There were some good points made here [Religion and
Power in Liberia, The Perspective, Atlanta, Georgia,
June 17, 2005], as they relate to Christianity being
used as a tool of coercion, political power, and manipulation.
Clearly, the evidences to support such misuse of the
Bible abound in Liberia both in the past and present.
The perpetrators clearly, whether deliberately or
inadvertently, are not acting in the name of Jesus,
but in the name of self.
The victims themselves (listed in the examples of
the article) are willing to compromise their own beliefs
for power. So it really is a two way street - the
perpetrators who want to use the Bible to coerce,
manipulate and obtain power; and the victims who want
to be coerce, manipulated and give up power if it
means getting more money or some kind economic benefit.
Whether Muslim, Christian, or Buddhist, it is the
individual’s responsibility to stand firm in
his or her belief (if you in fact belief what is being
taught), and don’t be threatened or intimidated
by another religion out of fear of loss (whatever
that loss might be -power, money, life, etc.). But
in a country where 80% of the people are illiterate,
I am afraid what we mostly believe is what we were
told to believe, rather than a reasoning of the mind,
soul and spirit.
The writer, who is clearly passionate about the subject,
feels sidestepped because of unresolved suspicion
lingering from past abuses of religion. In other words,
because of the past abuse of religion (by the “Christians”
in Liberia), anyone is now attempting to pray to Jesus
is not honest or is attempting to prove superiority
over a non-Christian. This argument is not sufficient
(in my opinion) to avoid prayers at public places
or as the writer puts it, “secular organizations”.
I would say though, that it is irresponsible for people
calling themselves Christians to publicly pray in
the name of Jesus; but in private, behave completely
opposite to what Jesus’ teaches. These are the
people Jesus refers to as Hypocrites! A Hypocrite
is someone who projects an image that is completely
different from who or what they really are. Jesus
said on several occasions, if “you love me,
keep my commandments (or do what I teach). John 14:15
Jesus addresses the issue of hypocrisy when he taught
about prayer in public places in the gospel of Matthew
chapter 6, verses 5-6: “And when you pray, do
not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray
standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the
streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say
unto you, they have their reward. But you, when you
pray, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut
thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and
thy Father which sees in secret shall reward thee
openly.” The motive of people is what Jesus
addressed in this passage.
People often use religion to make themselves feel
important and create a sense of spiritual superiority.
This is nothing new. But it is clearly not the teaching
of Jesus. So, let me reiterate that those who practice
this are not doing so in the name of Jesus. And those
who slam Christianity because of the false standards
set by some “Christians” do not know the
Jesus of the Bible that is the God of the Christian
How does one know a true Christian when he sees one?
By their fruit! (Mathew 7:16) This does not imply
that Christians are perfect; but it does mean that
a true Christian acknowledges his weakness and relies
on Jesus Christ for strength to overcome life’s
challenges. As the famous song by Donnie McClurkin
goes, “We fall down, but we get back up, for
a Saint is just a sinner who falls down and get up.”
Christianity is about continuous improvement - learning
from our mistakes and getting better by changing our
minds about our flawed behavior (i.e. repenting).
Jesus final instruction to his disciples was this:
Love one another as I have loved you, that
you also love one another. By this will all men know
that you are my disciples, if you have love one to
another.” John 13:34-35 This is the simple litmus
test (if you will) for identifying a Christian. So
when Charles Ghankay Taylor calls for prayers in the
national football stadium, but is beating up Taiwon
Gongloe to death in the torture room; those who know
and understand the values of Christianity know that
he’s not being a Christian. When Charles Gyude
Bryant is praying in the church and is hailed as a
leader in a Christian denomination, yet he’s
spearheading the banditry that’s ongoing in
the Liberian economy today, one has to decide whether
to believe the “Christian, neutral business
man” image that has been projected. When Charles
Brumskine states publicly he believes “God has
sent him on a mission to rescue Liberia,” and
that “he is a born again Christian”, yet
he throws out indigent families (including infants)
from his “dream home” for his wife’s
return, one has to wonder as to the image he’s
projecting. The bottom line is Christianity is not
about talking; quite the contrary, it is about doing.
A person’s action more than their statement,
in my opinion, is usually a good rule of thumb.
Finally, I disagree with the writer that Liberia ought
to be a nation of many religions and many principles
upon which we set the standards of living for our
society. This in my view will create more confusion
for future generations. This does not imply that freedom
of religion must be barred - people (individuals)
must be free to worship as they please. However, when
it comes to the national direction of any nation,
there has to be a set of religious principles upon
which basis moral and ethical values are established.
In the case of Liberia, I’d say Christianity,
since it has proven to be the only religion that freely
tolerates all other religious practices without prejudice.
On this, I believe the basis for our Constitution
must be the Holy Bible and it’s teachings. The
standards set forth in this book of books is, so far,
the best model there is.
Clearly, this issue is extremely sensitive; hence,
we ought to come together as a people and collectively
decide on the best way forward. Liberia, whether we
like it or not, was indeed founded on Christian values
imported from America. Sadly, those who continually
harp on this known fact do so without understanding
that substance is what really matters - it’s
not sufficient to boast of “Christian principles”
on paper when it is not being practiced in one’s
daily life. Those “politicians” who continue
to receive revelations from God must begin to lead
an exemplary life.