Political Influence on Religion in Ghana
In episode 1 of this article, we focused on the religious influence on politics in Ghana. Having come to the understanding that politics and religion influence each other, it is now time to turn our discussant attention to the political influence on religion. The theme is still the 4Ps of influence in the Ghanaian society. They are the Pastor, the Pulpit, the Politician and the Power. Again, this episode is respectfully dedicated to Nana Tabono Bonsu III, Asantehene’s Brempon of Asante Akyem Achiase in the Ashanti Region who dovetails as a brother from another mother and a professional senior colleague of mine. May his reign be a blessing to Asanteman in particular and Ghana as a whole.
Partisan politics influences religion in so many ways just as religion also influences partisan politics. The politicians wield political power and they use it to influence the pastors and their pulpits. Some clergies tend to dance to the whims and caprices of political leaders. This way, some pastors use the pulpits to speak partisan political voices instead of preaching the word of God.
Most people even think that certain high-ranking appointments in the church are influenced by one’s political affiliation. Whenever their political party is in power, certain clergymen turn blind eyes to happenings in the political arena that are unpleasant to even their congregants. They hail the political authority and support partisan political decisions that appear unreasonable and generally unacceptable by the people. These political clergymen seek for popularity and are hungry for walks in political corridors. They do so not because of mere conviviality with the political leader but also to get certain protocol treatments such as diplomatic passports and the like.
Some of these politically controlled clergymen only speak about the ills in society when the party they support is in opposition. They cease to speak whenever their party is in power and it is causing the same ills in society. How can the body of Christ (the Church) or (Dada Hala as Ewe Catholics call it) be controlled this way? The pulpit is used to sing the praises of the politician. The same pulpit is used to prophesize a win for the politician. The same pulpit is used to castigate political opponents. In Ghana, a discerning person can easily identify pastors in political suits and politicians in clerical wears.
Pastors in Political Suits
It is true that naturally there some politicians that are religiously minded and they run political affairs with the fear of God in them. They wear political suits and wield political power yet they rather act in accordance with the word of God and do not do things to please man. They act as the Biblical Daniel and Joseph in Babylon and ancient Egypt respectively.
Outwardly, such persons are seen as politicians but inwardly, they are pastors by nature. They have been ordained either from birth or from family upbringing. Their hearts tend to be closer to the pulpit more than the political power. One may cite the late Prof. J.E.A. Mills as a good example in this category. He ran political affairs as though they were priestly affairs. He eschewed politics of insults. He referred to the citizenry as his brethren. He would say, “My brothers and sisters.” Indeed, Atta Mills was a Daniel or Joseph or Nehemiah of a sort in the Ghanaian political suits. As such, he was more mindful of the word of God while in political office and wielding political power at its highest echelon in Ghana. He was straightforward and not a pretender. J.E.A. Mills was prayerful in the performance of his political duties and was seen as a man who was closer to God than anything else. His peaceful nature won him the title Asomdweehene (King of Peace). Such politicians like President Mills still exist in Ghana but society may not like them because they do not do the will of the canal world. Rather, they do the will of God in political office. They are Daniels who bow to nothing but the Lord God Almighty. Their reverse are partisan and propaganda politicians who put on clerical wear and make society refer to them as pastors.
Politicians in Clerical Clothes
In fact there are also some politicians who appear in cassocks and portray to the people that they are clergymen. Their actions portray political thoughts rather than the word of God. They justify everything partisan and use the pulpit to speak political voices. They look outwardly as pastors yet they are propaganda politicians at heart.
Talking about the late President Mills again, his political opponents even criticised him for turning the Osu Castle (the erstwhile seat of government) into a prayer camp. Suffice to say that he was accused of allowing religion to dictate more in his political affairs or office.
It was so strange that even a clergy accused President Mills for turning the seat of government into a churchyard. On 23rd September, 2009, the Statesman Newspaper reported, “at a symposium organized by the Danqua Institute on 17th September, 2009, Rt. Rev. Asante -Antwi of the Methodist Church had advised President Mills not to turn the Osu Castle …into a prayer camp in the best interest of this country(sic).” According to the Statesman, Rev. Asante-Antwi further advised President Mills to build a national cathedral to serve as a place of prayer so that the seat of government would be prayer- free in order for government to focus on its core business. The Statesman identified Rev. Asante-Antwi as a co-founder of the Danquah-Busia Trust, formed in 1991. Everyone knows that the Danquah Institute is the knowledge hub or a think tank for the New Patriot Party (NPP). Whether or not he speaks from behind the pulpit, the pastor represents the voice of the pulpit. While seated in a typical Geography class, one can even say the pastor is the pulpit and the pulpit is the pastor. But for political coloration, how could a Right Reverend ask a President not to pray at his workplace?
Mindful of his national cathedral building advice to President Mills, it is therefore not surprising that Rev. Asante- Antwi currently sits at the apex of the Board of Trustees of the National Cathedral Project as the Board Chairman. This project was initiated by his political party. Some other clergymen alleged in the past to be politicians in cassock are equally serving on the Cathedral Board of Trustees with Rev. Asante- Antwi. It is as though his cathedral building project proposal is about to materialize so he has to oversee it as his brainchild. The pastor and the pulpit, the politician and the power.
Further to the foregoing, one may want to ask the following rhetorical questions.
Was Rt. Rev. Asante not aware that Bible says God is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent and prayer is supposed to be said anywhere?
Did it God hear Jonah’s prayer even from the belly of the fish and He answered it?
In Rev. Asante-Antwi’s view, could the Almighty God be confined to a national cathedral therefore He could not listen to prayers offered at the Presidency at the osu Castle?
Is prayer not supposed to be an aspect of the believer’s daily life?
Did Rev. Asante-Antwi forget that God rules in the affairs of men?
Did Rev. Asante-Antwi forget that Jesus asked us to pray without ceasing?
Can Rev. Asante-Antwi accuse the current President for turning the Flagstaff House into a prayer camp when the President invited clergymen who prayed at the seat of government against the Covid-19 pandemic? Was Rev. Asante using the pulpit to do political will rather than the will of God?
Turning the seat of government into a prayer camp and building a national cathedral at the expense of hospitals that provide cure to infectious and other diseases, which one is the will of God?
If prayer does not have power over governance, why did Archbishop Duncan-Williams pray for the cedi to appreciate against the US dollar?
Guess what? The Daily Graphic reported on 20th March, 2020 that President Akuffo Addo invited some pastors to the Jubilee House and they offered prayers against the Covid-19 pandemic. Ironically, the Daily Graphic disclosed that the same Rev. Asante-Antwi who counselled the late President Mills not to turn the seat of government into a prayer camp was in the midst of these pastors who prayed at the Jubilee House against Covid-19. One may assert by inference that to Rev. Asante-Antwi’s mind, it was wrong to pray at the seat of government in 2009 when his party was not in power. Eleven years later in 2020, his party is in power and it is not wrong offering prayers at the seat of government. Perhaps Rev. Aante-Antwi should emulate Rev. Fr. Andrew Campbell, SVD of the Catholic Faith who neutrally supports any political party in power.
One would have thought that such an advice to President Mills should not have come through the lips of a Right Revered and the Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church (as he then was). Whenever partisan politics engulfed the altar, partisan political voices are heard from the pastor behind the pulpit. Partisan political power tend to control the pastor and his pulpit whenever the pastor is more answerable to his political master than his supernatural master or heavenly farther. If a Christian at work, for example President Mills, should not commit the works of his hands to the Lord who rules in every aspect of human life, then what type of Christian was he?
The most important thing for the pastor is to be well balanced. That is not to neglect work for prayer or neglect prayer for work. This is because, God has deposited in-depth wisdom in human beings so some problems call for human solutions and not divine solutions. Other problems also call for only divine solutions while still other problems need both physical and spiritual panacea.
On 26th September, 2010, one Clement Sangaparee published an article about Rev. Asante-Antwi. His caption was “Rev. Dr. Asante Antwi Is A Politician And Not A Priest” Please refer to https://www.ghanaweb.com/../Rev-Dr-Asante-Antwi-Is-A-Politician-And-Not-A-Priest
Similar other articles and media reportage about the said clergy abound on the net.
There are true and non-ordained pastors who are into partisan politics and they do the will of God in the performance of their political duties. These may be called a sheep in wolf skin. They look like wolf but they are not harmful to society. There are also non-elected partisan politicians who pretentiously put on clerical wear. Their congregants see them outwardly as pastors but inwardly they are partisan politicians. These are wolves in sheep skin. They look like sheep but they are wolves inwardly and therefore they can be harmful to society. End of Episode 2, expect episodes 3 and final episode (episode 4).
~Asante Sana ~
Author: Philip Afeti Korto
Email: [email protected]