By Owei Lakemfa
As a child I was taught that the road to heaven is narrow. But that seems to be the teachings of the ancients; now across the world, shepherds are letting their flock know that there are shortcuts, or even flights to heaven. Perhaps the old depended on stars to guide them on the road to heaven while the modern are using Google maps and satellite imaging.
The old idea that the road to heaven is narrow might have been reinforced by Matthew who advised: Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Matthew 7: 13-14). I know it immediately warned us to beware of false prophets, but who am I to judge?
The struggle to get to heaven has been quite intense so much that the old church in Rome used to sell pardons (Remission of sin) to the rich who want the Heavens to forgive and guarantee them a place. But these days, there are several ways to get directly to heaven. Some men of the world reasoned that when Adam and Eve were nude, they communed directly with the Lord. So they came to the conclusion that in this ostentatious world when fashion seems to rule worship centres, and bishops deck in heavy regalia, the best route to heaven is to worship in all nakedness. So nudity rules in their churches.
In the White Tail Chapel, Ivor, Southampton, Virginia, everybody, including the pastor reading the passages, worship completely nude; just the way they were born. Everyone coming to worship in the church must leave all their material possessions, including clothing, behind and worship only in truth and spirit. Wearing apparels in the church was optional until Sunday, August, 2015, when Pastor Allen Parker announced a complete ban.
He explained this mode of worship: “When Jesus was born he was naked, when he was crucified he was naked and when he arose he left his clothes in the tomb and he was naked. If God made us that way, how can that be wrong? I consider this a gift and a privilege God has given me as our members are caring, understanding and they’re community and family oriented. We have one of the most involved chapels any place around.”
When a couple, Katie and Robert, tied the nuptial knots, they did so in complete nudity. So, there was no need for wedding gowns or dresses. That must have significantly reduced costs. Worshiping nude to get closer to the Lord on the way to heaven does not mean they will get to the promised land. But never mind, there are churches and shepherds who now, not only guarantee people going to heaven, but doing so without going by road which may still be narrow. So they sell flight tickets to heaven.
In Zimbabwe, Pastor Tito Watts and wife, Amanda who have been selling flight tickets to heaven for $500 per person are not without customers. What is more: the ticket is inclusive of visa and a straight passage into heaven as it also grants immunity from prosecutions for sins committed on earth. When the police arrested him, Pastor Watts explained that they had the wrong person as he was merely a salesman for Jesus. His followers believe him and stormed the police station demanding that their pastor be freed to continue his evangelical work.
While there are still debates whether the road to heaven is still narrow or has been widened, a shepherd, Pastor David F. Isanga of the Universal Apostle Fellowship Church of Righteousness, Kaliro, Eastern Uganda, assures his flock that they are already citizens of heaven. The pastor asked them to buy plots of land in heaven. He told his followers to sell all their properties, including houses, farms, livestock and lands, give him the money so he can allocate lands to them in heaven. He did not tell them the size of the lands, whether they are serviced plots and if they are upscale property. He also has not revealed how he became an estate agent in heaven and whether he receives commission.
In all the talk about heaven being the final destination of the faithful, people do not appear to want to die. Joe Louis quotation: “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die,” became so famous that it featured in many songs. I also used to think that anyone who goes to heaven never returns. That was until South African Pastor Paseka Motsoeneng, alias “Prophet Mboro,” announced he not only had been on a trip to heaven and returned, but also took photographs using his smartphone! Since he did not say he met people or angels during his trip, he must have taken selfies.
The story did not end there: Mboro is charging those who want to view his heavenly photographs 5,000 rand ($340) each. In all these cases, people negotiate the road to heaven, or like Mboro, go on tourist tours where they take photographs. But Nigerian Pastor Noah Ade Abraham, actually knows where heaven is and charges a ticket fee of N310,000 per entrant. In his well organised three-stage movement to heaven, he established his operational base in Kaduna, a transit camp in Kabba, Kogi State and a departure camp which he calls the Christ High Commission, in Araromi-Ugbesi, Omuo-Oke, Ekiti East Local Government Area of Ekiti State. At the departure camp were 40 persons who had met the financial requirements and were waiting for Jesus to descend and meet them.
However, this is not expected to be a trip as the kingdom will descend on the transit camp and it will be transformed into heaven. So like the Jehovah Witnesses preach, heaven is not where you will ascend to or go on a trip through some narrow road or land on an airport; heaven is right here on earth.
Meanwhile, Pastor Abraham is yoked with earthly matters as the police charged him for allegedly obtaining money “by false pretence and intent to defraud” by claiming he is capable of taking his followers to heaven. But how can ordinary mortals prove that the pastor is lying? It is like the story of a pastor who asked his followers to fast to death in order to go straight to heaven. When charged for making false claims that he is Jesus, he said if the prosecutor doubted him, it should produce the real Jesus.
The basic lesson in all these is that nobody should allow another human being to control his mind.
Owei Lakemfa, a former secretary general of Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), is a human rights activist, journalist, and author.