THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH IN STATE POLITICS: IMPLICATION ON THE REDEEMED CHRISTIAN CHURCH OF GOD (RCCG)
1.1. Background of the Study
The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) is one of the fastest growing Pentecostal Churches in Nigeria in the 21st century. The term Pentecostal Church shall be used interchangeably with the term New Religious Movement. The Pentecostal Churches have been defined by various scholars of Religion. Burgess (2018) opined thus “Pentecostalism is an umbrella term for African Movements and Churches which stress the experience of the Spirit”. Ojo (2010) said that “the Churches share common phenomena through literature, crusades, camp meeting and rely on the “new birth” and the power of the Holy Spirit”. Owoeye (2011) believes that Pentecostal Churches are Churches that emphasize the working of the Spirit in the Church, especially with ecstatic phenomena like prophecy and speaking in tongues, healing and exorcism. RCCG shares all the above features as a Pentecostal Church. Christianity can be described as the religion based on the ideas of Jesus Christ. Its followers worship in a church, (Macmilian 2017). The term “church” as translated in the English Language is from the Greek word “ekklesia”. This term had been in use before the emergence of the Christian church and it basically means “called out”. According to the Holman Bible Dictionary (2012), “… use of the term prior to the emergence of the Christian church is important as two streams of meaning flow from the history of its usage into the New Testament understanding of the church”. While the first meaning from the Greek translation is “called out”, signifying “an assembly of citizens of a Greek city” as used in Acts 19:32,39; the second meaning of this Greek term “was used more than one hundred times in the Greek translation of the Old Testament in common use in the time of Jesus”. The Hebrew term for this second meaning is “qahal” which means “assembly” and it can be used in a variety of ways, referring to an assembly of prophets (I Samuel 19:20), of soldiers (Numbers 22:4), or of the people of God (Deuteronomy 9:10) (Holman 2012). Invariably, whichever usage one adopts out of these two, it is evidently clear that the term “church” refers to a group of special and privileged people chosen or “called out” for a special purpose by God. Politics Just like Christianity, politics is variously defined as the ideas and activities involved in getting power in a country or over a particular area of the world. It is also a belief and attitude about how government should work (Macmillian 2017). It can also be said that the science and act of government, political activities, beliefs or affairs, factional scheming for power (Geddes and Grosset 2011). However, politics has been observed in human group interactions, including corporate, academic and religious institutions. It consists of social relations involving authority and power and refers to the regulation of a political unit and to the methods and tactics used to formulate and apply policy (Anifowose Remi 2015). Politics ultimately comes from the Greek word “polis” meaning state or city. In Latin, it is “politicus” and in French “politique”, thus it became “politics” in English. “Politicus” describes anything concerning the state or city affairs. The great Greek political philosopher, Aristotle, began his famous work “politics” with the observation that “man is by nature a political animal”. By this, he means that the essence of social existence is politics and that two or more men interacting with one another are invariably involved in a political relationship. Men are engaged in politics as they try to define their positions in society, as they struggle for scarce resources and as they try to convince others to accept their points of view. Aristotle then concludes that the way to maximize one’s individual capabilities and to attain the highest form of social life was through political interaction with others in an institutionalized setting, designed to resolve social conflicts and so set collective goals (James, 2019). Marshall (2014) shares his view by defining the state as follows: ‘The state is what God through Jesus Christ has set up to maintain justice. Its officers are as much ministers of God as the prophets and priests’. Marshall’s definition and classification of political officers as ministers of God helps us to transcend the situation where people only look and view politics as cruel and morally dangerous, and at that moment (negative viewing) there is something we miss. We forget and overlook that even in the church we have politics simply because human beings are involved. In some cases, these ecclesiastical politics are as cruel as secular politics. What we argue is that all human beings are bad, they act under compulsion. And because of our negative judgment of politics, we fail to see even the obvious good in it. The immediate question would be: is anything good that could come from politics or can be found in politics? The answer to this question is affirmed by Hulled (2013), when he asserted that: ‘The good in the sphere of politics is justice; and justice consists in what tends to promote the common interest’. This common interest can only be promoted by participation. Thus, exclusion from the structures (like political parties) where common interests are established and negotiated is immoral as it has ‘anti-creational sentiments’.
A controversy whether or not the Church should involve herself or play any role in the political affairs of the society often arises. While some have argued on the one hand that much involvement may jeopardize the Church’s spiritual status as the ecclesia (the called out people of God), others, on the other hand, have shown that being too distant calls into question the Church’s self-understanding as the light, salt and moral beacon on the earth (Callaway 2011: 1). It will seem more appropriate to take a reconciliatory or midway position that while she is not expected to become a political organization, the Church has a substantial role to play in politics by acting as a principled guide, moral watch dog, spiritual counselor and conscience to the society. The aim of this research, therefore, is to establish the role of church in state politics and the implication of state politics on Redeemed Christian Church of God.
Statement of Problem
The level of social injustice currently prevalent in Nigeria is reaching alarming proportions. The overwhelming upsurge of militant and resistant groups in Nigeria these days such as the Niger Delta Militancy, OPC, Bakassi vigilantes, the Boko Haram episode and other similar movements are commonly interpreted as demonstrations against the state resulting from the strains of injustice in the system and as signaling the level of discontent amongst the citizenry. That is why Nigeria has been chosen as our focus for proper analysis of cases of injustice in the socio – political system.
It seems to be less problematic to argue that churches, because they are affected by politics, can and must become involved in politics. Yet quite often when the question is narrowed down to party politics, responses seem to be vague and less attractive, especially within mainline theological and ecclesiastical circles. While recognizing the indisputable necessity for Christians to be involved in the politics that governs their existence in civil society, this research attempts to probe the question of party politics by drawing on the insights of great reformed teachers, such as Karl Barth, whose heritages influence us still today. A church cannot be seen as promoting the ‘politics of secrecy’ by denying its political character simply because such a false promotion suggests dishonesty and therefore disloyalty to the true nature of the human who happens to be a Christian.
It is significant that we ask the question: what purpose does politics serve? if the church or Christian minster is not involved in politics, how do they become part of the mentioned process of deliberations? The problem of the involvement or noninvolvement of ministers of the word in party politics is further exacerbated by a recent past that has elevated political correctness above sincerity. Political correctness does not only plague the current Nigerian states, but because what affects the civil community also affects the Christian community, this problem of political correctness is even more strongly applied in the church through a church order that has not allowed itself to move away from its past. With its own challenges, it cannot be denied that the church is still perceived to be one of the most credible institutions. This is said here because churches are trusted in those institutions that are better placed to assist communities to struggle against issues of sustainable development. Church roles are also seen as institutions with less room for breeding corruption.
1.3 Purpose of the Study
The major purpose of this study is to examine the role of church in state politics: implication on the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). Other general objectives of the study are:
To examine the role of the Christian church in building civil society in Nigeria.
To examine the level of political participation by members of RCCG church
To examine the relationship between church and state political engagement by members of RCCG.
To examine the impact of church on the political life of members of RCCG
To examine how RCCG can bring sustainable development to our politics in Nigeria
To examine the contributions of the Redeemed Christian Church of God to National development within the years of its existence in the country
Research Question / Hypothesis
What are the roles of the Christian church in building civil society in Nigeria?
What is the level of political participation by members of RCCG church?
What is the relationship between church and state political engagement by members of RCCG?
What is the impact of church on the political life of members of RCCG?
How can RCCG bring sustainable development to our politics in Nigeria?
What are the contributions of the Redeemed Christian Church of God to National development within the years of its existence in the country?
H0: The Redeemed Christian Church of God does not play a significant role in bringing sustainable development to politics in Nigeria
H1: The Redeemed Christian Church of God plays a significant role in bringing sustainable development to politics in Nigeria
H0: There is no significant relationship between church and state political engagement by members of RCCG
H1: There is a significant relationship between church and state political engagement by members of RCCG
1.5 Scope of the Study
The study is on the role of the church in state politics: implication on the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG)
1.6 Significance of the study
The study would be of immense importance to church leaders in Nigeria as it would enhance church growth, expansion and development by examining the role of church in state politics because churches have responsibilities to discharge in ensuring good governance and these responsibilities are implied in religious ethics. The study would also benefit students, researchers and scholars who are interested in developing further study on the subject matter.
1.7 Limitation of the Study
Financial constraint: Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview)
Time constraint: The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
1.8 Definition of terms
Church: Church is commonly defined as a building used for public worship. However, many people refer to a church as an organization. Examples are the Catholic Church, the Church of Christ, and the Redeemed Christian Church of God amongst many others.
State: A state is a polity under a system of governance. Is also an organized political community under one government; a commonwealth; a nation
Politics: Politics is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status.