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Religious Hypocrisy: A Theological Reflection On Kofi Kinaata’s “Things Fall Apart”

By Mutala Yakubu
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True Christianity is very rare to come by in contemporary Ghana. Religious hypocrisy and fanaticism (fundamentalism) have become the order of the day.

As preachers continue to gear efforts towards making disciples of all nations, it is important to ensure that Christian teachings have an impact on the everyday lives of believers.

The efforts of preachers in this exercise can be complemented by musicians. Every music has a message which usually impacts the lives of listeners, whether positively or negatively. Broadly speaking, we may categorize music into gospel (Christian) and secular. Christian music may refer to one that expresses an aspect of Christian faith and practice.

READ ALSO: Kofi Kinaata finally releases video for 'Things fall apart'

By Isaac Boaheng Rev.

The question of whether the composer of the song makes it Christian or secular has been debated for long and I do not intend to join the debate in this brief paper. My intention in this paper is simply to explore key theological thoughts expressed in Kofi Kinaata’s “Things Fall Apart” based on the lyrics and not the personality behind the song.

Kofi Kinaata, whose real name is Martin King Arthur, was born and raised in Effiakuma, in the Western Region of Ghana. He was brought up in a Christian home, with a father who was a minister and who taught Bible study in church. In what follows, I consider the song in parts.

Friday Chapel all night, Saturday na yɛwɔ club no mu

Yɛleyɛ more things, amen, shocker gugu cup no mu
Adeyi ship na ɔde Bible no baeɛ no
Nkrɔfo se, nala nso di schnapp no bɛe
Nti girls na oduro chapel a, wo kɔeɛ no
Bra bɛ hwɛ, wɔn nso na club no wɔ bɛe
Ritualistic observances lacking internal piety

In Ghana, most religious and entertainment activities take place during weekends. For majority of Ghanaian churches, all-night, anointing and deliverance services (among others) take place on Fridays while weekly divine services are held on Sunday (except Seventh Day Adventists and few others). At the same time, most clubs, cinemas and theaters also schedule most of their activities on weekends. In addition, marriages and funerals are also weekend activities. This is so because weekends are holidays for most (government) workers.

In the first part of the song, the singer makes the point that the people who attend all-night services on Fridays are the same people who attend club on Saturdays. This assertion underlines the fact that the participation in religious activities does not make one exempt himself from secular activities, especially when these activities take place at different times. Therefore, the numerous religious activities that take place in the chapel during worship services are only ritualistic observances lacking in any internal holiness. People are only interested in rituals such as tithing, thanks-offerings, church attendance, fasting rather than bearing fruits of true internal piety. There are even some churches who invite secular musicians to sing secular songs at church services. The same dance at the funeral on Saturday is found in the church on Sunday. Clearly, there seems to be no difference between what is Christian and what is secular. The cars that park at the church premise are found in front of drink spots.

Kofi’s observation that Christians do not practice what is being preached in church confirms observations made by Ghanaian theologian, Abamfo O. Atiemo, who in a recent study on revival meetings in Pentecostal churches, lamented how the nation continues to experience an unprecedented Pentecostal rival activities and yet the level of corruption in the country still keeps rising at the same time.[1] The scholar noted that the numerous Pentecostal revival meetings have failed to promote individual and societal moral transformation, especially in terms of “concrete acts of justice, obedience, mercy, compassion, honesty and loving deeds.”[2] The point is that contemporary Ghanaian religiosity has virtually no impact on morality. People chat with their concubines whiles in church and direct them to meet them somewhere for ungodly activities. Others also pause fighting and tell their opponents to wait for them to come back from church and continue fighting. This is unfortunate.

Give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar
The song also reveals that people justify their false religiosity by asserting that it was the same ship that brought the Bible which also brought schnapps. Church history tells us that Christianity reached us through the efforts of Westerners who visited the Coast in the 15th century. The Christian missionaries came by ship. Of course, the ship that brought the missionaries with their Bibles also brought other items of which schnapps are a part. Many a time, people justify their ungodly acts by appealing to Jesus’ assertion that we should “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt 22:21; cf. Luke 20:25). They interpret this statement as teaching that one should serve God at the chapel and afterwards do what is required of him/her at another occasion, say pour libation at the royal house, or take alcohol at a marriage ceremony. A study of the context of this biblical text however reveals that Jesus was only referring to paying taxes rather than setting double standards.

“Give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar” Christians therefore wrongly assume that Christianity consists almost exclusively in going to church on Sunday mornings. Consequently, Christians are often indistinguishable from non-Christians, once they have come out of the church. These Christians are the reason why Ghana’s high Christian population and remarkable increase in Christians activities has not had any corresponding positive effect on the general conduct of people. Furthermore, the “Give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar” attitude is the reason why the priorities of many contemporary Christians have shifted from the pursuit of the kingdom of God and its righteousness to the accumulation of material wealth, the pursuit of upward social mobility and the fixation on earthly gratification, among others. The attitude of such believers is based on the assumption that if the same ship that brought the Christian Bible also brought schnapps, then the same person who attended church service a on Friday (or any other day) can equally attend club activities (or similar programs) without offending God. They fail to realize is that their body is the Temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16, 19) and that they are required not to love the world or anything in it (1 John 2:15).

Me se atamuda paa
Ɛda a Nyame bɛba physical
Sɛ wan consider paa de a, anhwɛ na Heaven wɛnnya nipa

'Cos nokwore no wɔ hɔ, nso Asɔfo yi ntumi wɔnnka

Sikasɛm no nti Chapel ahiafo ntumi wɔnmba (wɔnntumi wɔnmba oo)

Ɛhɔ mpo di ɔno things fall apart
Ɛka a wɔse, annointed men touch
Chapel yi, wɔwɔ schools paa
Nso members yi wɔnntumi mpo wɔnnkɔ bi
Judgment Day
The song also has an eschatological dimension. Kofi talks about the day that God will appear physically to all humanity in the Parousia. In his view, without lowering His standards, no one will qualify for heaven; heaven will be empty. He reminds us that Jesus will come again and appear physically to all humanity (Acts 1:11) to judge all of us. The results of the judgment will determine one’s eternal destiny. In his First Coming, Christ’s purpose was to reconcile sinful humanity to God. The Second Coming however, is meant for judgment and rewards. A study of the Bible reveals that God will not lower His standards. Therefore, Christians are to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.

This is the time that God’s grace is available. In the Parousia, Christ will judge both the living and the dead. The Bible teaches that there is no second chance after dead (Heb. 9:27). It is therefore important that each person takes a personal conscious decision to accept Christ before it becomes too late. I therefore encourage the reader to give his/her life to Christ if he/she has not already done so. The three steps below are very helpful in this regard. (1) Accept that you are a sinner and you are guilty before God; (2) Believe that Christ died for your sins. This step includes repentance, the turning away from the world to God; (3) Confess your sins to God for forgiveness and accept Christ as your Lord. Accepting Christ as Lord means allowing him to rule over your life. This is the best decision one can ever take throughout his/her entire life. God’s holy standards will not be lowered. Humanity need Christ because of sin. All are welcome to the Cross for salvation.

Preaching prosperity instead of holiness
The singer also asserts that pastors are not able to preach the true word of God. This is true because most contemporary preachers focus on prosperity rather than holiness. It is common to hear pastors say “If I preach against sin, people will stop coming to church and this will affect the church’s finance.” Prosperity preachers promise “a crown” without “a cross” and “heaven” without “holiness.” This is theologically suicidal.

Instead of preaching holiness, they make their followers believe that every problem in life is caused by evil spirits. These preachers eventually create socio-religious fear and panic among their follows. They make their followers have conscious awareness that there are enemies who hinder their progress. The simplistic approach to living a successful life overnight as propounded by today’s ministers cannot have any positive impact on people’s life.

Kofi’s thought on this issue echoes that of Isaac Ampong who has also noted that many pastors of today prescribe solutions to problems without tackling the root cause. In a song Ampong laments how so-called Christian churches have concentrated on miracles rather preaching the unadulterated word of God. With Ampong and Kofi, I believe that the problem-solving approach to Christianity creates more problems than it intends to solve. It also hinder the propagation of the gospel truth as preachers aim at preaching messages that will entertain their audience rather than convict of them of their sins.

Exploitation of the Poor
That part of the song which says that the poor are not able to attend church service alludes to the high financial burden placed on church members by their pastors. To be frank the financial demand in most contemporary churches is very high. I have noted elsewhere that extravagance is one of the major causes of this situation. The church has become a business center where more time is spent on fund raising than on preaching the word of God. Some pastors take huge sums of money from people before attending to their needs. Deliverance practices abound in Ghanaian churches whereby the dignity and human rights of unsuspecting and vulnerable members of congregations are blatantly violated. Some minsters of the gospel “charge exorbitantly, sometimes even before attempting a cure. The patient’s generous donation in form of tithe is sometimes made a prerequisite for healing.”[3]

Most Ghanaian churches are filled with activities that distinguish the rich from the poor. During fund raising, those who give huge amounts are distinguished from the poor by the special prayers huge donors receive from the fund-raiser. They make the poor believe that God will bless the rich for giving bigger amount and not bless them (the poor) for giving small amount (even though they have given according to their strengths). As a way of enticing people to give more, several hours are spent promising people that once they give to God all their problems, no matter how hard they are, will be solved by God instantly. I have encountered a fund-raiser who usually ties his neck with a rope and asks someone to drag him around the congregation. He then tells the crowd: “Every human being is like an animal tied to a robe and being dragged around. The one who takes active part in fund raising will have his/her neck untied.” This socio-psychological manipulation not only force people to give, it also embarrasses the poor who have virtually nothing to give.

An experience I had some time ago during an evangelism outreach confirms the point that the poor are not likely candidates for the church. After evangelizing an elderly woman, I encouraged her to join a particular church. She told me she would have loved to join the church but she can’t join the church because she had nobody to take care of the financial obligations in the church. She further explained that, as an elderly woman, she would have to join the Women’s Wing. Aside monthly and welfare dues, there are other financial commitments including acquiring many uniforms of the association. I didn’t understand her at that time. Later my enquiry revealed that the fellowship the woman had to join in the church has more than ten (10) different uniforms which every member must acquire. Obviously, the woman I met could not afford these uniforms. The foregoing underscores the fact that the poor cannot (comfortably) be members of most contemporary Christian churches.

Things Fall Apart
The title, “Things Fall Apart”, appears just a time in the entire song. Within the context in which it is placed the singer draws attention to the fact that there is no sanity in the church; things are scattered; everyone does as he/she pleases. This is closely linked to the part where he draws attention to the moral decay in the society. The singer draws attention to lecturers who only pass students after sleeping with them. The point is that everyone looks up to the church to use her prophetic voice to correct moral decay. Unfortunately, the church exhibits the highest form of indiscipline in the form of sexual abuse, exploitation of the poor, commercialization of the gospel, corruption and others. Pastors involved in this evil take cover in the so-called anointing of God. They may quote a text like “"Do not touch My anointed ones, And do My prophets no harm” (Psalm 105:15) to claim immunity against criticism. Is this what Christianity is about?

Kramo sɔfo yi, gye wo ahum
Na adi yi a ɛka yi, wɔda ho a wɔnum
Mala me hwɛboo n'adi ye ɔda ho a num
Kramo sɔfo yi, gye wo ahum
Ɔse ɔyɛ American Muslim, ɔnom bibia bi
Na nkrɔfo w'adi yi wɔda ho a wɔnum
Hwɛ, ɛnhu christian, ɛnhu muslim, ɛnhu nkaefo no, ɛnhu sɔfo, ɛnhu kɔmfo, basaa

Kataasishɛ, prɔyɛ, ɛbɔ no ɔhyɛ nso w'anyɛ
MP wo kurom kwan no, nsu tÉ” a, pakyaa
Obia se ɔyɛ bad man
Dɛm nti, lecturer pɛ dɛ ɔnye wo da ansana w'ama wo pass mark

For money, you go shed blood
Nyame bɛ yɛ, ɔbɛ kyɛr, yɛ ntum; yɛ pɛ no fast, fast

Nti fast life, fast cars, fast trap pot
Church service hɔ na ɛhu Snapchat gods
31st na ɔwo church
Ɔdi ne ho ama Nyame, on the 3rd na w'agye no ho kɔ trek

Haha, part time christian
You wan fight full time devil
You dey joke
Non-Accountability in leadership
In his closing stanza, Kofi talks about poor leadership using the member of parliament (MP) as a case study. Africa is currently experiencing poor leadership manifested in selfishness, hypocrisy, mediocrity, incompetence, autocracy, corruption, misappropriation of public funds, among others. We have office bearers but no leaders. People simply occupy position which they are not able to manage properly for the benefit of the society. We need leadership development that stresses the servanthood role of the leader. The understanding that leaders are to be served must be opposed by the biblical teaching that leaders are to serve (Mark 10:42-43). Ghana needs selfless committed leaders, who have the interest of their community at heart rather than their own interest.

The battle between the part-time Christian and the full-time devil

The fight between the Devil and Christians is evident in contemporary Christian prayers. The Devil has been whipped before; he has been shot with several bullets at various prayer meetings; he has been slaughtered by different people, to mention but a few. Yet, he is always at work and has not died. Kofi’s point is that no lukewarm Christian can overcome the devil. It takes serious Christians who are committed to the ways of the LORD, those who fear nothing but sin, those who are ready to die for the LORD, those who have made up their mind not to defile themselves with the devil’s food (cf. Dan. 1:12) to win the spiritual battle.

A Word to Kofi
The study has so far established that “Things Fall Apart” has theological values for Christians and non-Christians alike. These theological values must first of all benefit the singer; else he behaves like a sign post which directs people to a location without going to the location itself. There are a lot of ethical issues surrounding the (private and public) life of musicians. I take this opportunity to encourage Kofi to let his own songs speak to him first and have impact on his life. He may have to reflect on the impact his shows play on people’s life, whether negative or positive. Pondering these questions may be very helpful to Kofi and other musicians: Do I entertain people in the club and make them compromise their Christian values? Have I composed song affect people negatively or do I have plans to compose songs that will influence people negatively? Anyone who answers “Yes” to any of these questions is encouraged to seek the forgiveness of the LORD.

The gift of singing comes from God and it must be used to glorify Him rather than making disciples for the Devil. Musicians must know that they are very influential and their influence can have either negative or positive effect on the general public. How marvelous it will be to have a great singer like Kofi evangelize the world through powerful songs! The church will expand, the glory will be God’s and the blessings, ours.

This paper has brought to light key theological themes imbedded in Kofi Kinaata’s “Things Fall Apart”. Among others, I have discussed themes such as: ritualistic observances lacking internal piety; give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar; Judgment Day; preaching prosperity instead of holiness; exploitation of the poor; Things Fall Apart; non-Accountability in leadership; the battle between the part-time Christian and the full-time devil. I wish to re-emphasize that, by writing this paper, I am in no way contending whether or not the song under consideration is Christian or secular. Such an analysis lies beyond the scope of the paper. My interest was in the lyrics rather than the personality behind the lyrics. It is clear from the paper that songs carry messages that have influence on listeners. Christians therefore need to be selective in the songs we listen to. Are you a full-time or part-time Christian?

[1] Abamfo O. Atiemo, “Crowds that bring no Rains: Religious Revivals and Corruption in Ghana” in TJCT Vol. 18 No. 5 (2016) 6-23 at 7.

[2] Atiemo, “Crowds that bring no Rains”, 7.

[3] Dominic Umoh, “Prosperity Gospel and the Spirit of Capitalism: The Nigerian Story”, African Journal of Scientific Research vol. 12, No. 1: 654-668 at 663.

By Isaac Boaheng Rev.