Religion, Routine, Reality, and Responsibility. Lessons Of COVID-19 
One of the principles I cultivated early is to select my fights. I always ask myself, “Is this fight worth it? Do I need to fight this fight? Can I win this fight? Even if I win this fight, at what cost will it be, and what benefits will accrue to me and society?
I try as much as possible to do a cost-benefit analysis at evaluating the strength of my adversary.
Lesson 1 – A Dynamic Decade.
Lesson 2 – The Death of Abba Kyari—Nigerians Hardly Learn.
Lesson 4 – The Nigerian Army, Police Force, And Citizenry.
Lesson 7 – The Tragedy Of Life And Living.
I grew up to meet a religious crisis in Ireland between Catholics and Protestants; then I was in medical school. There were bombings, kidnappings, and assassinations.
There is the Arab/Israeli crisis that involved several hijackings, assassinations, bombings, and recurrent wars even till date. The underlying issue in the Middle East crisis is religious, even though land is often put in the front burner.
The wars in the Levant–Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Kuwait–are predominantly conflicts between different sects of Islam–the Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites, Sufis, Druze, Christians, and other religious groups.
The disagreement between India and Pakistan is not without its own religious undertone, starting from independence and the partitioning of India into Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the present India.
The battles by ISIS, Taliban, and other Islamic fundamentalists are aimed at instituting a purer or more conservative form of Islam. They are fighting for God.
There was the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda (in 1987) led by one crazy fellow, Joseph Kony, who is currently believed to be hiding in South Sudan.
It is an established fact that religion has led to so many deaths in history, even from the time of The Inquisition, when people were fed to wild animals because of the privileges we now enjoy in Christianity. Those who killed them thought they were serving God. In fact, some people fight jihads thinking they will be rewarded in paradise with seven virgins; I often wonder who gives birth to the virgins waiting for them.
I have been watching Muslims and Christians, in particular, antagonise government efforts at containing the spread of the coronavirus, all over the world.
In South Korea, a fringe Christian sect refused to shut down their churches and subject themselves for tests. Several of their members died; but before then, they had spread the virus to several people. They were partly responsible for several deaths in South Korea.
In Israel, the ultra Orthodox Jewish group accounted for 40% of the infections of COVID-19. Ironically, they live in the poorest parts of Jerusalem. They prefer to obey their religious leaders instead of the government and scientists. Several of them have died from COVID-19 complications, even in Israel.
In the United States, a bishop boasted that his God was bigger than coronavirus and disregarded government directives not to hold services. He was infected with the coronavirus and he died. Several of his family members and church members got infected and some died. God did not prevent them from dying.
About 30 bishops and senior pastors of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), a predominantly black Pentecostal church, have died of the coronavirus infection. They refused to follow government instructions.
Churches and mosques have been closed. However, I hear pastors saying that if markets are opened, why can’t churches be opened? The irresponsibility of Nigerian government officials to properly organise markets should not make pastors follow suite.
Some of them would say, “Where are the Idahosas?” Papa Idahosa was my Archbishop; he was a very wise man, and I’m very certain he would not expose his members to unnecessary risks and cause disobedience. The Catholic Church, in Nigeria and globally, closed down their churches. The MFM (Mountain of Fire and Miracles) churches shut down their churches, because their leader is a medical scientist; he knows the risks involved.
There are some members of the Islamic faith in the northern part of Nigeria that are still disobeying the orders of Islamic leaders and State Governments. And then, I hear Christians complaining of different rules for different regions and people.
Coronavirus is an Impartial Rewarder of Them That Diligently Seek It.
The Secretary General of Islamic Affairs in Nigeria, Prof Ishaq Oleyede, just said on Channels TV that Islam is a flexible religion, and does not live in the mosques. He said that the mosque is not a shrine, and there is no specific way to pray.
The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Plateau State was an imam who came from Kano. Imagine how many people that he would have infected.
The mixture of ignorance, poverty, and religion is a very dangerous combination.
Why do you want to fight a battle you did not initiate? God is able to defend Himself. Most times, I think that many religious leaders are either ignorant of their faith, or the law, or are desperate or selfish.
It would have been extreme foolishness for Joseph to have remained in Israel after God warned him in a dream to run to Egypt. He did not wait till dawn to debate with his family before he ran. Run from some fights; coronavirus has no respect.
Religion is founded on routine and regimentation; that’s why poverty and fanaticism is usually among the poor and in poor societies. Religion makes you reason in a box. but the knowledge of the truth sets you free.
Tragedy Of Overzealous Worshipers. 2 Samuel 6:1-23
The Ark of God was taken into captivity by the Philistines, but God, on His own, broke the hands, legs, and neck of the god of the Philistines, Dagon. The Philistines personally put the ark in a wooden chariot, driven by oxen to return it to the Israelites. The nursing animals left their young and had to go to in the direction of Israel.
At a point, the oxen slipped on the threshing floor and stumbled, and Uzah stretched his hand to steady the Ark. God killed him for irreverent behaviour.
- The people of Israel could not prevent the Ark from being captured by the Philistines.
- It was God, Himself, that defeated Dagon in His own way and timing.
- God took control of the minds and emotional attachments of the oxen to their calves.
- You do not carry the Ark on a cart or put the burden on animals. The Ark was meant to be carried on poles on the shoulders of the priests.
- The Ark was to be carried on the shoulders, so that it will be taller than our heads, egos, and visibility.
- God did not solicit for the help of a man to stop the ark from falling, Just like Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it.
- God could tolerate the Philistines touching the Ark, but He would not tolerate the Israelites, who should have known better.
Those who should have known better suffer more pain and shame. Remember the professor at University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, who was treating a COVID-19 patient at home? I don’t know what has happened to him, but he was disgraced.
You do not compete in recklessness, ignorance, and irresponsibility.
Part of the reasons pastors and religious organisations all over the world have been subjected to ridicule and insults is that we want to be taller than the ‘Ark of God’. We, religious leaders, are more like superstars; we displayed conspicuous consumption and extravagance. Islamic leaders became institutions greater than the government. Remember El Zakzaky, and even the Boko Haram founder and his successor.
I have repeatedly stated that we must all be humble as religious groups, and reflect on what is happening globally. We must realise that religious organisations are registered by governments, and they are regulated by government.
May the next wave of community transmissions not be from religious organisations, particularly in the northern part of Nigeria. Social distancing and respect for the rules set by the government, is a sign of responsibility.
Stay safe and God bless you.
Read the next Lesson: Trust: The Missing Ingredient in Nigeria.