Every time father came out to pray, something had happened – a tenant refused to pay, someone was contesting his land or my brother had lost his atm at school and called home, crying. You see,it was mostly about money,i would jokingly tell my sister, we only remembered God when we needed something.
The poor people’s God liked noises and loud adulations, one would wonder if he were deaf. If not, why would father bellow his praises at the top of his lungs – Yes! He had to be deaf.
The rich people’s God on the other hand is silent, peaceful and swift, if not, why didn’t the rich uncles shout, cry and stamp their feet when they prayed -their God couldn’t be bothered with drama. He made things happen. The poor had to keep crying and crying, for their God was a master himself of the theatrics.
I did a two year diploma course before going on to pursue my LL.B. You see, everyone turned to prayer warriors then -even the ones apportioned a share in their village shrine. You were not politically correct if you were not bible thumping and screaming with the veins throbbing on your neck from the class podium when there was no lecturer in the class. I mean, God forbid you read in the lecture hall – No! Let’s scream to the heavens and bring down the poor people’s God, in case he has his ear blocked with cotton wool from all the noise.
The rules were simple, if you wore make up and had your skirt on your knee or a little higher, woe betide you!- not only would you not make the diploma, you would also miss your automatic ticket to heaven. They were there at the notice board once the results were pasted to confirm that the reason you failed was because you wore lipstick and painted your nails -but, of course. You see, the poor people’s God understood that even when you didn’t read, as long as your skirts were sweeping the floor and dragging on as a bridal train behind you, and you hair? Tightly cropped to your head with no ear rings or a tad of make-up, the question marks on your script (??) would be interpreted as 77 by the people recording results and you would get an A just like that -Hallelujah!
Crossing off to the other side of the spectrum, I noticed another kind of God. The regular students served a different kind of God, the rich people’s God. He wasn’t one to make noise, he liked praises but the roof wasn’t coming down. They prayed to him with a solemn assurance, they knew he’d hear without them shouting and threatening him to do things, or he was no God at all. The rich people didn’t pray as much as the poor – you’d be grateful to see them pray at all.
Beside the office I interned during the summer, was a church and during closing hours, they would serenade us with the sweet melody that was their voices. Right across the street from my house was another church and every Friday night, they held prayers, angry prayers. They hollered and bellowed, jolting me out of my sleep, yet their preacher said they were not doing enough, and then they matched the shouting with the stamping of feet and screams of “Die!” “Send down fire! ” “Die!”
In their choir you didn’t really need to know how to sing, as long as you could scream louder than the drums and speakers, you qualified, even if you sound like a frog.
The rich people were different ,their God was a fashion God, the choir had several changes of clothes to suit their mood – red for when they’re angry in the spirit, blue for when it’s raining and gold for when daddy GO would be visiting -you sha get my point. You just can’t be broke and worship the rich people’s God. You’re encouraged to use your last dime in violent assurance that the coffers will be refilled by faith – or magic, it didn’t matter.
The rich people’s God was all forgiving and a tad too merciful. You could kill the previous day and come to church the next day to bribe him with a large tithe or donation. He forgave at the drop of a hat, you’re allowed to sin as much as you liked and no consequences would follow, as long as you said you’re sorry of course. The rich people understood the kindness of their God, so the ministers didn’t dwell on preaching punishments and consequences, rather riches and prosperity -Pray, tell, the need of putting fear in people, lest you chase them out of the congregation.
The poor people’s God on the other hand was angry, he would Strike you down once you fell into sin – save your apologies for the angel at the gate. Oh, and the millisecond you feel he had forgiven you, you are reminded by brethren with cracked lips and hungry faces, that your punishment would still come because he never forgets. How dare you think you had escaped? They believed their poverty was because of the enormous sins of their grandfather’s neighbour’s daughter’s nephew being visited on them – did he not say he would visit the sins of the father on the children up to the 10th generation? Or was it 12th? It didn’t matter, for they wore their unfortunate circumstances like a tag and when they lost a business opportunity or a job or contract, heaping coals would be sent to the ‘village people’ by way of high-pitched, angry prayers.
Prayers that kept me up all night. They were not free from the money prayers either, you’re threatened with consequences and punishments if you didn’t pay your tithe and offerings. You had to sow seeds concerning every step you took, and if you used your school fees, you are assured that he never forgets his own, and on the day you are sent out of the examination hall for not paying fees, you blame yourself – of course, if you had not slept in your boyfriend’s room the previous night, God would have sent your school fees down on the wings of an angel, but now you have sinned, failure is a small price to pay, compared to the dreaded hell fire. The poor people’s God was angry and vengeful; the rich people’s God, merciful and kind.
The only thing they had in common was their love for money.
By Doris Okoronkwo a.k.a 1Nigeriangirl
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