African Body Adorned in Christian Garb: A Study of the Prayers of Cherubim and Seraphim Church in Nigeria.

Author:Fabarebo, S.I.
Position:Report

The Gospel message must remain the focal point of every missionary activity and must be presented in its full splendour and not weakened in any way but rather adorned, enriched and made more intelligible and attractive by the use of whatever is good, just and beautiful that is found in the cultural heritage of a people.--Ezeanya, S.K: 1969 Introduction

Professor Wall (1982) has excellently demonstrated the astonishing powers of cultural environments on the gospel, in its itinerant journeys around the globe, so much so that the same Christianity practiced in the different cultural climates are distinctly marked in time and space. The Cherubim and Seraphim Church movement in Nigeria was founded by Moses Orimolade Tunolase in 1925. The principal object of this paper is to unravel the Yoruba cultural elements in the prayers of Cherubim and Seraphim and to state emphatically that in seeking a home for Christianity in Africa, only those elements in African culture with biblical support should find endorsement. Any practice or belief in C&S that is hostile to scriptures should be outrightly rejected, and must never be sanctioned in the guise of adaptation or inculturation theology. Cherubim and Seraphim prayers are x-rayed in this paper, both the ones acceptable and the ones too culturally accented to be called Christian prayers.

The writer has employed anthropological method to gather data through interviews and participatory method in the service of C and S Church across Bauchi, Plateau, Osun, Ekiti, Lagos and Ondo States of Nigeria for more than ten years. Phenomenological method is then employed to systematize and give interpretative depth to our findings.

Cultural and Conceptual Background

Religion has been defined as the "recognition on the part of man of some higher unseen power as having control of his destiny, and as being entitled to obedience, reverence and worship (Little, 1970). "Submission to God' is a generic form of religion because there is no connection to a geographical location, tribe [i.e., ethnic group] or a person" (Ibn-Stanford, 2017). Religion is therefore a relationship between the transcendent and humanity and is perceived as an awesome but fascinating mystery, to which man is "owes total submission and an absolute obedience" (Otto, 1959). Religion therefore asserts "Your will be done" to the ultimate.

Magic on the other hand is:

a supernaturalistic behaviour involving the control of supernatural forces by human beings through acts and formulas that reach natural goals if properly followed. (Metuh, 1987) Magic is a technique by which humanity recognizing the supernatural powers that pervade the universe, utilizes and controls these powers for their ends, whether for good or for bad (Dopamu, 1977). Magic asserts "my will be done". According to Frazer (1913), magic acts by the principles of "like produces like", or "an effect resembles its cause".

It is difficult to clearly delineate magic and religion. Humanity may seek not to submit and obey the transcendent but to dominate and control it. This is magic in its various forms. Religion in life situations may be found to fall anywhere in a continuum which runs from pure religion to pure magic with the frontiers of both shading into each other (Metuh, 1992).

While religion appeals to the ultimate to satisfy humanity's needs, magic exploits the hidden elemental forces in nature to achieve the goals. Awolalu says Religion is exoteric, that is, it is open to all: but magic is esoteric, that is, closed to the novice. So much for all these differences. But religion and magic, at least, in African understanding are so interlocked that one fails to know when one passes from one realm to another. Mbiti (1969) enthuses:

Magic is part of the religious background and it is not easy to separate the two. Magic belongs to the religious mentality of African peoples. Idowu is also of the same opinion when he says magic and religion have a common origin (Idowu, 1973). To the African man or woman, religion and magic bear similar relics. To a large extent, their magical outlook which is in turn responsible for traditional religious affirmation shapens and reshapens their entire world outlook. Magic and religion are the necessary devices to confront and to master the complications of life. The Yoruba is a practical person who detests an indolent God. Their God and religion exist for their welfare. No honoured place is allotted to alien concepts like salvation, eschatology or eternal bliss. The paradise is here and now. Therefore, the Yoruba largely subject magic and religion to pragmatic and utilitarian" uses (Awolalu, 1979). This traditional philosophy of Yoruba religion, knowing, explaining, and controlling the future has merely been transplanted to Christianity. It is no wonder, therefore, that this traditional, sympathetic magical complexion is so profusely employed in contemporary Christian prayers, generally in Africa, and particularly in Yorubaland. This element is prominently featured in all Christian denominations, but much more so in independent movements.

Incantation or spell is the vocalized dimension, verbal art, and the voice of magic. On the other hand, prayer is the voice of religion. In this paper we shall expose...

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