I grew up in the church.
It’s important to note that when I’m talking about church, I am not talking about a particular denomination. I was as comfortable in my maternal grandmother’s Catholic service as I was in my paternal grandmother’s Yoruba-only Anglican church. I had fun singing praise and worship songs along with family friends in my (briefly) nuclear family Pentecostal church.
To this very day, I do not have it in me to be particularly picky about denominations when choosing a church. If the spiritual leader’s sermons move me, then that’s where I will be.
That being said, I do have some guidelines when deciding whether a church will become my spiritual home or not. Everyone has their own deciding factor on whether a church is right for them. In my own circumstance, that’s the collection plate. How I came to this conclusion entwines both my faith in God and my faith in social and political justice.
For me, the two are pretty much inseparable.
I started university in 2013 and as an 18-year-old, I was slowly but surely learning to not only to form my own opinions outside what my family believed and taught me but also to stick by those new beliefs. Shortly before I started university and I was still leaving at home, I kicked up a huge fuss about the dreariness and routine I perceived and felt at the Baptist church my parents had made the family house of worship. So, certain in my choice, I refused to go to church altogether.
At first, this didn’t work.
My parents dragged my sullen adolescent self to church no matter the cost. However, being constantly subjected to my absolutely foul mood led them to relent on my forced attendance.
After that little kick-off when I actually got to university, finding a new church was really difficult.
I was determined to stick to my guns. I tried every church I could find but I wasn’t satisfied. As all of this was happening, I became more engrossed in social media, especially Tumblr, which is really odd considering that some would consider Tumblr dead at that point. My views on sexuality, race, religion, gender and beauty standards were being seriously challenged while I was spending time looking for a new place of worship in one of the most traditionally conservative religions out there: Christianity.
The largest hurdle I have had to face was the prosperity gospel.
Prosperity gospel is not an inherently Nigerian style of Pentecostal preaching. But if I am being honest it does rear its head there than in most other churches. I have always known what prosperity gospel is from the outset: bullshit.
Not only that, I have always been able to spot it pretty much immediately. I just didn’t know it had terminology for it. I experienced it in mild forms in the small, extremely unkind Pentecostal church I went to briefly when I was in university but I began to really understand its teachings when I went back home.
That being said, I know better. I know better because I did eventually find the right church for myself in England that gave me the blueprint.
They taught me that offering is more than financial.
It’s setting up food drives for the homeless. It’s gently encouraging those who are drug addicts and alcoholics to give rehabilitation another try. Money is needed for many of these things but true offering isn’t just money. It’s service.
It most certainly isn’t building your fortune off the backs of the poor. It isn’t allegedly bribing police officers to find another cause for the collapse of your synagogue, the way a Nigerian pastor by the name of TB Joshua did. Seizing on the desperation of people to climb out of poverty to become wealthy is despicable.
My faith and politics can never let me accept such.
Even though such thinking me put me in situations where I butt heads with those I love most or leave me alienated, I’m eternally grateful for it.