Response to "Religion and Power in Liberia" by Abdoulaye Dukule

By Saa M. McCarthy

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
June 22, 2005


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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 faith.

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.