On Sunday in my Church, a baby was dedicated. After the service a group of us members of the congregation of varying ages (but none older than 40) stood together bantering and munching the cake that mother of the dedicated baby had brought to mark the occasion. The subject that dominated our discussion was children and babies and we were having fun ribbing one another. One of us, a man, said to another, a woman who with two small children: “God is seeing twins in your future” to which the woman replied “If I hear, This shop has closed, and there is no opening it again” Then somebody else replied “Haba! Why are you not claiming the blessings of God? Did God not tell Abraham to be fruitful and multiply?” To which the woman retorted “Abeg! When God made that declaration, Buhari had not yet plunged the Nigerian economy into recession.” That gave us a good laugh.
That reminded me of when my siblings and I were teenagers and my paternal grandmother (who died in 2013) used to visit us. We looked forward to these visits because grandma was a storyteller and could be counted on to bring new gist all the time. Her favourite stories to tell always start with the words “If you ever get a girl pregnant or a man gets you pregnant, please no abortions, bring the baby, I can take care of it.” What would follow will be the story of the latest naming ceremony she attended, usually that of a sixteen year old boy who got a fourteen year old girl pregnant . Of course at the time we were still a bunch of teenagers. so we found the stories hilarious and ribbed ourselves mercilessly about them.
As I grew into my twenties and understood more about social issues, I started to wonder why my Grandma saw teenage pregnancy as something to be happy about instead of the social problem that it really is. At first I chalked it up to the fact that since she didn’t have much education, she didn’t fill her heads with the newfangled ideas about girl child education and all that. It was when I grew even older that I came to understand that her outlook was not a matter of education, it was a matter of values. My Grandma married my grandpa at eighteen and gave birth to her first son (my Dad) a year later. So being a teenage mother herself (albeit an older one) at a time where nobody batted an eyelid about it, teenage pregnancy apparently didn’t make the same impression on her that it does on my parents and on our own generation.
What brought about the story about my grandma was the recent sermon that the General Overseer of Christ Embassy Pastor Chris Oyakhilome gave on marriage and how women were supposed to behave in it. This in turn brought back the memory of the not so recent marriage seminar that the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God Pastor E.A Adeboye gave on marriage and how women were supposed to behave in it. Perhaps it is the many books I have read that have turned me into a rebel, but I think that we, young people of nowadays, should be careful about taking marriage advice from 1.) A divorcee, and (2.) A seventy year old man who didn’t have the exchange rate at 430 naira to 1 dollar when he was growing up, and the economy wasn’t in a recession when he got married.
I am a Christian; I dare not disrespect the anointing of God upon the lives of his servants, and I agree with the bible that the wisdom of old people is in their grey hair. However let us look at it this way. At eighteen the age my grandma was labouring to bring my father to this world; my elder sister was busy labouring to pass her first year exams as a law student in Obafemi Awolowo University. If she managed to get pregnant at that time, to say that Dad would have murdered her would be exaggerating a bit, but he certainly wouldn’t have rolled out the red carpet to congratulate her, that is for sure. What changed? Everything.
I am not saying that we should all rise up and start denouncing the two aforementioned pastors as malicious liars and agents of the devil. I am also not saying that you should not go to their respective churches anymore. I am just trying to say that the fact that someone is old and has spent X number of years on earth/in the ministry does not guarantee that every single word that comes out of their mouth is good advice that you can always use. Like the example of my grandmother above, old/experienced people don’t intend to be malicious, it is just that the values they grew up to see as the norm have changed. That is why most African fathers become as meek as Jesus Christ when they are trying to learn how to use a smartphone. Again, another way of explaining this, though I never got to meet my paternal grandfather so I can’t confirm it. My Dad never mentions it either However some of my interactions with my grandma confirmed that my grandfather would not likely have given his full approval to my father marrying an educated woman like my mom (it was an age when most men thought it was a waste to send girls to school, and that the more educated a woman is the less likelier she is to respect her husband, so no blaming him). However if he was alive today, would he have approved what my mom has done with his son? I bet he would.
I believe old people are the custodians of culture and norms and values .I also believe that the reason why God sent individual tongues of fire to all the people in the Upper room in the book of Acts of the Apostles, was precisely so that the people wouldn’t do things simply because a grizzled man who has spent fifty years pastoring/living life said so.
It is the part of the reason why I tend to support the alternative opinions (feminism, LGBTQ issues etc). I just get irritated when people who support the majority opinions are questioned and they give the snarky “that is what our fathers used to do” or “it is our culture.” Teenage marriage was once a norm, so was Polygamy. People like both my grandfathers will tell you that Polygamy is okay, but is it really practical to be Polygamous in this economy where the price of petrol just rises without any warning, and a bag of Rice is now between fifteen and twenty two thousand naira?
Culture is never set in stone, at any rate we as a people are not as averse to setting aside culture for practicality anyway. So why do we hide under the guise of culture and old age/experience when it is time to answer the difficult questions?
Again I am not saying that God didnt know what he was doing when he gave the command in exodus 20:12, I am just saying that I just don’t have to take every word someone says as the gospel just because he is older than I am, or he is a pastor. At any rate what I read from the bible is that on judgment day God wont call the same old pastor I am expected to listen to account for my sins. So there is that.