Religious Merchandising Part 2 - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE

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Sunday, August 15, 2021

Religious Merchandising Part 2

 
             



By Ninyo Omidiji

There are many sides to every religion known to mankind  but the business angle is a major one. Although, it is not usually immediately obvious, it is the underlying motivation for keeping many of its traditions, dogma and practices alive. Invariably, there  are men whose only "business" in religion is nothing but business. Therefore they will fight, tooth and nail, to keep whatever sustains the business alive. 

In Hinduism, for instance, there is a ritual called "tonsuring" which entails the shaving of head as a sign of total submission to or a way to procure favour from their gods. By the way, it is said that there are 33 million types of gods in Hinduism. 

The market for the hair harvested from people that participate in this ritual on a yearly basis was put at 250 million dollars in India alone as at 2016. This is according to a BBC report. The hairs are sold to marchants who would show up on weekly basis or they are auctioned by the temple workers periodically. These hairs get around the world and some of you reading this piece are their clients.  

Let's assume that Hinduism goes through a reform that challenges the propriety of tonsuring, the people that would lead the fight to preserve the tradition might be those who have economic interests and basically for economic survival. Meanwhile, they will wrap their struggle in piety. 

In Bible recorded history, one of the places that Paul took his missionary work to was called Ephesus in Asia Minor. Within two years, the gospel gained so much traction that people began to abandon their previous ways of life. The warlocks and magicians who had repented gathered their magic books and set them ablaze. The cost of the books was put at a whopping 50 thousand pieces of silver at the time. That was some money !

Additionally, people began to turn away from the worship of goddess Diana who was reportedly extremely influencial across the Asia Minor. This led to a serious riot to, ostensibly, preserve the dignity of goddess Diana but unknown to many, it was a drive to preserve a business empire. The first man to ignite the fire was a businessman who went by the name Demetrius. He was a silversmith who had made a lot of money from helping worshippers to build Diana's shrines using his craft. With the gospel that Paul preached, he anticipated that his business would grind to a halt. 

He quickly galvanized co-businessmen and mobilised to attack the enablers of the gospel that shifted people's attention away from their religion. Let's read this:
"He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: “Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands. So not only is this trade of ours in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Diana may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship.” Now when they heard this, they were full of wrath and cried out, saying, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” So the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians, Paul’s travel companions.
Acts 19:25‭-‬29 NKJV

Please note this. At the city theatre, they had gathered a crowd of people shouting "great is Diana of Ephesus" (verses 28b and 34b). In other words, what the people put forward as the reason for their agitation was a defence for Diana but those who motivated them had a different motive.  They needed to protect their own businesses. 

Check out the composition of the rioters. "Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together.
Acts 19:32 NKJV

From the foregoing, we can deduce that a crowd of people came out to defend their god but they were confused. They were the footsoldiers who thought they were fighting a good cause but they were a confused lot. They fought but the reason for their fight was lost on them. They had been controlled by a few  people at the background whose motivation was basically economic in nature. Their counterparts today would keep chanting "I stand with so so and so.." But they don't even know what they are doing. They are gullible and deceived. 

Friends, I have a bad news and a good news.  The bad news is that much of the destructive heresies you see in many settings will not go away. One major reason they won't go away is that there are people who benefit economically from them. No matter how it is made plain for everyone to see the errors, as long as the merchants see it as their own proverbial "pot of soup", those faulty doctrinal practices would continue. The protagonists will not mind to fight and kill in order to keep them alive. They will convince the ever-gullible crowd that they are doing it for the Lord and the crowd would do their bidding. There's no shortage of gullibility among the masses. 

Today, the business and lifestyles built around monthly and periodic monetary tithing, redemption offering and first fruit doctrine will not allow them to stop no matter the exegesis done to disprove their legitimacy in the church. They would rather hold on to the last strand of argument, no matter how weak or fickle, to keep them going. Business has to continue. 

The economy built around Goya oil and holy/anointed water will make them to retain relevance . Sales must continue. If it means that worshippers must continue to have an impression or attachment to olive oil as "power of God in a bottle", instead of the abiding anointing that is in them, the stakeholders would not mind. 

The businesses built around "building-a-befitting-house-for-God" and "coming to the presence of the Lord"  will not make such narratives to stop no matter how much it's argued and made plain that God does not live in houses made with human hands. If it means that worshippers are denied  the grace to truly acknowledge that they are the lively stones that make up the church; that they are God's tabernacle, the business merchant in ecclesiastical regalia would not mind to keep the faulty premise alive. 

The business created around pilgrimages to Holy land will ensure that it continues. Religious pilgrimages are a multi-billion dollar industry. There are pilgrimage Boards that must not be dissolved. People will keep visiting the tombs of Jesus and patriarchs seeking a spiritual encounter in what they call holy sites. They will keep going and then return with kegs of water and sand from River Jordan and mustard seed from Jerusalem. Their prophets will come back with paraphernalia of Judaism like prayer shawls and horns of animals used to contain olive oil in ancient past, basically to mesmerise worshippers. No matter the exegesis you do to let them know that the God they seek is not in those relics of history but that He dwells in them, it will still fall on deaf ears. Tell them that there's no Holy site in Jerusalem but that they are the ones that are holy because of Christ's sacrifice and they will not take you seriously. The business has to continue, so the merchants will keep such teachings alive. 

Friends, religious merchants, for the most part, are deliberate. They know what they are doing. The "crowd" of worshippers who are "the market" for religious merchants are the ones who are ignorant. They are the ones that are deceived but they can't see it. They are the ones being fleeced on a daily basis using various ecclesiastical ideologies supported with mangled scriptures. Yet, these are the ones that would serve as footsoldiers for their masters in defending wrong practices. While doing so, they would think they are defending God. 

Does God view kindly the merchandise of people in the name of religion? No! In fact, although, Jesus had a number of altercations with religious leaders of his days, the only time he ever flipped tables  was when he entered the temple in Jerusalem and saw nothing but merchandising. (John 2: 13-17). It was time for the annual Feast of Passover and while every other person saw a "sanctimonious" preparation towards the feast, what Jesus saw was merchandising which was carefully wrapped in a religious festival. He said to them, "my house shall be called a house if prayer but you have turned it to a den of robbers... ( You may check my facebook posts titled "Unmasking Mammon" parts 1 and 2  for details)

Friends, much as it is hard to admit for many, "church business" is real. And many places that you call Church today are the proverbial den of robbers. I have written this with all sense of responsibility. Much of the merchandising is often carefully wrapped in doctrines and pious practices and peddled by respected preachers with pious demeanour. A den of robbers is not immediately obvious. if it is flagrant, then it's no longer a den. It's a place you are being fleeced and you don't even know it. If you are still in doubt of the merchandising going on, then you are naive; very naive. Your ignorance is what makes you a victim of church business.

Some of you are literally pastored by wolves in sheep's clothing. What they do is simple: fleece you in style while you are loving it.  They organise special programs basically to steal from you. They invite their friends/ co-travellers over to preach to you. They would hype him to the highest heaven so as to prepare your simple and trusting mind to receive whatever is coming. When he shows up, he too would do his own hyping of your pastor. "You people don't value what your man of God" ....." he would say. He'd reprogram your mind. He would raise offerings and "seeds" and return with a percentage that has been predetermined. And because one good turn deserves another. He would invite your pastor over to fleece his own sheep 🐑 another time.  It is a gang-up of the pulpits against the vulnerable and unsuspecting pews. 

I know you love the music and the ambience of worship provided. Your favourite gospel artist might even be invited to perform. Many of them are accomplices. But the target remains the same: your pocket. God is not in their drama. Many of you are helping men who are robbing you blind to build their personal ambitions and personal empires thinking you are building the kingdom of God. May your eyes open soon. 

The sad truth is that many perpetrators of religious falsehood will not change. Even if an angel comes down to rebuke them, they will persist.  This is especially true of those who have been held down by the spirit of mammon and have a robust network of association with a clique. Many are hardened. In other words, many systems will never change. 

However, the good news is this. The day you are tired of their shenanigans as a believer in Christ, you can take a walk. The day you are tired of your association with them is the day you find true freedom. Until then, your confusion will continue.  Yes! Take a walk! Let no man deceive you with a phantom Spiritual covering. Spiritual covering is a hoax. It was invented by some Pulpit practitioners to keep you tied down. There's nothing like the "God of this commission". It's a ruse. The early apostles described Him as "the God and the father of our Lord Jesus Christ". Let no one intimidate you with a "commission"

Let no one tie you down with their inordinate and inappropriate application of the popular phrase "forsake not the assembly of yourself together...". That admonition was writtten to those who share a common faith in Christ, not conflicting a one; not syncretism; not a mixture of Christian faith and Judaism. 

There's another admonition that says "come out from among them and be separate"(2 Cor. 6:17). This is a command that many people reading this piece may need to heed. Your heart knows you no longer belong there. Stop forcing yourself on that corrupt and apostate system.

Let me be candid with you.  Many places known as church today are another modified synagogue of the Jews. They practice Judaism in the name of Jesus. What a contradiction. This is why their doctrines and practices are basically ordinances of the old testament. They only talk about Jesus when convenient.

Stop forcing yourself on an institution that has rejected Christ. Stop feeling a need to belong in an institution that you have found to be opposed to Christ. I quite understand your reluctance to quit. I know you feel a need for relevance by association with a known brand. Change is difficult. The early church had their own battle in this area too. They kept going back to the temple where Jesus was rejected by its custodians. They assembled themselves at Solomon's porch until persecution scattered them. Home Church became their forte. In almost all of Paul's missionary journeys, he would be in the synagogues arguing until he would get tired and exit. 

Let me tell you this. Home churches are springing up all over the world. Brethren are having fellowship and enjoying what it means to know Christ as their saviour without the additional baggage of religious burdens. It takes those who are not seeking for relevance in brands to take a position. Your identity is in Christ. Forget big names and big brands once you can't find Christ in them. If you cannot immediately find an assembly around you which is truly Christ's in words and practice, do not  hesitate to settle comfortably for home Church. Nobody needs a crowd to fellowship. Jesus said: "where two or three are gathered in my name, in their midst I am". That is church. 

Stop looking for God in buildings. Stop looking for Christ in the midst of a crowd.  Church is not a social club. It is a family of God's people scattered the world over. 

Somebody needs to get over this business! 

It is a new day!

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