She goes by Akua God-Creation as the first name and Highly-favored for the last name on Facebook. Catchy, isn’t it? How do you mistake a chick with a name like that for an unbeliever?
She was my girlfriend and a religious freak. The kind of religious freak who attends Friday all night service, shows up for choir practice on Saturday evenings and sits through the four to five-hour services on Sundays after teaching the Sunday school class.
Highly-Favored had a nagging temptation and a guilty-pleasure; me. The thing is, Highly-favored loved sex. When she was in my space, she goes by the name Desire.
Highly-favored punches the air with her Bible in the house of praises and Desire punches a hole in a rubber cover with her teeth in the house of her guilty-pleasure.
I keep my rubbers on my night stand next to my Bible. This arrangement is not a crisis of the conscience nor is it intentional. I love God and I love sex too. Highly-Favored never complained about the arrangement.
She found my authenticity refreshing even though she called me unbeliever several times. Her two worlds presented a dichotomy, I must say.
Every now and then, Highly-Favored manages to drag me to church with her. Four-hour services on a Sunday is just not my thing but I go sometimes and keep an open mind as always.
Permit me to make just one observation about some Christian churches I have entered. The hierarchical, authoritarian set up of the church and its congregation never escapes me.
The senior pastors, associate pastors, elders and the deacons sitting on a raised platform behind the altar will be all male. The female leaders will be grouped together on the second level as the congregation, the music band and everyone else without an elevated title.
Am I the only one seeing this? Is there a hint of misogyny and segregation in the house of the Lord?
Christianity is perhaps the ultimate top-down organization in my opinion. The model in Highly-Favored’s church consists of the men of God on top, the deacons and elders follow, the women of God the next level down and the masses at the bottom.
Leaders in the church seat separately from the congregation to highlight their status. Some leaders get to sit on the nice cushy chairs and the congregation has plastic chairs or hard wooden pews to contend with.
She once introduced me to a dude with these words, “Kwadjo, meet Apostle Mintah.”
You have an interesting first name, I said to him. His smile quickly dissipated only to be replaced with a frown. Highly-Favored angrily nudged me.
“No, no!” She said, “He is an apostle! He is a man of God.”
“You don’t say?! Good for you, Apostle!” I said with an enthusiatic smile. I said no more.
“So, how does one become an apostle?” I asked on our drive home. “That is a neat title I don’t mind having.”
“Just shut up!” She snapped back at me.
She knew where my sarcastic mind was going with the conversation.
The senior pastor at Highly-Favored’s church was actually quite good. Speaking purely from a selfish standpoint, he would be much better should he yell less, be less animated and quit stretching the pronunciation of the last word of every sentence he made.
His message, in my opinion, was getting muddied in the theatrics which accompanied his preaching.
I stated earlier that I was making just one observation but I have another. I struggle to push away a glaring distraction every time the senior pastor preached.
The shiny alligator skin pointed shoes, the Neiman Marcus suit with the brand label still displayed on the jacket sleeve and the 24 karat gold Jesus Fish jewelry around his neck presented a stark image of the man.
The E-Class Mercedes parked in front of the church had a matching gold-plated Jesus fish medallion affixed to the trunk with a license plate which spelled 4-FAITH. Nice touch, I must say!
I must have read a different Bible, because, in the one I read, Jesus was penniless, dressed modestly and consistently urged his followers to give up everything they owned and devote their lives to helping the poor, the weak and the underprivileged.
I have one more observation to make and I will zip it for good. I was also struck by the several hours spent for the church service every Sunday.
Hour-long singing praises start the services. Highly-Favored explained that we sing praises as we wait for the late comers and stragglers to fill the church before we start the service.
The service starts with a junior pastor leading a bible study for about 30 minutes, more praises follow, the senior pastor take center stage after being introduced as the “Anointed One” and a ‘Powerful Man of God” and he preaches for an hour.
Another hour of collections follows with some high-intensity singing and dancing and then my favorite part of the service begins; the announcements!
I said to Highly-favored one day, “Don’t you think the four or five hours we spend inside the church could be better used outside doing charity work from time to time? She gave me a puzzled look.
“I mean, how many times did Jesus enter a church in the Bible? I pressed on
I can only think of two occasions when he entered a church in the Bible. The first time was as a child where he captivated the religious leaders by ministering to them about how they put too much emphasis on the laws of the church but ignore the people.
The second was when he was an adult and went on a rampage over how profit-centric the church had divulged to.
From my vantage point, I explained to Highly-Favored, I did not see Jesus punch a time card with God every Sunday. He was out every day eating with the homeless, healing the sick, preaching and performing charity acts in the community.
The resounding cry for authenticity is being echoed by generations of people like myself, hungry for something or someone who can actually fill the gaping void of realism in religious circles.
In a way, it is refreshing to see a Christian-culture beginning to emerge. A culture which seeks to be real and authentic about sin and rejects the pressure to conform to the multitudes of man-made church rules.
These group of Christians do not shove their doubts and sinful ways under the carpet for fear of being judged by the men and women of God. They do not seek to impress men and women with higher church titles by how they live their lives and how they practice Christianity.
Personally, I take issue with the phrase, “man of God. There are no “men of God.” There are men made by God.
We need shepherds to lead the flock. The key word here is shepherds; one humbling title and a servant role with an obligation to serve.
I am a Christian who uses foul language here and there, breaks some commandments now and then and gets naughty from time to time. The type of Christianity I relate to is one filled with others who readily admit to the same struggles with temptations like I do.
No one has to conform to my type of Christianity and I am not here to argue as such. You worship however you want to worship.
The very definition of authenticity in Christianity is the ability to stop thinking others need to conform to your morals because you believe your model of worship is better. Or that, you are better because you read from a different book than they do.
If you want God’s love, you can’t just take it; you have to be worthy of it.
Highly-Favored and I did not change each other much during our time together. In a way, she was as authentic about her flaws as I was and that mutual understanding brought lots of harmony to the relationship.
I watched Highly-Favored struggled with morality almost all the time but the sex was not the main cause. Her struggles centered on her fears of being judged and ostracized by the men and women of God because of her sins.
Her fear of not living up to the expectations of the pastors, elders, deacons and the apostles in the church was greater than her fear of the Lord.
I hope and pray that Highly-Favored stays on a path to seek favor from God and not from the mere mortals in the church.
By Kwadjo Panyin
Kwadjo Panyin is a Ghanaian born relationship and lifestyle blogger located in Los Angeles, California. He holds three degrees; a Bachelors degree from Rutgers University in New Jersey, an MBA from Franklin University in Ohio and a Masters of Science degree from Northern Kentucky University in Kentucky. Kwadjo is a business professional who blogs for fun. His articles are about the challenges of dating and relationship anomalies. Writing, blogging, world travel, and photography are his favorite hobbies.