The Politics And Religion Of Ransoms: Rendering Unto Caesar The Things That Are Caesar’s - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE

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Saturday, June 4, 2022

The Politics And Religion Of Ransoms: Rendering Unto Caesar The Things That Are Caesar’s

       •Fijabi


| The Daily Crucible | Saturday, June 4, 2022

By Abiodun Fijabi 

“Pray, should we pay taxes to Caesar?”

It was intended as a trap. To say Yes was to accept Caesar’s rule and, perhaps, make him a deity. A No would put Jesus at cross purposes with the ultimate ruler. 

Jesus called them hypocrites. And rightly so. God and reason are not always at loggerheads, except when they should be. To be sure, taxes, not prayers, repair roads, build schools and equip hospitals. Sometimes, the demands of Caesar might be inconvenient, hurtful and even unfair. But you obey all the same, having considered the implications of disobedience. In some circumstances, you choose disobedience. “This is not Caesar’s,” you firmly assert. In the former, your faith excuses your obedience while denying obedience in the latter. It is the way of faith and reason. In essence, faith keeps us on the higher grounds of belief and conduct even when reason suggests otherwise.  It is a no brainer choosing one without the consideration of the other. For how can we know the limit of reason without the triumph of faith? And how can we savour the beauty of faith without the discipline of reason?

So, Caesar should have his taxes. And he doesn’t have to be a deity to enjoy that priviledge. He should even have more, much more. He should have obedience to lawful and reasonable demands. He should also have the respect and honour his office demands. Even then, we should never hesitate to say to Caesar, “This is not yours but God’s.” The question is: who is Caesar? He is the one who has power over you, who can put you in a difficult situation from which you cannot easily extricate yourself. The power may be a force of love or of coercion. Caesar is the armed robber that demands your car key at gunpoint. He is the rapist that overpowers you in the dark corner of a deserted street. In either case, you pray fervently for help. You also assess the situation reasonably in an interplay of faith and reason. In one possible scenario, the chilling sound of a police siren may be the divine intervention you need to save you from the armed robber. In another, it may be the succumbing to the brutal force, while trusting the Lord to keep you safe. You may miraculously overpower the rapist, or you may choose to live to tell the tale of God’s miraculous help for a rape victim. 

Recently, the Prelate of the Methodist Church of Nigeria - His Eminence, ArchBishop Samuel Kanu-Uche - and two of his co-travelers were before their Caesar. The notorious band of eight Fulani herdsmen had made them trek for several hours in the wilderness and under the cover of the night. Their Caesar showed them the gully of dead bones of victims that had failed to render unto Caesar the things that were Caesar’s. Tortured, wounded and desecrated, the Prelate engaged his Caesar as we should all do ours. He negotiated the ransom and their release. Meanwhile, the Church and the nation were praying. In a matter of hours, N130 million was raised, out of which N100 million was rendered to Caesar in five sacks of N20 million each. 

After their release, the Prelate in a press conference announced that their release was made possible by God that enabled the Church to pay the negotiated ransom. Before then, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State had attributed the release of the Prelate within 24 hours “to the grace of God, the fervent prayers of the Christian community and the well coordinated response from security agencies in Abia State.” He was right about the grace of God and the fervent prayers of the Christian community. However, the well coordinated response from the security agencies the Governor spoke about only existed in his fertile imaginations. It was a mere political grandstanding designed to give a false impression of security in an obviously dangerous environment. 

Simply put, the Prelate rendered unto Caesar what was Caesar’s, despite being aware of the National Assembly’s attempt to criminalize ransom payment and the tough but empty boasts of “well coordinated response from the security agencies”. In essence, there were two Caesars the Prelate faced. One Caesar was the fearless and the seemingly invincible band of abductors he was locked in with in the wilderness and in the dark of the night. The other Caesar was the government, whose representatives were asleep in comfortable mansions, oblivious of and detached from the existential security threat the nation was wallowing in. Another set of representatives of this Caesar were on the streets harassing and extorting from traders, motorists and any young person with evidence of means. 

The Prelate pragmatically chose his Caesar. And he rendered to him the things that were his. By doing so, he wittingly or unwittingly refused to render his trust and confidence in the promised protection of the other Caesar. He is alive to tell the story without shame. If anyone should be ashamed, it would be the other Caesar, whose security policies are long on promise and short on performance.

Engr Abiodun Fijabi is a prolific writer, public speaker and trainer.


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