63. Why we must safeguard our authority jealously – religious
63. Why we must safeguard our authority jealously – religious

63. Why we must safeguard our authority jealously – religious

In the past weeks, I have focused on various reasons we need to safeguard our authority as a Church. As I recap, I explored the ecclesiological, Christological, sociological, political, and moral reasons. Today’s post begins the religious reason. As my reflection on the political reason extended for eight weeks and was controversial, posts on the religious reason will be extensive and perhaps, more controversial.  

As a prelude, sociologists identify four aspects of religion that help to gauge religiosity—belief, ritual, experience, and community. Religious belief concerns the intellectual understanding of religious knowledge. This includes belief in a Supreme being or supernatural beings; belief in the power of prayer, life after death, miracles, and good and evil spirits. Religious ritual concerns those symbolic activities which represent religious beliefs, for instance, mass and the celebration of the sacraments. Religious experience entails our “subjective involvement with the sacred”. A religious community is a group of believers. I will use extensively these four aspects of religion in my analysis.

In her article “From Obligation to Consumption: A Framework for Reflection in Northern Europe”, the British sociologist of religion, Grace Davie, argues that the postmodern religious trend in northern European countries is a shift from obligation to consumption. In other words, people tend to go to church because they have a particular need to fulfil (consumption) and do not feel obliged to keep on belonging to that religious organisation or participating in their activities if it no longer fulfils their need (obligation)[1].

Her argument is relevant to my thesis because the fulfilment of needs (consumption) summarises the classic reasons—insecurity, uncertainty, and scarcity—that are foundational to our traditional religion. The difference between our traditional religion and authentic Christianity is that Christ came primarily for spiritual salvation without neglecting salvation for our temporal needs. The salvation of our temporal needs is the point of departure for traditional religion, although there is the need to live a good life so that, at death, one can cross over to the realm of the ancestors (heaven).

However, as contemporary Christianity in Africa is largely influenced by traditional religion, the shift from obligation to consumption is now pervasive. Religion today is seen as a commodity and people shop at religious denominations they believe will provide their temporal needs without really belonging to that denomination. This is why people are always on the move from one church or even one religion to another. 

Therefore, the religious reason we need to safeguard our authority jealously is that religion is increasingly becoming a commodity in Nigeria. Simply being the true Church and having the Eucharist are no longer sufficient to keep our members except we actively work towards keeping them.

In the coming weeks, I will explore various themes relating to the various aspects of religion for the Church in Nigeria.

Ka Chineke mezie okwu🙏🏾


[1] Grace Davie (2005) From Obligation to Consumption: A Framework for Reflection in Northern Europe, Political Theology, 6:3, 291-294, available at URL: https://doi.org/10.1558/poth.

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