Prelude: It is not possible to achieve a just society without changing the system, that is, the social structures which are the cause of poverty and oppression. In biblical thinking, ‘poverty’ is not ‘natural’ but is the result of exploitation & structural sin. Holy Scripture truly explains the divide between Voluntary poverty (the simplicity of life & freedom from attachment to the things of this passing world) and enforced poverty (the destitute situation in which millions find themselves imprisoned because of the greed & injustice of a few. It is to the latter that a great chunk of this message points.
In many countries today, (even in the so called Christian countries like ours) gospel values are ignored by oppressive governments and the rich upper classes that support them. People who stand up for values in such societies are often imprisoned, tortured and killed. History us an endless cycle of repetition. In the Prophecy of Isaiah, precisely in the fifth chapter, we find a drama. The drama begins with a sad, weeping song. It was about an investment that was intended to yield good grapes but it yielded only wild, worthless grapes. Vs 1-5 The owner expected justice but found blood shed; he looked for righteousness, but heard cries of distress. Vs 7. Then the owner pronounced & executed a tragic jugdement upon that vineyard.
Vs 1-6. The owner did everything possible for productivity and only had to resort to a rhetorical question as read in Vs 3. What more was there to do that I have not done for my vineyard? The above is readily applicable to Nigeria. Frightening right?! Look at this nation with a great heritage yet unproductive to a large degree. That Vineyard in Isaiah is the land of Israel. But then If God, inspite of the covenant he established with Israel still destroyed them, now the question, what hope do we have a s nation to evade his judgement? Read vs 24- 30 to examine Israel’s judgement. Whenever the God of scripture indicts a person or a nation, he does so on specific charges. Nigeria is on that path. Shall we consider a Scriptural approach to this if you permit me.
THE SIX SINS FOUND IN ISAIAH CHAPTER 5 ARE CHARACTERISTIC OF NIGERIA
Let’s make the applications: VS.8 Woe to you who join house to house, add field to field, until no room remains. This is sheer MATERIALISM. As long as people remain greedy for money and power, they will create new structures of oppression & exploitation. The history of the French and the Russian revolutions have clearly demonstrated this. But then, no revolution, however the many benefits it may claim to bring, will establish a just and free society, If people are not transformed according to the gospel. Structural social change depends upon personal change. Change of hearts and change of structures must go together. Which is what we need in Nigeria.
The immense capacity of the evil of materialism & greed stares us all in our faces. Many citizens are deprived of what is needed to lead a fully human life, and as a result many are poor and frustrated. In biblical thinking, poverty is not ‘natural’ but is the result of exploitation. In Nigeria some wealthy people ruthlessly acquire all the property. Squeezing out of the nations ‘vineyard’ with reckless abandon. Check out for instance, the Jumbo size monthly Salaries of those at the legislative arm of governance amongst others. What is the way forward? The rich, the middle class, the poor and the poorest need conversion, a change in our attitudes & actions (though in different degrees & terms. This is the first sin.
SECONDLY: VS 11 & 22.
Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after strong drink, and tarry late in the evening till they are inflamed with wine. PARTY PLEASURE. The Nigerian society is awashed with mindless merry making, wild parties that cause people to forget the situation of the nation, keeping fathers late night in bars and clubs and rendering youngsters almost irresponsible.
THIRDLY VS 18.
Woe to those who pull iniquity with cords of deceit. DEFIANT SINFULNESS It is one thing to be sinful but much worse to be proud about it; mocking God seems to be body language of this nation despite the widespread increase of religious places of worship.
FOURTH VS 20.
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who take darkness for light and light for darkness, who take biitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. MORAL PERVERSION. In one of my bible classes, a student defined Truth as that which is consistent with the mind, will, character, and being of God. The manipulation of truth in our land is very evident. Moral pervasiveness is on the rise, dirty music, Tv series, books, movies etcetera. These translate misguided information to the younger generation.
FIFTH VS 21.
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight. REBELLION This seems to be a nation where everyone gives his own selfish opinion. Everyone does what is right in his own eyes. A nation where a nobody suddenly becomes somebody and occupies leadership position and forgets his root & responsibility towards the society that empowered him.
SIXTH VS 23.
Woe to those who let the guilty go free for a bribe, and deny justice to the innocent. CORRUPTION The Catholic Church had embarked on prayers against bribery and corruption in Nigeria since the last 30 years. We are a nation with a corrupt leadership at virtually all levels. Corrupt leadership is a cancer eating us from the inside out. We all know the height of corruption in our land is everywhere to the point we can’t trust leaders. And when the leadership is corrupt, that affects the fate of the people.
The current protest by the Nigeria youths is not just justifiable but worthy of support. As a Christian, however, whilst I support the protest to end police brutality and reform and other myriads of abnormalities in the country, I do not Subscribe to violence. The normal Christian reaction in a situation of conflict will be active non-violent resistance, violence generates counter-violence, leading to a self sustaining reaction that cannot be stopped
. As the Buddha said: “Not by hatred is hatred overcome; hatred is overcome by non-hatred only”. To our Youths, Lets keep the flag flying. God is on on our side, effecting a revolution that will destroy the structures of injustice that keep us impoverished. God is always in favour of the poor.
Fr. Ozoh’ is an ordained Catholic Priest.