Bishop Dr. James Grand Okocha, President of Christian Ministers Universal Forum (CMUF); a political activism organization within the body of Christ, has traced Christians political apathy to enslaving beliefs entrenched in their psyches by colonialism. Okocha commends the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) on its recent move at awakening the Nigerian Pentecostal Christians from political abstinence with its establishment of the Directorate of Politics & Governance (DPG), but notes some fault lines in that move and offers an alternative to how Christians can be re-oriented to dismiss the belief system that politics is dirty and become active in politics, in the below interview with Christian Benefits on Christians and Politics of the 2023 elections. Excerpts below.
Please, can we meet you sir?
I am Apostle James Okocha; ordained a bishop by Church of God in Christ (COGIC), U.S. I am the Pastor of Life Giver Assembly, Lagos. I am into coal and mining business. I’m also the founder/president of Christian Ministers Universal Forum; a faith-based non-governmental organization engendering political activism in the Church.
What informed the organization’s interest in political activism in the Church?
The organization acknowledges the supremacy of God over the affairs of man but believes that God does not rule over the affairs of man without man. It is erroneous to say God can execute whatever he desires without involving man because he is sovereign. God does not function that way. He expresses himself through man. So, the organization makes people understand that after God is man. When God wants to take over the leadership of any nation he uses man and not himself. The words nation and congregation are interchangeably used in the scriptures; you read in the scriptures the nation of Israel or the congregation of Israel. When God raises a man to head a congregation, he has endowed him with the capacity to lead a nation. So, the organization makes people know that congregation does not end within the four corners of the Church. Congregational leadership extends to national leadership. CMUF is spread in all the states in Nigeria, and also in about 26 other countries. It promotes Christians active involvement in the political activities in their respective domains because their future is determined by political policies and decisions. No man’s destiny is in the hands of the Lord. Men destinies are in their hands.
Tell us what informed the perception of some Christians that politics is dirty
I have a lot of respect for the white because they weigh people before dealing with them. When the white people came on colonization of Africa, they weighed the African black people and discovered that black people are shallow thinkers. When the Roman Empire disintegrated into about 24 nations, each of these nations went on expansion of their territories to become super powers. The British, the French and the Portuguese came to Africa, occupied and shared African nations as their colonies. These European expansionists read a particular book written by a certain Greek philosopher that people of pointed nose are better leaders than people of flat nose; that people of hairy skin are better leaders than people of smooth skin, that people of dark skin are to serve people of fair skin, and also that extroverts are better leaders than introverts. These European expansionists weighed the African black people on the content of this book and see black people as slaves. And in order to keep them loyal as their slaves, they introduced religion, including Christianity to the black people, but the kind of Christianity they introduced to them took their minds off politics. They knew the black could challenge their supposed superiority and leadership if they allow them participate in politics. They gave the black the impression that as Christians involving in politics or political leadership is dirty. They made us believe that God will do all things for us without our own input. It was an articulated and calculated enslaving belief system that the white man introduced to the black man through the instrumentality of religion to keep them off politics. The black accepted this false belief system, hooks, lines and sinkers because they saw the white man as God.
How can Christians be liberated from this belief system that politics is dirty?
Apart from God all things in life are subject to change. And nothing in life changes without knowledge. You can only acquire knowledge for change when you are interested in change. Therefore, to become liberated from the wrong belief system about politics, Christians must first liberate themselves from their ignorance about politics by acquiring the knowledge to change their perception of politics as dirty. The Church as assemblies of Christians must sit down, learn, relearn and unlearn about politics to know the importance of the Church involvement in politics. The Church is so stereotyped that it doesn’t think outside the box. So, the Church must learn, relearn and unlearn about politics because new and fresh revelations are unfolding. The Church must free itself from its rigidity and be flexible. Church leaders should stop telling lies to their followers otherwise there would be massive revolution and rebellions from their followers when they later discover through knowledge the truth that negates the lies that their pastors have been feeding them.
How can church leaders help in liberating their followers from this belief system about politics?
The truth is most church leaders are unwilling to liberate their followers from wrong belief systems that benefit them because they feed on the ignorance. There are some truths that the leaders deliberately hide from the followers. The leaders know that if their followers know that they also can do miracles; if they know that they can exist without them, they will lose their followership and ultimately their source of economic sustenance. But the truth is the leaders cannot feed on the ignorance of the followers forever. The day the followers discover the truth through knowledge, there will be massive revolution and rebellions from the followers against the leaders.
So, what should church leaders do to avoid potential revolution and rebellions against them?
What church leaders should do to avoid potential revolution and rebellions from their followers against them is to always speak the whole truth; nothing but the whole truth to their followers, not minding losing their followership and source of their livelihood. The Bible says we can do nothing against the truth but for the truth. So, it is better that church leaders preach the truth to their followers by themselves than the followers getting the truth from other places. Truth frees. Lie enslaves. If some of your followers, particularly the wealthy members leave your church as a result of the truth you preached to them as their pastor, don’t worry, God will feed you. God knows how to meet the needs of his truthful servants. Some of the church members that left your church as a result of the truth you preached to them may later return to your church when they discover elsewhere the same truth you preached to them or are swindled by the lying pastors of the new churches they had joined. That is why I am a very staunch advocate of ministers doing secular business along their ministry work. Doing secular business with ministry will enable the minister speak the whole truth to his congregation, no matter whose ox is gored, because he is financially independent of his followers for his socio-economic sustenance or livelihood.