Questioning Belief: A Skeptic's Journey Through a Service at Rev. Dr. Chris Oyakhilome's Church
The choir had rendered songs that uplifted my spirit and were now exiting the podium one person at a time from the right, and no sooner had the worship leader descended the steps of the podium than the projected screen on the wall at my right flickered on and steady with the testimony. It was an Indian who claimed to have been suffering from a spinal spasm that caused him loads of pain. According to him, he had tried physiotherapy five or so times, but nothing worked. He was faced with the choice of going in for surgery, but as he recounted, the risks were much. Then he heard of the Healing Stream of Rev. Dr. Chris Oyakhilome and decided to engage. And on one of the streams he got lucky: As he confirmed, "The man of God said words on my situation and I was free."
His Indian accent hurt my ears, but I needed to hear every word he was saying. First, when he began to give his testimony, he was sitting, with something that looked like some wrap from band around his stomach. Perhaps there was a name for it, but I wasn't any doctor. I wanted to ask the slim guy, whose clothes smelt like worn-again clothes that were now damp, whether anyone could confirm that the Indian guy was saying the truth. Yes, he has given the testimony, but how could we know that he had the said illness before the supposed miracle? Since there wasn't any medical record from a reputable hospital confirming the said condition, how could anyone be sure of any miracle that supposedly took place?
This section has ended. Three individuals–a guy and two girls–ascended the podium, each on their pulpits. The sister on the left from where I was sitting urged the guy to share with the congregation how Loveword Streams had changed his life.
He began, "I started watching the Loveword Streams" in 2020. In fact, let me share with you some of "the truths" our pastor [Rev. Dr. Chris Oyakhilome] said that changed my life. First, is how the COVID-19 pandemic was a hoax, how 5G internet connection is the plan of Satan who is buying himself more time", and the sister on the left confirmed how "we all have been lied to about fluorine in toothpaste– how they kill us."
I just wanted to interrogate each of these claims. I wanted to know how exactly does fluorine kill us? Was it excess of it? If someone took too much alcohol, became drunk, and misbehaved–is the problem alcohol in and of itself or drunkenness? How could the 5G internet connection have been a lie from the antichrist to deceive the people of God? Just how different is the network connection from the 4G network connection with which the pastor is streaming his gospel? So many questions.
But before then, a documentary had streamed on the projected stream on the wall, right from where I was sitting, in which the pastor was against transhumanism—the development and research on the technologies that will enhance humanity. In the documentary, the pastor showed developments in artificial intelligence, biochemistry, biomedical technology, and cyborg. The development featured a biocompatible eye that could enable humans to not only zoom in on what they see but also to have perfect night vision, artificial limbs that could enable amputees to have yet another limb, gene editing that could enable researchers to engineer humans to be resistant to life-threatening illnesses. Rev. Dr. Chris Oyakhilome thought all these were deception.
Usually, when you want to analyze anything, there are certain authorities you have to read. In this case, I hoped to read the arguments in peer-reviewed articles and the opinion of researchers whose research interests are in the extensive field of transhumanism. Instead, the pastor only shared the opinions of people who did not understand the field well, if at all, people who only said the negative things the development of the discipline will do to humans. He went on to conclude, using, of course, the cut-and-join, out-of-context Bible verses that the discipline of transhumanism was unscriptural, and hence would anger God. What was even more perplexing was how the congregation in which I was sitting cheered him on. So many times I asked myself if I were in oz—"Like how did I come here."
The young lady had met me at the spot I normally sat in the evening to watch people as they pass by. Before then, while she and her brethren were setting up their equipment for evangelism, she came to ask me if she could borrow the signboard from the shop, in the front of which I was sitting, for projection. I only replied, "I'm not the owner; I'm just here to catch some air." The next time she came, my eyes were on my phone, and she asked if she could share the word of God with me. I said, "Yes!" She already made herself comfortable on the dwarf fence where I was sitting. You know how it is—she told me that God loves me so much so to have sacrificed himself for my sins, and other sanitized evangelical semiotics. When she asked me whether I was ready to give my life to Christ, I had many questions already from all she had said. For example, "If God is omniscient, how could He not have known that Satan would deceive His creation and not create Satan in the first place? If God is omnipotent, why couldn't He erase the memories of our sins from existence; why the need for Jesus's Sacrifice? Why does He sit by and watch evil overtake His creation even when He has the power to stop it? If "everything" and "every power" come from God, why did He create evil alongside good? Man wouldn't have been tempted if there was nothing to tempt him on."
As you probably might have thought, the young lady invited me to her church service. According to her, all my questions would be answered. It sounded like a fair answer to me. Given her ability to engage with my perspective, I thought I should reward her with my presence in the Sunday service. I thought to myself that even though my questions might not be answered, at least I could enjoy the worship session. So when I alighted, I had my water bottle full because I thought I would need the content after singing at the top of my lungs. I didn't know that I would be dehydrated from disinformation, orchestrated to suspend common sense and critical thinking.
The pastor of the branch I attended confirmed my fear—that is, to suspend critical thinking and common sense when dealing with the word of God—which, for me, couldn't be more slippery and remote from any form of accountability. I must confess, the student pastor looked suave in the oxblood trousers, white shirt, and brownish-ash blazer. His slim tie was of the appropriate length; the red corsage reminded me of chaps attending a night of modern-day gay frivolities, and the pocket-filler matched the corsage. No doubt the pastor was jolly taken care of, and a haughty, too, I must add. His posterior was well rounded and his legs a bit bow-leggy at the hip. He could be the nucleus of my fantasy if I indulged myself.
But when these overzealous sisters–who stood up and wriggle their butts in "prayer", especially the one in the front row that shouted, "Yes sir; I hear you sir!", after each sensationalistic but empty catchy sentence, even when it wasn't necessary–marketed themselves, I knew I couldn't win in the competition.
Anyway, I could concentrate on the pastor's physical endowment and forget the disinformation and biased documentary thoroughly fabricated to brainwash and disarm. What he needed for a member was a sheep, and I wasn't one. I just sat and watched as everybody spoke in tongues. The auditorium was filled with cacophony as members of the congregation, especially the girls, screamed, twirled, and clapped their hands. I didn't go to be welcomed as a new member because I knew that today was the last time. While I went back home, I couldn't help but ask: If God didn't need us to use our brains, why did we have it to begin with? If we couldn't use the critical thinking capacity that education afforded us, why were we getting educated in the first place? Again, so many questions, but too few answers. Happy Sunday!