrast, the actual criminals are welcome to pay tithe and receive blessings. Ecco!
With their syncretic practices (‘isa uchu’ and so many others), sacrilegious men and women in religious garbs or suits deceptively perpetuate evil and anti-Christian acts, appearing like angels of light in order to sell their wares. They spring up in cities and small towns with their anti-Gospel syncretism, pure devilish acts and misleading traditions. They misrepresent Christianity and misinterpret the bible with their motivational talks. Some of them sell all manner of items for money. And others sell fears in their preachings, oblivious that they are moved by the animus motivating them to behave like the ‘elder brother’ (cf. Luke 15), who frowned at the generous mercy shown to his ‘younger brother’. They couched the animus with biblical passages in their fear-mongering messages in place of the Gospel.
The activities of some of these charlatans, who exploit religion as a vehicle to affluence, influence and reckoning, deface the priesthood, distort Christianity and confuse the people. In reaction to the anomalies, some wrongly abandon the faith. By so doing, they display the superficiality or shallowness of their faith because a person who has encountered Christ will not abandon him because of the failures of his agents. No one abandons his father’s estate because of the misdeeds of his brothers – fellow-shareholders. The Church as our Father’s estate imposes a co-responsibility on all Christians without exception, and no one should abandon his faith on account of the misdeed of an official in this God’s enterprise. No one in his right senses quit and still expects to win. While these so-called men of God, whose stock in trade is deals, do great harm, let’s realize that theirs is a corrupted version of the faith because our faith is not in men but Christ the eternal rock of ages.
Fr George ADIMIKE