Features: On the altar of God Revisited. – By Julius Kwesi Hamenoo

On the altar of God Revisited

He doesn’t go to church. He doesn’t see the relevance because they are available on television. Or what’s their mission for appearing on TV screens on Sundays and almost every day? They have now taken social media too by storm. Is it not for members to watch and listen to them in the comfort of their rooms? And now, hallelujah! It has become mandatory for most of us to self-quarantine, stay indoors and observe the directive issued by the President to contain the spread of COVID 19 pandemic.

A timely and necessary decision endorsed by all well-meaning. However, some preachers are already using television and social media to exhort their economically stricken members to pile up their tithes and collections as true believers, so that when the lockdown is over, they will give to God what is His due, even though no member had been worthy of God’s revelation that the world was going to be hit hard by a virus called the COVID 19. 

But as mentioned en passant to earlier, while watching and listening to them on TV, what time could we have left to attend church service even if there was no lockdown? Those of us who love Jesus more than everyone else are saying that the church should have been exempted. So churchgoers could go there and pray for divine intervention. 

But if we all go to church our television sets would be off in our rooms with our doors locked. The efforts employed at television stations to preach and broadcast the message by some men of God would have been futile. Perhaps if the preachers stayed away from television cameras, he would feel obliged to go into a church premise rather than laying back in the comfort of his sofa with drowsy eyes. 

The same way he enjoys watching football games on television, even better than going to the stadium. On television, he could see the zoomed images of sweaty bodies. He could enjoy the benefit of playback. He could see facial contortions expressed by players in their efforts at running, attacking and defending the ball. He could listen to the opinions of the commentators about the game as well as the historical profiles of some of the players. A benefit he won’t get when he goes to the stadium.

The television has become the accepted medium of satisfying our curiosity and boredom. Audiovisuals loaded with all kinds of information come to us readily and easily on screens. Sometimes poorly packaged. At other times too, well packaged. Television gives money to producers of contents, while they give information and amusement to consumers. Welcome to our world. Where everything falls on our lap, steamed and simmering with synthetic spices that lull us to sleep through our senses. 

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Many years ago and at different times though, epidemics came to ravage the human population. By whatever means, your guess is as good as mine. Wherever those viruses might have come from, assumptions abound in our heads. Millions died before some human being probably stumbled upon a vaccine which is still with us today. The bubonic plague, Spanish flu, influenza, AIDS, Ebola, SARS, MERS, N1H1, and now COVID 19? Allow me to mention these few. Ultimately, scientists were rather turned to and pressed upon to develop antidotes for the epidemics. They delivered. What chemicals were laced with these vaccines to test us with we have no idea? But they worked. Are these curatives all the design of some ingenuousness and compassion for humanity?

Given the posture of our religious brethren these days especially on social media, whether it’s a propaganda stunt, or not, a thinker may be tempted to implore, is it that Jesus is mostly only concerned about our tithes and collections and prayers? Is it that he would always come to do damage control after our calls on him to intervene? Why would he allow the development of these viruses from the incubation period to multiply and cause the death of millions of people in the first place? Then the people will need to pray for his forgiveness and salvation?

Is it to cause fear and panic in the sick and dying so they would turn to him? Is that how he derives the power to attract followers? From the agony and weaknesses of the strong and healthy? I don’t think so. He is most likely to ask us exactly what we have been using our brains for, the brain being the greatest gift his Father encapsulated in our heads and placed on top of our body? He would say that he has already blessed us to counter some of these schemes with the use of our brains and knowledge too, in order to advance the course of humanity? Or is it that we have become recalcitrant and usually won’t ask him for knowledge and wisdom? Or is it just that we will not pursue knowledge beyond our survival needs?

Fortunately in our era, television and social media have helped to reduce the rate at which we could have died. We have been linked to each other through our mobile devices, the internet and televisions to the extent that information easily spread to warn us of dire consequences days before. A luxury that our ancestors didn’t have. So they died in their millions. Had they had internet and mobile devices then, they would have been notified to take basic precautions like wearing masks that cover noses and mouths, hand gloves, social distancing and self-quarantine when exposed to any contagious disease. Even if they were warned to do so, the speed with which we do it now surpasses them. 

The other aspect of social media seems to have gotten us by our weakest part. The desire and willingness, that was there to poke us to go within and search for profound meanings, to nourish the yearning of our souls, that could help us to become wise in order to enjoy peace of mind and happiness, those tendencies have been trivialized and jettisoned into the sea of our so-called modern social construct. And in place of them, deep-rooted trees of laziness, quick and easy fixes and value for mediocrity. In almost every hand these days, the internet and our mobile devices have become the magic that appealed to our physical senses for immediate and fleeting benefit. Almost always the contents that appear on these screens preoccupied our conscious minds. And For that reason, we have lost the sense of what we are, and our sense of connection with each other. Yet hypocrisy could make us proclaim that we love God, when our cleverness couldn’t accept a basic explanation of how God looks like, even in our holy books. We are social animals. But we have replaced our social nature with a medium powered by battery and the internet. Through the media we are receiving myriads of different types of messages. And because the foundation of our schooling is largely rote learning, hypnosis and indoctrination, our ability to discern refined messages from chaff ones on these platforms are warped.

We have a sense of worship, but it’s clearly based on our delusional sense of commitment to dogmatic tenets. Instead of even spiritual philosophy, which could have stirred in us the urge to feed the flame of wanting to understand what God is within our hearts. The kind of interpretation we have been hearing from most of our religious leaders could only mold us into talking adherents instead of practicing adherents. Saying we are a bible believing Christians for example is not necessarily the same as practicing what Christ taught. Yet the whole point of Christ’s presence is for us to practice his teachings. Not to interpret them with our blemished understanding and repeat them in words to others or ourselves. 

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Since we do not obey the God we worship, how should we be able to command Him to do our bidding just with prayers? And sometimes fasting in addition to reinforce our plea? But that’s not what matters to us. Our concerns are fixed elsewhere. They lie at places and in things that are symptomatic of our skewed desires.

We could always deepen our stupor by easily giving ourselves intoxicating stories. Messages that appeal to our ears much more than our souls, wonder stories are what we want to hear. As kids we could be excused from such gullibility. But as adults it’s astonishing that wonder stories will still appeal to us instead of making moral efforts. We believe that we will ultimately go to heaven with our bodies, that’s why its nourishment through our mouths, and embellishment from without concern us the most. To the extent that we will kill, maim, destroy anything that stands between our body’s enjoyment and our so-called love to be with Jesus. 

Now, what kind of sacrifices do we make on the altar for God? Money? By way of tithes, collections, and all that money can buy or do? Is there any other valuable thing we could ever give to God these days? Of course no. Cash is what we think God needs to add on to his creation. Good luck to us! May we make more money and sacrifice it on the altar for God, to the glory of God. Amen!

Who will blame us when our sense of value has been systematically reduced to focus on the tangibles. Most especially money? The acquisition of which is all that matters in all our endeavors. Even in dimensions beyond ours, we have managed to make money relevant there. And since money is the only valuable thing for us, we assume that God must necessarily value it too. And must need money to complete what He began probably before the Big Bang. And so wherever we turned, it is expected of us to give money. Even in times when thousands are dying of COVID 19 in the world. 

Julius Kwesi Hamenoo was born and raised in Takoradi. As one who is down to earth, he is clearly self taught and has with great interest read books which help to build strong character. This comprehensive reading has endowed him with a deep sense of simplicity and humility gracing him with strength of character and the tendency to question some accepted norms. These have served to fuel the critical, yet powerful observation of his environment portrayed in his writings.

But when I saw football fans spontaneously jubilate, though not in these times, because their team has scored a goal, and juxtapose their expression with those in church premises during worship, who are there supposedly in the presence of God, it was revealed to me that something was absent in there. What greater jubilation could spontaneously erupt from a people than the 

presence of the Holy Spirit? Yet that’s rather where we pour out our agonizing lamentations of needs and wants. After which we will sacrifice our money on the altar, or in the collection bowl and expect God to manifest miracles in our lives. Just so we would become sober from our stupor, even though we are still imbibing the same alcohol of nonsense. 

If we could bring to church, the same jubilant expression we showed when watching our team played and scored, if we could bring to God, an expression that is devoid of our problems and pettiness, because He truly and majestically deserves to have us worship Him in our joyous moments too, if only we could bring to church nothing but the innocence of our souls, instead of our valued papers or atm cards, we are likely to manifest God and feel God in us more than our fleeting trivialities.

Observe the bond of unity with which we hold each other in support of our team when they played? Are we able to do the same in church, in the presence of God, with the same expectation? And do we know that football fans don’t have their individual problems? Yet in the presence of the game, they become completely oblivious of their individual problems. They become all merged into one thing: supporters of one team. With one prayer; to win. Just so they would enjoy the satisfaction of belonging to a winning team. 

Meanwhile here we are in most of our churches, shouting to God for our individual selfish desires, usually petty ones indeed to be granted. Blaring through microphones to disturb public peace. All in the name of God. As if God is far away from our reach. 

Even when the supporters would have lost a match, they would still walk out of the stadium hopeful that the next match would be won. In some rare cases, some supporters get their hearts broken. It tells us how committed they are to their team. Yet being at the stadium to see a football game cannot be equated to 

being in God’s presence. Which is the same as being in the presence of God’s creatures, most especially the human being?“ As ye have done unto thy brethren, ye have done unto me”. Clearly the eye we peer into, that will be looking back at ours, our actions or inactions toward those set of eyes is worshipping God. 

How many of us are prepared to get our hearts broken because of our commitment to God? We will rather hurl before Christ our problems. We will go to church dressed fancifully to please our own eyes and other admirers. We will listen to another sermon, interpreted in a way to arouse fear and favor in us. And feel emotionally charged to pat with our valuable money through dancing by rows, so no one could be exempted from contributing their widows might.

And thereafter we will go back to our various homes feeling exhausted and namby-pamby. And so for and after several years of same old same old, all few of us could boast of are our pettiness and mediocrity and misery. Still hungry for the so-called valuable things we have had already. Because we can see and measure them, from the platform of some mundane consciousness.