My faith and my science

I often get asked this question when I tell people what I study, “How does that affect your faith? The Big Bang, evolution and all”. That’s a very valid question and I will probably flesh out answers some other time. I know for sure that my work and my Christian beliefs are not mutually exclusive. To what extent they mingle and interact with one another, I don’t know. However, seeing that Christ is the most solid rock in my life, it is difficult to see how anything could bulldozer its way through (but that doesn’t mean I don’t doubt sometimes).

I tend to ask myself a different question, one that is very important for the success of my future career: Does my faith affect my science? Does the fact that I am a Christian somehow slow down my scientific reasoning? Maybe not hampered mental faculties but do I see things from a different angle to other palaeontologists? Does my faith stop me from digging deep and asking critical questions on life, its origins and diversity, or do I ask a different variety of questions?

My unprocessed, impulsive answer is: Yes, of course beliefs play a role in my work. Sometimes when I reach a difficult concept, instead of trying to work my way through the issue, my brain just stops, stares at the complexity and praises God for His intricate beauty. At those times, just knowing that God designed it all is answer enough for me and I don’t give much thought to the how and the why.

Does this mean I am incapable of critical thinking? Surely not. Many revolutionary scientists in the western world were devout theists. Think of Michael Faraday, Gregor Mendel and Isaac Newton. Moreover, for Faraday, his Christian faith was the driving force behind his science. He was fixated on the relationship between nature and God. Then again, a lot has changed since Michael Faraday’s day with the rise of the works of Darwin, Hubble and others. And perhaps his beliefs weren’t exactly as ‘conservative’ as mine.

So, I ask another question: Does my belief in Biblical inerrancy affect my studies? Should it affect my studies? It should and it definitely does; but not to the extent that one would presume because my subconscious is permanently engage in extreme compartmentalisation. From news from Nigeria to my love of British desserts to my friendships, everything gets its own mental box. These chests are only opened one at time. Never will you find two of them uncovered simultaneously. My Christianity doesn’t get a box. It is the very atmosphere that I exist in. When the science box is open and there are ideas and notions that are struggling to exist under the atmosphere of faith, I take them out real quick and dump them into a bin that’s always unlidded – the ignore it wastebasket. I don’t ignore the theory itself, just the controversy.  That’s how I deal with issues between science and Christianity. I know that this is not the best method. Not only because it makes me a coward but as I dump things into the wastebasket, I am also throwing away some associated critical thoughts (which are not necessarily controversial) that could help my work greatly – unavoidable collateral damage. This method also makes me guilty of faith that is blind and untested, and that’s not right

Well, I throw this question out to you. What do you think? Can I really be a Christian palaeontologist? Not the kind you see on TBN that are just out to prove people wrong with their extremely questionable research methods. As a person of faith, could I really work with my fossils and operate under the constraints of scientific theories?

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Beer, Wine and Sinners

Nigerians seem to have the ultimate love-hate relationship with alcohol.  In a country with so much religiosity that makes one wonder if God is Nigerian, alcohol is often seen as something only the perverse and immoral would touch. Yet, we have so many empty crates of Guinness and broken bottles of champagne lying around.

People act all holier-than-thou in church, looking down at those evil drinkers in bars and clubs but I get to their houses to see bottles of Baileys and that horrible acidic South African wine (seriously, why would anyone want that?) stashed in the fridge.  The religious police in the North routinely destroy bottles of beer but one still sees these northerners drinking away on their visits to London.

Once, someone who’s always chastising me for drinking asked me – with excitement written all over her face – if I was planning to douse that year’s Christmas cake in brandy, as I usually do.  She looked so happy, like a little child anticipating candy.  Yet, she would never admit to liking alcohol; only sinners enjoy the taste of it.

Nigeria is probably Africa’s largest consumer of champagne but very few people I meet would admit that they drink alcohol. Perhaps it’s my circle, or maybe the few that do drink consume a lot. After all, I have witnessed, in broad daylight, a trio drinking half-pint cups of Jack Daniels as if it’s water and they had just finished running a marathon, and they looked like they could finish another bottle in the same fashion.

 

Image|Source: RationalNigerian 🙂

Money Making Machines: Church (Revisited)

Money Making Machines: Part 3

Now that your eyes have been opened to the great opportunities there are in the church industry, perhaps you are hungry for more advice on going further from initial baby steps to the expansion and dynamic growth of your empire.  This business undoubtedly merits another treatment as it is so lucrative that once you get it right, you are set for life.  Do not underestimate the automatic respect and overwhelming financial benefits that sprout from becoming a pastor.

If you do go into the business, one key principle you would need to understand is that you cannot go it alone.  Develop an army of worshipping assistants who would do things for God but absolutely anything for you.  They must be neat and suited but not as handsome as you.  These personal hallelujah boys are essential for your public image and elevate you to a god-like status. The more of them you have in your arsenal, the more members you would capture. Loyalty begets loyalty which ultimately translates to more cash.

However, do not let building membership be your only focus. Bear in mind that you want to make good money wherever possible.  Another move that seems to boost profit is competition.

You cannot expect to compete with an uninspiringly average name.  Make sure you devise a promising name – both for you and your church –  so that just by saying it, one feels a sense of greatness and accomplishment.  Strive to become a household name.

Establish your business to be neck and neck with similar – if not identical – churches in the area.  It is common knowledge among churchgoing circles that no matter how indistinguishable two churches are, they are different.  It is not strange to count more than six churches in less than a minute drive down a Lagos road or three churches in one building.  The more churches there are, the sweeter the contest.

You could even let the competition itself be your main source of income – not membership but Sunday attendance.  Consider concerts which depend on nightly ticket sales rather than fan clubs.  Instead of cultivating patrons, reserve your energy and resources for the periodic spectator.  Budget for well-known musical acts and comedians and don’t forget to advertise mercilessly.  Visitors would come from far and wide giving you access to more and more bank accounts.

Lastly, buy expensive things and show off your luxury.  In all you do remember this central truth: The more wealth a pastor acquires, the more wealth the pastor attracts.  Nigerians love rich pastors.  When they see you rocking Armani or cruising that Hummer it gives them hope that one day they too would make it, and hope leads to dumbfounding generosity.

Be sharp, innovative and charming, and soon you would have your own private jet.

Divine Favour or Earthly Misconduct?

Favour is a lovely word that one often hears floating out of believers’ lips.  Placing ‘divine’ before it injects infinitely more awe and gravity.  From the look on people’s faces when they say “divine favour”, it seems to taste like the sweetest honey to the speaker, sounding like the greatest symphony to the ear.

Could I claim divine favour if I cut corners to achieve a desired, successful result?

Is it favour if a job interview goes badly but the interviewer still employs me because we are from the same state or ethnic group?  If, for example, we are both Efik while the more qualified candidate is Igbo?

What if a questionable loan application gets mysteriously fast tracked and approved because the banker and the applicant worship at the same church or their children go to the same school?

Is it divine intervention if a police officer ‘miraculously’ pardons me for taking one way (driving on the wrong side of the road)?  Or is it because I settled (bribed) them?  Is this worthy of an anecdote in church when people are giving testimonies?

Is it alright to hold a thanksgiving service for being elected into government when you used your loaded bank account to get appointed?

Could I claim integrity and thank God for such ‘breakthroughs’?

Just a thought…

The ‘God is in Control’ Excuse

Straws on the Camel’s Back: Part 3

I must confess my initial hesitation to write this final piece.  In a country dominated by so much religion, I am treading on dangerous waters by putting this issue to paper.  However, I am tired of being scared of upsetting people.  I could go on about the Nigerian fear of offence but I will conserve my 500 words.

If you’ve ever walked these streets, you would have heard variants of the dismissive phrase, ‘God is in control’, and its deceitful companion, ‘it is well’.  Don’t worry, this is not a rant against God or religious hope.  Nigerians, both believer and sceptic, recite these phrases as a way of deceiving themselves into a personal utopia where they are excused from being proactive and problems are expelled from their thoughts.  We don’t do anything about suffering and domestic abuse, saying, “God is in control”.  Government officials pocket money meant for the fight against terrorism: It is well.

When people ask me if I’m getting used to the excruciating Lagos traffic, I tell them quite bluntly, “No. And I don’t want to get used to it”.  I don’t want to settle down into something that shouldn’t be and just say, “It is well”.  I don’t see what’s well about a person spending four hours on the road just to travel two miles.  All the while, motionless motorists are being robbed.  You finally arrive home to find that there’s still no electricity, thus no running water.  After eating dinner in the darkness, you go to bed but your sleep is stolen by the symphony of generators from your lucky neighbours who found petrol in the fuel scarcity.  So, you use what’s left of your phone battery to read the news where you discover that yet another person has been kidnapped, a school has been set on fire and some person has bought a N2,000,000 Valentino dress with N135,000 heels to go with it.  All is not well!

We choose to live in an abyss of false hope, using pretend religion as an excuse for our lethargy towards injustice and corruption.  We have somehow managed to deceive ourselves to the point that we are now convinced all this is normal and that someday normal will somehow get better.  Tomorrow, you’ll wake up and everything will be bright and glorious without you lifting a finger.  Perhaps you are waiting for fire to fall from heaven because God is in control.  What use is your sighing and shrugging shoulders when you possess the ability to bring about change.  No one wants to be the one to make the difference.  Fast money and personal gain are of greater interest.

Maybe I am being pessimistic.  True, the Nigerian hope is rather romantic; but a line needs to be drawn between optimism and just plain foolishness.  What may have initially started as honest positivity has become a sad farce.

The fact that we love deceiving ourselves.  This is a straw on the camel’s back.