By Hannu Afere

A few days ago, a tweet from one Alex Oluwatobi went viral. The young man said that when he was trying to make friends with his new “born again” neighbours by asking what football club they supported, the kids abruptly disappeared and their parents returned with a Christian book demonizing football.

It caused such an uproar that had even the Church of Satan on twitter weighing in on the matter. The author, a Nigerian woman, claimed she served Satan for 990 years and that it was during her service, she found out the concept of football was designed by demons from hellfire.

To be fair, there is nothing new here. Pentecostal Christians in Nigeria have been vilifying all forms of sports and entertainment for as long as I can remember. In the 80s, there was the famous war against music. Exceptional vocalists were regularly accused of getting their lyrics from the marine realm. TVs were banned. Fashion was, and still is, under constant attack– women who wear trousers, fish-tail skirts, makeup and hair extensions have always been the targets.

But back to football. I remember being in church one Sunday and having the preacher berate a boy who was using a Chelsea notebook as his jotter. The preacher publicly said that football was witchcraft. He reasoned that for one to support one club over another, one had to be wicked as that was in his words “seeking the downfall of your fellow man” and “taking food away from his table.” To say I was bewildered by such logic, is putting it mildly.

He went further to say that Christians needed to put in the same energy they expended on watching sports, into evangelism. That while it is true that in Jesus’ time there was no football, he was certain that Jesus would have kicked against it.

I found this ironic, because passages in the Bible like 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 seem to endorse sports. Verse
24 uses athletics as a metaphor saying “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” Verse 27 uses boxing as another metaphor saying “Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.”

Boxing! A sport even more brutal than football and not one mention of it being engineered by demons from hell?

With messages like this, it is not difficult to see that Nigerian Christianity, especially the Pentecostal arm of things, is deliberately wired to instill fear in its followers. Preaching that there is hell fire at every turn waiting for each erring soul, and asserting that they (the preachers) are the ones who know route to heaven, or are the ones with the keys to the kingdom, the average Christian in need of guidance falls for the con.

Apart from dogma, heredity and needing a sense of belonging, many of these so-called Christians are simply weak-minded and would not follow such preachers if there weren’t any threats of eternal damnation.

Furthermore, this unwholesome state of mind is especially sad because one of the main reasons why Christianity still exists, is because of its alliance to a state. That’s how it emerged in the fourth century, and that’s how it has survived to this day. As state support disappears, so does Christianity. Look no further than Nordic countries for numerous examples. Christianity is still strong in the US, only because political parties make it a campaign argument. Christianity (and Islam) is/are still strong in Nigeria for the same reason. But the opposite is the case in a geographical location such as Western Europe.

The reason is because the countries there (and indeed the citizens) have refused to act either as protectors or enforcers.

In Nigeria, the state isn’t just the problem, we have the thought police, and Churches which allow mild coercion to quash disagreeing views, especially amongst irreverent explorers of thoughts, a.k.a awon omo social media, freethinkers and gay people. Before using brute force, of course.

The core of Christianity is to learn from the actions of thousands of people over thousands of years in the scriptures. Propagating fear doesn’t help anyone learn, it just creates an epidemic of terrorism and a republic of religious slaves.

Once one begins to realize that Hell isn’t a place one goes to after they die, that Hell is their life and it is the consequences that come to fruition once one starts living a life that has been proven time and time again to not work, everything becomes clearer. Or not.

Hannu Afere (c) 2019