Monday, November 10, 2014

true fifty years ago, and still true today - h.rap an'em cats were literally too smart to move the crowd...,

bbc |  Many religious leaders in Africa are regarded as superstars. 

Take the pastors of Nigeria's mega-churches, for example. Their meetings pack stadiums across the continent. Their books are bestsellers in a society that is frequently accused of having a poor reading culture. 

And in a country that lays claim to a huge percentage of Africa's most acclaimed moguls, entertainment personalities and intellectuals, the Facebook and Twitter pages with some of the highest number of followers are those of pastors. 

A 2010 survey by the US-based Pew Research Center shows that "the vast majority of people in many of Africa's nations are deeply committed to the practices and major tenets of Christianity and Islam". Some 87% of Nigerians surveyed said religion was very important in their lives - compared with 19% in the UK. 

Heads of State and other top government officials seek audiences with prominent clerics - referred to as "men of god" - sometimes circulating photographs of these encounters possibly as evidence of divine validation. 

Hawkers peddle pirated DVDs of their sermons alongside Hollywood blockbusters and the massively popular Nollywood films. 

Rivalling Achebe
Telecommunications companies offer ringtones in the form of prayers recorded in their voices. At one time or another, some pastors have taken steps to distance themselves from bulk text messages sent out in their names. 

Text message instructions from renowned clerics are usually taken seriously in Nigeria, often going viral. They could be anything from a call to communal prayer at a specific time, or an injunction against retaliatory violence. 

I sometimes joke that if the leaders of Nigeria's five largest churches merely hint that no-one should have anything further to do with Chinua Achebe, the author's fan base and book sales in his home country would instantly, unquestionably plunge and his works would eventually be struck off the national curriculum, regardless of how widely acclaimed he is around the world.

The pastors are sometimes accused of making themselves into gods. 

But the matter may be largely out of their hands. One might as well castigate Michael Jackson or Oprah Winfrey or The Beatles for being worshipped by their fans. 

Some observers view the power and popularity of religious leaders as a problem.