Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Men of God and divorce
“For I hate divorce, says the Lord”
—Malachi 2: 16
The most trending news in Nigeria at present, apart from that of Ebola and terrorist attacks, is that of the impending divorce of charismatic Pastor Chris Oyakhilome of the Believers’ LoveWorld, better known as Christ Embassy which The Cable broke last Friday, August 29, 2014. Gossips are having a field day. Tongues are wagging. How are the mighty fallen and the weapons of war destroyed? It is not the first time a reverend, pastor, bishop, evangelist or any cleric for that matter will divorce. Unless you’re not on top of the news. It is happening daily. The list is growing both locally and internationally. Incidentally, a neighbour to Pastor Chris at Oregun in the Ikeja area of Lagos and his namesake, Rev. Chris Okotie, has even broken a record by divorcing twice, the last one being in June 2012. Internationally, there was the case of the revered tele-evangelist, Pastor Benny Hinn, who earlier divorced his wife, Suzanne, and later remarried the same wife.
It needs be said that there are several other pastors and clergy out there whose marriages are in the shambles. They are living with their spouses like familiar strangers. Many have not divorced out of sheer fright of scandal. Others are papering over the cracks in their marriages in deference to God’s injunction in Malachi 2 verse 16 cited above while praying and hoping for restoration.
First and foremost, it needs be understood that pastors are human beings. They are mere mortals like you and me. They are only privileged vessels chosen by God to do His work on earth and communicate His mind to us, the laity. Pastors have psychological and physiological needs like the rest of us. They want to be loved, respected and ministered to. I pity those who make God of their spiritual leaders. Who thought they are infallible and are superhuman. Those are the people who are utterly disappointed when a supposed “man or woman of God” falls.
In an article in The Diaspora Star (online edition), Ekerete Udoh while commenting on why pastors are afflicted with divorce has this to say: “Even though they are the very representatives of God on earth, listening to His command and transmitting the same to us, they too can be overwhelmed by the glittering spectacle of the environment, spectacles that daily befuddle our thoughts and confuse our capacity to think clearly and do the things that are edifying; they too can take a pass on the messages they have transmitted to the flock and read from a different script. Even though they daily counsel couples on the way to live with their spouses, to love, cherish and obey their loved ones, they too are not immune from the fissures and complexities that afflict the institution of marriage.” True talk!
Ekerete went further, “Put simply, the institution of marriage as it affects the men and women of God is under assault. Infidelities, divorces and outright emotional cruelties have been reported about cherished men and women of God. Stories of uncontrollable sexual dalliances, of severe addiction to pornography, to adultery abound, leaving the flock to wonder if they indeed are true men and women of God or are spiritual pretenders. In most cases, mega churches built over years of hard work and dedication have collapsed when the congregation couldn’t reconcile the double-ways of the lives of their pastors when the dark sides of their lives came out.” Well said!
I am of the opinion that Pentecostalism is partly responsible for this increasing rate of divorce among pastors. How do I mean? African Traditional Religion and Islam do not frown on polygamy. If you’re an adherent of these two religions, you’re free to marry more than a wife. Also, in many of the orthodox churches, polygamy is not a mortal sin. I know many of the white garment churches like Celestial Church of Christ and Cherubim and Seraphim churches are not against their members or pastors marrying more than a wife. Their main argument is that Bible patriarchs like Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon, to mention a few, had more than one wife. In fact, Solomon, the acclaimed wisest man of his time, had 700 wives and 300 concubines. It is the latter day Pentecostal churches that criminalise polygamy and punishes those who marry more than a wife with excommunication. The Pentecostals are quick to quote scriptures like Genesis 1:27 and 2:24, and 1 Corinthians 7:2 to support their stance.
What has polygamy to do with soaring divorce rate? It is my considered opinion that since the cause of many of the divorce cases is hinged on adultery; peradventure, if the Pentecostals were to allow polygamy, this will reduce cases of adultery and concomitantly, stem cases of divorce. However, a holistic picture of reasons for divorce will show that apart from sex, there is also the element of poverty; that is, a man’s inability to cater to the needs of his family. Many of the common arguments women who sue for divorce cite are adultery, lack of welfare, neglect, molestation, assault and battery or simply put, violence. Though in the case of men of God, the issues often centre on adultery, neglect and psychological violence.
In the earlier cited article by Udoh, he advanced a couple of reasons for the divorces of men of God. This includes tempter ladies who use feminine tricks to sexually compromise men of God. The other factor cited is ego. According to him, a number of marriage counsellors spoken to say the case of the men of God and their marriages present a unique set of challenges: “There are some members within the congregation who are motivated by the need to test the depth of spiritual and moral foundations of these men of God. They will dress provocatively and tempt these pastors with their feminine wiles and looks. Some have been found to have fallen for those temptations and subsequently sacrificed their marriage in the process…”
On the issue of ego, the writer has this to say: “Another issue that has led to the dissolution of most marriages of men of God is ego. Most of these men are used to having people obey every word they utter; they have a severe sense of entitlement and most times do not expect contrary opinions. Unfortunately, they often bring this tendency home to their wives and loved ones, creating in the process alienation, resentment and a deep emotional gulf between them. On the surface, they may cut the picture of happy couples, but inwardly, those outward appearances are facades.”
What is the way out for the clergy? I think they need to watch and pray. They need to come to terms with their weaknesses and try to seek help on time before they are destroyed by their foibles. I like pastors who have taken preemptive measures of not going on visitation without their wives and who counsel people in the open and if in private, in the company of their wives, particularly when counselling ladies. I also appreciate churches that encourage congregants to dress modestly and decently. Beyond these, the congregations need to pray for their pastors. Indeed, we are what we are by God’s divine grace.