Fr George Adimike
The worship of human well-being, rational efficiency and self-sufficiency parse the culture of diminishing gratitude, which is stressful instead of grateful. Due to the dire socio-economic challenges seconding the COVID-19 pandemic and its ramifications, material progress measures success for families and families of nations in an absolute manner. Irrespective of the fact that economic, technological and scientific progress alone is inadequate since it has to be integral for development to be properly human, there are growing pro-material salvation and anti-Christian religion narratives. However, humanity forgets that any development anchored on insufficient knowledge of man exacerbates his inclination to false emancipation, leading him to absolutise his efficiency, which keeps failing him. Naturally, humans are dependent on God and interdependent on others; they lie when they pretend to be self-sufficient.
The temptation to false emancipation that spilt over from the Garden of Eden to the garden and desert of the quotidian human existence continues to catch humanity off-guard. This false emancipation, which entails a refusal to be in a filial relationship, exaggerates human capacity and strength. In this clear manifestation of diminishing gratitude, humans succumb to radical autonomy and self-sufficiency that excludes God and misunderstands the mystery of the human project. As one of its significant ramifications, a section of humanity disregards its relationship with God in their self-delusion. In the stead of God, it enthrones the human person, leading to anthropolatry (worship of man). In effect, it expresses itself in attenuation of the supernatural dimension to life and demarketing of religion. Consequently, man turns dominion over creation into domination of the created order as a tin god, prioritising material progress attained through human efficiency. Yet, since man cannot do away with relationship and wardship, he surrenders to efficiency and worships it, giving rise to the worship of technology – technolatry.
The prodigal humanity typified in the story of the prodigal son, in refusing the fatherhood of God, glories in her overconfidence in radical autonomy. She thinks herself capable of anything unaided, falling into the same sin of Adam. The latter in manipulating to be like God made a god of himself. The enthronement and worship of the self and its capacity that disregards God and path to Him (religion) parses the bane of the modern world and modern man. The prodigal humanity struggles to liberate herself from all theological and supernatural sovereignty of God. Such a misdemeanour was the original sin; it was the biblical sin and it spells sin of the modern society. It is both a refusal to worship God and adoption of the self as a god, which also expresses itself in the adoption of other gods. Man switches allegiance to self and the ramifications of placing self above everything, namely deification of money, pleasure, power, and the general tendency to turn icons into idols.
The incontrovertible truth is that switching between masters does not guarantee human freedom. Instead, it can turn human interdependency into dependency, depending on the identities of the new overlords. The effort to free himself from the lordship of God leaves him imprisoned in the imperialism of the self and sovereignty of the efficiency. It leads to a radical departure from man’s destiny to a distorted pursuit of a temporal kingdom with its full option of glory. As a result, worldly progress replaces eternal salvation and material well-being trumps friendship with God. Such a scenario produces a warrant for a choice between Jesus Christ (son of the living God) and Jesus Barabbas (son of the Father), between supernatural messiah and worldly messiah. In any case, operating from an anthropological vision that reduces life to matter and material well-being funds a this-worldly outlook to success and salvation.
Consequently, the world’s expectation reduces the Church to an agent of material salvation, asking her to turn stones into bread and solve the socio-economic and science-tech problems; otherwise, she loses credibility. Since humans superintend the system of religion, religious institutions are not immune from mistakes. Sometimes elements in the Church succumb to that pressure to become earthly messiahs, forgetting that the Groom and head of the Church, Jesus the Christ, did not fall for such a temptation. As a matter of course and meaning, the material intervention of the Church is neither impressionistic nor interventionist. Instead, the Christian illuminating, salting, seasoning engagement with the world is part of the integrated mission that honours God by subjecting the human race and system to His divine government. This material intervention of the Church ministers to the hearts, heads and hands of the human family. For instance, the Church feeds the poor as the sacrament of the Father who cares for His family. In reality, as a mother, she cares for the children of God without the pretence that she has come to bring about a revolution of political order inspired by the mundane hunger for power.
The many questions and expectations of the people on the value of religion in the scheme of things are no longer occult. In trying to praise the nations where the political economy works, they denounce the Church as part of the cause of backwardness in society. They idolise the efficiency of the systems that run those nations and criticise the countries that give attention to religion. In their dissatisfaction, they tend to deny the indispensable role of God in the existence and sustenance of creation. Or still, in deist mentality, they excise God from the construction of a free and just society and exaggerate the role of man. Religion as a force for good, which can be used or abused by its adherents, contributes fundamentally to building the earthly city and the kingdom of God. The praise that exaggerates the value of human efficiency ignores something fundamental. It ignores the essential truth that man lives on earth for life to come. Any success relative to man measured only by technological or material progress is a recipe for destroying human dignity and freedom.
Foundational to any development is the appreciation of the truth about man, namely that what water is to fish and soil to plants is what God is to him. God is the ground on which man dwells, thrives and flourishes, without which human life comes to nought. Hardly can one live meaningful human existence without being rooted in God through religion and its spiritualities. While religion leashes humanity to divinity, we all need to rescue Christianity from the pathologies to which religious adherents subject it. Human beings often exaggerate either the spiritual aspect or material dimension because of their Adamic nature.
The balance in constructing the earthly kingdom has to avoid the negligence of either man or God. The neglect of human cooperation is not only irresponsibility but an invitation to poverty since they fail to develop their God-given potentials. Similarly, the failure to develop spiritual potentials in the neglect of God factor spells injustice and ingratitude of the highest order. So, either way, man lives aright by correcting the negligence of the human element and not by disregarding the God factor. A headache is not cured by cutting off the head, so we cannot solve the problem of spiritualism with another problem, materialism. The glory of God is in what it was to be man, and every form of worshiptainment of self is an aberration.
Fr George Adimike