Editorial: Pastor Chris and his theory of Black Lives Matter

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Since it is now more than crystal clear that Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, founder of LoveWorld International and Christ Embassy Ministries, cannot set any limit to his own excesses and self-indulgent eccentricities, it is incumbent on the Nigerian government, to urgently do so, and rein him in. In the last few weeks, the world has been reacting to the gruesome murder of George Floyd, who died after a white police officer in Minneapolis kneeled into his neck during an arrest. For nearly nine agonizing minutes, deaf to Mr. Floyd’s repeated pleas of “I can’t breathe” and the growing alarm of the crowd, the officer choked the life out of him. The sad episode was captured on cellphone video.

 

And although we have seen videos of police brutality in the past, this one was especially chilling because of the nonchalance, the sense of complete indifference and disdain for human life that the police officer showed as he killed Floyd. The killing of George Floyd spurred a wave of rage, anguish, and protests across America and around the world. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, over 350 cities worldwide erupted in protests and solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. From Pope Francis to players in all major European soccer leagues, the message was the same: racism in America has reached the breaking point and the time had come to address the systemic racism that underlies the social justice machinery of the fabled God’s own country, and how it hits hard on the black community.

 

Enter Pastor Chris with his perennial quest to seek public attention by raising his nuisance value. The quack pastor who revels and relishes controversy used his Sunday sermon to peddle insane conspiracy theories about the protests and black lives matter movement, saying the protests and riots that have engulfed the United States in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, were not about black lives. The so-called man of god said the protests were part of a grand conspiracy by some unnamed vested interests to get rid of the police and implant microchips into Americans and other citizens of the world with a view to controlling them.

 

““There are many who don’t know what is going on in the United States with the riots. It’s not about the guy that died, it is not about black folks, and it’s not about black lives matter. I will tell you what it is about. From protests to riots and then more people have died since then and the call for disbanding, abrogation, cancellation, defunding of the police. Why is that? (Do) you think it is limited to the United States? No, it is not. Why are they doing it? It is part of the game. It is simply because they want to come in with the alternative method for security. What is that alternative method? It is total control- RFID microchip. That is what it’s about.

 

“And so, you are going to find people getting rid of their police and you will see cities experimenting one after the other. The cities say no police, everyone must get the microchip. And with that, you are going to know everybody. They will know everyone and crime will be controlled and they have got the media to hype it and in spite of its failure, they will praise it like the best thing in the world. That is what it’s about,” Oyakhilome said in a video posting that went viral on social media.

 

While some will dismiss the odious act of Pastor Chris’ racism-denial as simply bizarre, desultory and even comical, the brazenness, callousness and audacity of his offensive ranting, are lacking in the refinement expected of a religious preacher in his station, and he is not showing himself as an exemplar of the discipline and candor that he is supposed to instill among his followers over an issue with such volatile sensitivity as racism. His glib talk and impolitic utterances ornamented with provocative and insulting grandiloquence has jarred black consciousness, leaving many to question what motives can be driving his loose tongue to unleash this belligerent streak of apparent madness.

 

By his words and actions, Pastor Chris does not seem to be prepared to change his wayward ways. Yet, he is better advised that the sophistication and cosmopolitan outlook of the black congregation over which he has his brief make them less unwilling to brook any act from a pastor that may well become a tacit endorsement of the global threat to the existence of black people everywhere on earth. Ironically, despite his stupidity and ignorant disposition, Pastor Chris has seldom been rebuked by the authorities, even when his words and actions transcend the realm of free speech and religious beliefs into fanning the ambers of racial discord and pandering to white supremacists by propagating wild conspiracy theories. But if the Nigerian authorities had paid scant regard to his unacceptable behavior up till now, this is the time to watch him closely, and appropriately call him to order.

 

In point of fact though, Pastor Chris is one of the most famous figures in Africa, with almost two million followers on Facebook and over one million followers on Twitter. His LoveWorld TV is the first 24-hour Christian satellite television network to broadcast from Africa to the rest of the world. The LoveWorld Convocation Arena in Lagos has a 17,000-capacity and is one of the largest churches in Africa. His daily devotional Bible called Rhapsody of Realities has been translated into 950 different languages. Pastor Chris also has two international Healing Schools in South Africa and Canada through which he rakes in millions of dollars, holding seasonal sessions that offer divine healing experiences to thousands. For an international man of god, he owns two private jets and a conspicuous fleet of luxury cars and a million-dollar mansion in Nigeria. His flamboyant lifestyle is in marked contrast to the piety of Jesus Christ’s disdain for material aggrandizement.

 

The public expectation was that a man of Pastor Chris’ standing would use his platform to advance the cause of racial just around the world, by embracing the debate about the legacy of slavery and white supremacist ideology, racism in policing, and the ongoing, widespread discrimination and segregation in American life; with a view to help America heal its racial divide. However, his fixation on humbug, quixotic self-adulation and predilection for riding roughshod over the sentiments of his fellow blacks clouded his judgment and robbed him of the moral high ground to be a leading voice for black folks who have suddenly found their voice in tragedy, and who now demand to be heard. His microchip theory about the black lives matter movement and the future of policing borders on insanity.

 

Shockingly, this is not the first time that Pastor Chris has courted controversy and probably won’t be the last, unless he is made to pay a price for running his mouth with reckless abandon. Being a Nigerian it is obvious though regrettable, that whatever verbiage he spews out causes a dent on the image of Nigeria and an embarrassment to Nigerians. This is a shame that not only stands condemned; such a public display of irresponsibility is unpalatable and unbecoming of a worthy religious cleric should have no place and must stop. The video of Pastor Chris parodying black lives matter, exposed in spectacular fashion; the amateurish, senseless, unimaginable, buffoonery of a self-seeking moron who chose to plumb the abyss of self-degradation by insulting the collective intelligence of blacks all over the world.

 

As the leader of a ministry whose followers cut across all races, Pastor Chris ought to have known that being black or brown does not make one less of a human being. Man’s intrinsic worth as being endowed with reason and freedom by His Creator is not fundamentally devalued by being classified under one race or another, except a warped sense of ontology does so. And it is this dubious elevation of artificial boundaries to an immutable truth that the American dream proposed to negate, when the founding fathers evolved a land of the free. Although the long anti-racism protests might seem to have abated, they have unearthed deep-seated racial animosity that interrogates all that the American dream stands for. To the global black community, old scars of yesteryear’s atrocities against the African-American community have resurfaced as fresh wounds, thereby imposing on Nigeria (the world’s most populous black nation) a burden of being the black man’s rallying platform.

 

By its constitution, America is a bastion of freedom, where the infinite refinement of reason continually entrenches common humanity through justice and equality. However, it is unfortunate and rather ominous that this symbol of human commonness is now pandering to the social cankerworm its founding fathers swore to eliminate. It is also hypocritical that Pastor Chris refuses to admit that the same prejudice, which the American government and people denounce with the lives of its young citizens in fighting and defending freedom in distant lands, has become the unwritten code of its social justice system. This is disturbing and condemnable.

 

As a preacher who administers faith to God’s children, Pastor Chris should know that whatever the boundaries created around humanity’s existential space and the constructs spelt out to represent them; the human community is fundamentally one. No group of people becomes superior by virtue of the nomenclature ascribed to their race. If race is a description of our existential situation that we cannot change, it is by that fact a pointer to the diversity that makes our world beautiful. The United States, by its motto, E Pluribus Unum, (Out of many one) gives credence to this diversity by transcending narrow mundanities and stereotyping which racism promotes.

 

Many Nigerians have for too long been traumatized by the behavior of Pastor Chris. Beyond verbal laceration, Pastor Chris should for once be made to realize that the ugly events playing out in America is illustrative of the burden Nigeria carries as the Big Brother of the global black community since the black man’s burden is Nigeria’s burden. Pastor Chris should learn in an unpleasant way and live with the searing memory that as a man of god, he is portraying himself as unfit, by his actions and utterances, to be the ambassador of Nigeria; the nation under whom the global black community could find a rallying succor. Indeed, if Oyakhilome does not change tact and apologize, the global black community would do its image a lot of good by simply boycotting Pastor Chris and his church until he realizes that his words and actions should no longer constitute a threat to the lives of black folks because Black Lives Matter.