I write this post in memory of a very dear brother, Sidney Laud Yaw Nii Sai Schandorf, who died in a senseless road accident on 2 April 2018. Sidney was one of the few friends of mine who had a keen sense of how Ghanaian culture has co-opted and reduced Christianity to a toothless bulldog at culture’s service. May his soul rest in peace.

Those of you who are friends of mine, especially on Facebook will find that I have been critical of and sometimes perplexed by the Ghanaian chapter of Aglow International (formerly called “Women’s Aglow”). But given that many of us are Ghanaian Christians are children of Christendom, my criticism of the Aglow movement seems unfair and to some people, even unpatriotic. But I’m an Anabaptist, and anyone familiar with Anabaptist history knows that I’m not the first one to be accused of being unpatriotic. So, let me explain why I criticize the Ghanaian instance of the Aglow International, and by extension, all the groups championing “intercessory prayer for Ghana”. Let me start by painting a picture of what I know about Aglow International Ghana.

      1. Aglow International Ghana

In my younger years, I knew of “Women’s Aglow” as a Christian women’s support group, gathering Christian women across many denominations to discuss and come up with strategies for supporting the well-being of Christian women in Ghana. This they did through the creation of many small groups they called “fellowships” which meet regularly to discuss and plan their activities. I believe this continues to be the same mode of operation of the organization. They were very much on the quiet, making their impact in their own way, and endearing Ghanaian Christian women to them. In this respect, I highly commend their efforts at bringing women together despite their different Christian heritages. It’s not an easy task, and I know a thing or two about ecumenism.

This was the Aglow I knew from afar before things changed. I’m not too sure when it began, but I believe it’s been a decade or so now since the organisation began bringing Ghanaian women together to “intercede for Ghana” on a monthly basis. This intercessory prayer is held at venues across all 10 regions in Ghana, including the Black Star square, one of the largest outdoor spaces in the capital. One can only imagine the financial outlay involved in this effort, including the TV & radio adverts that go out to inform people about these events. Knowing how influential and long-standing this organization is, I can imagine a lot of it is via sponsorships.

But my concern is not how its funded. My concern is what this says about the organization. My concern is how this monthly national prayer marathon shapes the identity of this organization. Because to the much younger generation of Ghanaians, the name “Aglow International” immediately evokes one identity – “that group of women who are always praying for Ghana”. And though that may sound like a good thing to many Ghanaians, this identity of being the “intercessors for Ghana” is actually against the heart and soul of the mission of kingdom of God and the calling to be disciples of Jesus.

Let me explain myself, via a criticism of Christendom. I know I use the term “Christendom” a lot without actually explaining it. There are many ways in which that term is used, but when Christians who are critical of Christianity’s failures use the term, we refer to a false sense of identity, safety and power that many Christians have inherited from the fusion of church and state, which began during the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine in the 4th century and still exists in different forms to this day. For further reading on Christendom, you can look up the work of John Howard Yoder, Stanley Hauerwas, David Fitch and Stuart Murray. Many Christian churches and denominations still operate with a Christendom mindset, hence their church members (including the leaders and 99% of the women in Aglow International) aren’t able to discern the difference because that’s what Christendom, masquerading as Christianity has taught them.

The problem isn’t Aglow International, the problem is that Aglow International is a child of Christendom, not Christianity.

      1. Christendom and The Kingdom of God

One of the easiest ways to discern the blindness that Christendom gives us is to gauge whether a Christian/group of Christians are more “Christian” first and then Ghanaian, or “Ghanaian” first, and then Christians.

You see, when Jesus used the term “the kingdom of God” in the Gospels, he was appropriating a term that his hearers already knew, but was redefining it in ways that were extremely uncomfortable to them. 1st century Jews believed that the “kingdom of God” meant the rule of the God of Israel (Yahweh) over the world in which he will favour his covenant people (the Jews) and punish their enemies – the immediate ones like the Romans ruling over them at the time, as well as the Samaritans and the Syrians; and the further away ones like Egypt, Assyria and Babylon. And yet Jesus told these Jews that the kingdom of God was defined by loving one’s enemies, so that they might be true children of their father in heaven.

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:43-45)

Hence, when he was asked “who is my neighbour”, Jesus answered with the parable of the Good Samaritan, pointing out to the Jew who asked that question that the Samaritans whom Jews hated were actually their neighbours.

In effect, Jesus was saying that the kingdom of God was no longer centered around 1 nation – Israel – but was now a multinational, multiracial, multi-ethnic, multi-gender, multi-social domain across the world. Yahweh, the God of Israel was no longer interested in just one nation of people anymore, he now considered all humanity to be one, and his goal was to teach them to abandon their gods and be faithful to him only, together with his previously chosen people – the Jews. This was the number one reason why Jesus was killed – instead of preaching violence, he preached a way of peace and an identity that enabled humanity to transcend our differences. The Jews needed a violent Messiah to overthrow their oppressor (Rome), and weren’t going to fall for this “love your enemies” bullshit. Hence the leaders had him dispensed off with false charges, though he was innocent of them.

This new identity is what Jesus calls his disciples to. Of course, every human will be born into a nation and a family, an identity which they will need to own. But followers of Jesus, by agreeing to be baptised into his death and resurrection (Rom 6:3-4; Gal 3:27), die to their nationality and rise up first and foremost as disciples of Jesus (aka Christians) before they continue life as citizens of their country.

That is why there is no such thing as a “Christian nation”, because the church worldwide is one Christian nation. The church is made up of people who are “neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free” (Gal 3:28). By baptism, one’s identity as a disciple is now more important than one’s nationality, ethnicity or tribe.

If you find this difficult to understand, then you are a better disciple of Christendom than of Jesus, and Christendom has trained you well. Christendom needs your nationality to be more important than your identity as members of the transnational and trans-ethnic “kingdom of God”. In its benign form, Christendom breeds a false sense of unity around the nation so Christians care more about their nation than about the next one who may be in suffering. But in it’s dangerous forms, Christendom uses this to say “that nation and its citizens are our enemies, let’s go to war against them”. This is how many Christians in Europe were whipped up into “righteous fervour” in killing each other in the name of “defending their nation” for centuries on end. Christendom, not true Christianity, was the one calling the shots.

In this regard then, when a movement like Aglow is more known now for being the organizer of intercessory prayer for Ghana than for the transnational kingdom of God, the false masquerade of Christendom, which equates national progress with kingdom progress, has won the day. Jesus the Messiah didn’t teach us to be identified by the fervour we have for our nation’s progress, but for the fervor we have for the kingdom of God’s spread in a boundary-less world. And the evidence of progress of the kingdom of God is signified by growth in our love for the neighbor, even if, and especially if the neighbor was an enemy.

      1. Christendom and Abuse of Scripture

To enable this blindness to fester and blossom, Christendom needs to pretend that it has a biblical basis for existence. Afterall, once it’s in the bible, then it must conform to the will of God, right?

Therefore since time immemorial, the most obvious modus operandi of Christendom is to equate the nation in which it’s found with ancient Israel. This it does by taking passages from scripture (especially the Old Testament, which is where people always go when they want to distort Christianity) about Israel and replace them with the nation, in this case “Ghana”. In doing this, Christendom conveniently forgets that this was the case for ancient Israel in the OT because ancient Israel as a nation had a covenant with Yahweh in which every child born to a Jew was automatically a worshipper of Yahweh and commanded to obey the Laws of Moses. Modern Christians, including the “Women’s Aglow” members, will vehemently deny that they must obey the Laws of Moses, after all they are “under grace, not under Law”. But being unfortunately under the influence of Christendom, they will continuously appeal to the Old Testament as a basis of prayer topics, not realizing the dissonance. If Aglow International wants to use the Old Testament as a basis of praying for the nation of Ghana, the fulfillment of those prayers are dependent on the observance of Torah (laws of Moses), including circumcision, food laws, keeping a strict Saturday Sabbath, not wearing men’s clothes as a woman etc. Of course, Aglow International will reject this in totality, but you can’t eat your cake and have it.

So far as Ghana is a democracy, allows freedom of religions and doesn’t use the Torah as our constitution, Ghana is not Israel, and this abuse of scripture, one of the oldest tricks in the book since Constantinian Christianity began, must be condemned as an abuse of scripture. It takes scripture out of context for our own nationalistic agenda, and has been used by countlesss nations against one another in the name of “Christianity”.

The transational and transethnic church of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (Eph 2:20) is the only nation of Yahweh, the God who raised Jesus from the dead. And this church is given only one constitution – “Love Yahweh your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind, and love your neighbour as yourselves” (Luke 10:27). I await the day that Aglow Women will dedicate concurrent months prayer topics to the political turmoil in Togo, the violence in Burkina Faso, the inter-religious wars in Central African Republic, the uprising in Syria, which are all affecting fellow Christian women and children. That will be the day they would have overcome the blindness that Christendom produces in caring only for ourselves, and not for the Christian body at large.

      1. Christendom and Political Manipulation

Because Christendom places the nation first above the kingdom of God, leaders of Christendom oriented Christian organisations very easily fall pray to deception and alignment with one political organisation or another, whether perceived or real.

Every Christian body is lead by human beings, who have their own political ideology. Hence, despite all their efforts at being neutral, because their first loyalty is not to the kingdom of God but to the nation, their political ideology always colors the organisation’s activities, whether they like it or not. In a democracy, this leads very easily to the alignment (real or perceived) of such Christian organisations with a party in government or in opposition, and easily creates divisions amongst Christians. God knew this, that’s why he demands followers of Jesus to be loyal only to Jesus, so they can easily discern when they are being used and manipulated by the political systems for their benefits. Because Jesus is king now and his kingdom is being experienced now (not waiting for when we go to heaven), it means Christians spend their energies caring for the world of their king and for their fellow humans as much as possible, and whenever political governments come alongside them, they celebrate their help. They however do not need to wait for governments to dictate what they should do. And if individual members do enter politics, they simply need gauge their political activity and words by Jesus’s standards, and nothing else.

But as with many corruptions of Christianity, the Christendom church has been so busy collecting money to keep the clergy comfortable whiles baying at government for not dealing with “the economy” or poverty that, whenever it perceives that one political party candidate seems to promise heaven, Christendom aligns with it.

Many people in Ghana have complained (probably falsely) that Aglow International seems to be a pro-NPP women’s group. The perception is that these “intercession for Ghana prayers” during the tenure of the past NDC government seemed to be focused on desperately pleading with God to save Ghana from wicked rule. However, since the NPP came to power, these “prayer topics” have changed to asking for blessings from God for Ghana.

In the words of a relative of mine, when the NDC was in power, the prayer topic was “when the wicked rule”, yet now that the NPP is in power, the prayer topic is “Any tongue that rises up against the nation Ghana …”.

This perception may be false, but that is what Christendom produces. When the focus of any Christian organization is not on the transnational kingdom of God and how to make it felt in every small community within each nation, but in uniting people via an appeal to nationality, it will become a tool of political manipulation. Aglow International is no exception to this rule, and is as easily manipulable.

      1. And So Is Intercessory Prayer Necessary?

Yes it is, but only as part of what a church community (or para-church community like Aglow International) pray for. Aglow International (and all these “intercessory missions”) doesn’t need a monthly prayer session for hours on end to pray for Ghana, it just needs 5 minutes of prayer in its fellowship groups for Ghana. And what should the prayer for Ghana be like? Let me give you an example.

This then, is how you should pray – Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our tresspasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen”. (Mt 6:9-13).

But if you still feel that this prayer is not enough (I believe it is, if you understand the Lord’s Prayer well enough), then let me give you another one, a more long winded one with “Ghana” in it, to placate you.

Father, we thank you that you have called us into the nation called the church, scattered over the world. We pray that your call to love you and to love our neighbour will be felt in every small area of Ghana where Christians are gathered, especially through the work of Aglow International women. Teach us to dedicate our lives to letting your kingdom be felt on earth, and give us good leaders in this nation who can enable peace to exist for us to continue to do your will here. And we pray these things for our brothers and sisters who are caught in war zones and in political strife across the world. Give them the patience to endure, and the strength to be faithful, knowing that you have called us to lose our lives for you if we want to save it. We pray these things not only for the faithful, but for all who are created in your image and likeness across the world, and yet who are deceived by the accuser into thinking your way is a way of foolishness. For you are God, and you are good, and in your way is salvation indeed. Amen”.

When the kingdom of God is being felt in every neighbourhood via the Christians who are giving their lives for their neighbours, we don’t need hours of intercession. We only need lives of faithful, loving disciples.

Vicit Agnus Noster, Eum Sequamur – The Lamb Has Conquered, Let Us Follow Him.

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