The possibility of separating
politics from religion
March 12, 2015
The Overseer and General Manager of High
Praise Tabernacle Church, Rev. Dr. Adjei
Mensah, has disparaged Rev. Prof Matey, the
Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of
Ghana, for mixing politics with religion.
This raises a question about religion and
politics in general. Can the two be kept
separate in Ghana and who among these two
religious leaders knows the difference?
Rev Dr. Mensah criticized Rev. Prof
Martey on a radio talk show in the following manner:
"The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of
Ghana is ...more of a politician than a man
of God," he said.
Dr. Mensah's accusation was in response to
what the Moderator was purported to have said in a sermon "
that some politicians were deliberately
stoking a nonexistent Christian-Muslim war
to divert attention from the worsening power
Dr. Mensah continued, “If Rev Martey believes he is
a righteous man he can enter his closet and
pray a faith prayer which will change the
course of Ghana, but attacking the
president, insulting [him] every time is not
Not preaching from "his closet," therefore
not a "righteous man"? Well, how about the
view that Dr. Mensah's response was not made
from the " closet" either, but rather from
the national airwaves?
The answer perfectly sums up my view of Dr.
I take umbrage at the implied insult of not
being a "righteous man." It is not polite.
And worse, it betrays a rancor that is more
partisan than churchly; same accusation he leveled at Rev. Martey.
As an academic,
Dr. Mensah could have raised the issue on
theological grounds, in a letter to
the Christian Council or the Presbyterian
Church. Perhaps, he did. But I doubt
because if he did, he wouldn't suddenly have
gone public with the issue.
Furthermore, his challenge for Rev. Martey
to fix the broken down Presbyterian schools
omitted the fact that it was government's
interference that reduced mission's
schools to the present condition.
Would Dr. Mensah raise this issue on his own with the
The Presbyterian Mission Schools that Dr.
Martey represents has a legendary history
dating back to early or
mid 19th century. Should we assume that High
Praise Tabernacle Church has the same
Still, some civility is required here,
certainly among pastors, since insults have become the common
dialect among our politicians. For this to
become the blatant style among our
pastors means there is
trouble ahead for whole nation.
But back to the main theme. Does Dumsor deserve a
theological comment from a pulpit? Obviously,
because of its manifestation of the spiritual stress
it puts on people, it does. A refutation of
the false alarm on Christian/Muslim
conflict is also evidently
a theological necessity. Raising a
specter of Christian/muslin conflict just to
quell the crisis of Dumsor is not only
stupid. It is dangerous and explosive.
One cannot keep
religion out of politics these days, anymore
than one can prevent his or her lungs from
breathing in the air around. Otherwise, only
bootlickers and fake faith-healers would
mount the pulpit.
God's work on earth must be
done at our level, before the
deserving get to heaven. And no pastor
Still, nothing must prevent Dr. Mensah from
making his observations on Dr. Martey known
to the Christian community. But he is yet to explain
rationally why this Moderator, in the face of
a national disaster like Dumsor, should
remain silent on the subject.
The government already knows that Dumsor is a
disaster. All of us, including the
Moderator, have civic obligations to
criticize and push for
solution to this nightmare. But, apparently,
Dr. Mensah would rather have Rev. Martey
remain silent because as a pastor, he
should have no role in politics.
Would Dr. Mensah know that keeping an
opponent silent in this manner is the job of
politicians and political parties? Well, he
has already done the job, run interception
for the government.
Somewhere in life, politics and religion do
sacred cannot stay out of commenting on
the failings of the secular.
Governance attracts amoral
pursuits like corruption. Do the Overseer and
his church have concerns about these?
The edict "Render unto Caesar the things
that are Caesar's, and unto God the things
that are God's" would have sufficed had
government not taken over so many areas of
our lives in the modern age.
Caesar has transformed
himself into a god. Therefore the
religious need not be
reticent about all secular matters.
Rev. Martey spoke because he was
the government's inability to ameliorate the suffering of
Ghanaians brought about by Dumsor. His
sermon was not an interference of governance, the process
by which the affairs of a country is
Dumsor has taken too long to
fix and it is causing havoc in Ghanaian
lives; deaths, serious set back in the
economy, holding back future prospects for
the youth and corruption of hope for the
living are some of the consequences. So, if by this time
a true religious leader is not moved by
the immorality underlying these sufferings,
then he or she ought not to be deemed righteous.
This leader could continue to stand in the pulpit and watch
the flock dance to
the front of the pew to drop their
Has Dr. Mensah so far said anything publicly about
The notion that religious leaders ought to
respond to the societal as well as spiritual
needs of a people is not restrictive to a
particular faith because the act refers to the underlying
goodness that most religions embrace. It is
this goodness that some theologians through
sermons seek to impact on governance.
I grew up knowing some pastors
Presbyterian Church who were outspoken on
social issues. This practice is
historical and universal - dating back from the days of
the Prophet Jeremiah to those of our ancestors of the indigenous religion.
As a protestant
church, the Presbyterian Church had a beginning that spoke against
political power. The Ninety-Five Theses of
Martin Luther, and the resulting Reformation
movement, had theological concerns at its
core but many of them were also political.
There are copious examples in
recent age of church leaders taking on civil
society - Martin Luther King, Jr. and Pope
John Paul II for example.
Perhaps, Dumsor affects the flock at High Praise Tabernacle Church
in the same manner as it does the rest of
us. But its Overseer and General
manager prefers to be silent on the matter.
E. Ablorh-Odjidja, Publisher,
www.ghanadot.com, Washington, DC, March 12,
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