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It is a tough task for anyone to defend Pastor TB Joshua these days. Just when you think the worst is over for him, he plunges into more self-destruct. His latest misadventure was needless. Though many Nigerians keenly followed the US presidential election, I am not sure anyone expected any significant change in our fortunes or misfortunes no matter who won. We liked the drama, the twists and turns, the scandals, the accusations and counteraccusations, the debates and permutations. In some way, the US election reminded us of what we are not. The transparency and perhaps the entertainment value provided us some respite from the gloom and doom that have become our reality.
But for Joshua, this was an opportunity to shine and redeem an image that has taken a bashing on many fronts in recent times. Obviously relying on polls and media coverage that gave it overwhelmingly to the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, the man of God as we call them here declared that God had showed him that the next President of the United States would be Clinton. To be fair to the prophet, he really did not categorically mention the name Hilary Clinton. What he said was that a woman would win. So, I have been trying to make excuses for our embattled prophet but I must confess that the more I try, the more my logic flies in the face of common sense.
So, what if Joshua was merely speaking in parables? Do we not know that men of God do not speak literal language? Are we not aware of the several parables Jesus told which even confounded the supposedly learned Pharisees and Sadducees of his time? Has it not occurred to many of us that Joshua might have been speaking in parables when he said a woman would win the US election? Maybe, the prophet’s message was that we might have a sitting male President in Donald Trump but the buttons of power would be pushed behind the scenes by a woman – maybe Melania, his wife, or Ivanka, his daughter. Did we not see that Ivanka sat in at his recent meeting with the Japanese leader? Maybe, this is what the prophet meant when he said we do not operate at his spiritual frequency and therefore cannot understand spiritual messages laden in parables. Well, this prophesy did not sound like a parable. Joshua said a woman would win. He did not say a woman would wield great power over the sitting president. If that was the case, why didn’t he say so especially as he knew he was talking to spiritual infants that need spoon feeding. Again, does Trump’s personality suggest in anyone’s wildest imagination that he would be a puppet for anyone? Far from it. So, my argument that this prediction might have just been a parable of some sort clearly falls flat against any reasonable logic. But I did not give up.
So, what if the man of God was merely referring to the popular votes which won? In this case, his explanation might be that the US Electoral College was unknown to the spiritual realm where he operates. In fact, Joshua toed this line in the face of social media backlash after it emerged that Clinton had lost. The argument was not only laughable, it worsened a bad situation as many thought it was proof of how naïve these so-called religious leaders think we are. How can a man who was so specific to the point of predicting that the female winner of the election would have problems working with the US Congress when she assumes office, then turn around with this electoral versus popular vote nonsense?
As I thought more about the US Electoral College system, it dawned on me that maybe, we have been too hasty in concluding that the election had been won and lost. Technically, the votes of the people do not directly elect the President of the US. It is the Electoral College electors that elect the President. Since the election results were announced, there’s been some talk about a possible revolt by the electors in the Electoral College who will formally vote on December 19. What if 37 electors decide to desert Trump to deprive him of his majority Electoral College lead? Joshua would have been proved right. But wait a minute, even in the event of a most unlikely Electoral College revolt, the Presidency would not automatically be handed over Clinton but it would deprive Trump of 270 votes and then throw the election to the GOP-controlled House of Representatives. Will the Republicans throw away this lifetime opportunity and proclaim Clinton, President? Well, this is quite possible in dreamland, not today’s America.
In my desperate bid to defend the prophet, I asked myself more questions. What if this prophet truly heard from God and somehow God changed His mind? Have we not read in the Bible of instances where God sent prophets to deliver a particular message only to change His mind and cause the prophet much embarrassment?
Jonah was one such prophet. We all know the popular Sunday School story of how Jonah tried to avoid prophesying to the people of Nineveh but got swallowed by a fish that eventually berthed him on the shores of Nineveh after three days and three nights. Jonah eventually delivered God’s message to the people of Nineveh that they will be destroyed for their wickedness and sinful life. It did not happen. The people prayed and even compelled all their animals and pets to fast. God spared them but Jonah was so embarrassed that he begged God to take his life for “it is better for me to die than to live,” he said (Jonah 4: v2)
As if Joshua was reading my mind, he was recently reported as telling his congregation that God simply changed his mind following the prayer of the American people. The Republicans heard that a notable cleric in Nigeria had prophesied a Clinton victory. So, just like the people of Nineveh declared total prayer to avert the wrath of God, the Trump camp declared total fasting and prayers to avert a Clinton victory. How ridiculous. So, in the last three weeks, Joshua has given three explanations of the same prophecy. First, he tried to deny the reality that he had goofed by making the popular votes argument; then, he declared that we do not operate in his spiritual wavelength and cannot therefore understand his message. The latest is that God changed his mind after one group of supporters prayed.
These must be tough times for the cleric’s Public Relations and reputation management team. It is about time they told him to keep quiet and save what’s left of his depleting personal brand equity. It is tough enough to defend a prophet who claimed he could see the winner of the US election but could not even foresee the collapse of parts of his church building which led to the death of several worshippers and then he turned around and blamed the tragedy on a hovering aircraft within the church airspace.
As illogical as this hovering aircraft argument sounds, the teeming worshippers at the Synagogue may have swallowed it hook line and sinker. Just as they would have swallowed the popular votes theory, the story about God changing His mind and anything else that proceeds from the mouth of Prophet Joshua. They would tell you how a prophet is with honour except in his home; how the Lord commands us to “touch not His anointed and do His prophet no harm”. And don’t be surprised if these are some of the most popular biblical verses in your church. Our religious leaders know their flock and they strategically propagate these self-serving verses for a reason. It’s the only way they can get away with murder.
- Ogunbor wrote in from Lagos via firstname.lastname@example.org