Uzo Ngoladi, Exposes The Corrupt Activities of Christian Leaders
It is not often that writers of the present generation in Nigeria are emboldened to tackle issues relating to religion straight on. Nowadays, many of them would rather shy away from such ‘damnable’ subjects than incur the wrath of bigots too blinded by doctrine to see reason in contrary opinions.
But it seems that Uzo Ngoladi, author of the Toxic Eucharist, has clearly chosen to rush in where angels fear to tread. The writer’s new novella is bound to provoke conflicting and diverse reactions from Nigerians as it hits the bookshops anytime soon.
Set in Ebeawo, a typical rural Igbo community of the post-colonial era, the book takes a swipe at a section of the clergy whom the author accuses of hypocrisy and failure in its overall responsibility to the church.
Ngoladi, no doubt, assumes the role of a self-appointed crusader driven by the belief that religion, especially Christianity, has been appropriated for commercial purposes.
“Christianity is no longer what it used to be and this is partly because the clergy has failed in its responsibility to the church. Today, materialism has eaten deep into the fabric of Christianity. That is why there is so much corruption, hypocrisy, hatred, discord and infidelity in the church. Even some priests take pleasure in breaking the vows they made. When I set out to write this book, I felt that the time had come to confront these issues,” he says, in an interview with our correspondent.
Just to prove that ‘charity’ must necessarily ‘begin at home’, Ngoladi deliberately uses the Roman Catholic Church, which he belongs to in the first place, to tell his story.
“No work of fiction is written in a vacuum. What you read in this book partly derives from my experience as a Catholic. But it is not restricted to the Catholic Church alone. The same evils mentioned in the book can be found among the so-called Pentecostal churches today.
“Like I said before, the church is no longer what it used to be. I have observed that some people still practise paganism alongside Christianity. They still partake in heathen rituals and get involved in activities that are forbidden among true Christians. As they say, such people have placed one foot in and another foot outside the faith,” he says.
Given the right circumstances, the main characters in the novella-a collection of social misfits of shocking proportions-should never have been allowed to take part in the decision making process of any church. They include a very randy priest whose careless actions precipitate the collapse of the first established Roman Catholic Church in Ebeawo, another priest consumed by the ferocity of his own fanaticism, vengeful and corrupt worshippers interested only in what they can gain from the church materially, and an unfaithful wife who sees nothing wrong in selling her body for high stakes.
All the characters in the story are directly influenced, for good or bad, by the actions of Akaogu, the corrupt and vindictive catechist of the fictional St. Malachi’s Catholic Church.
After the latter’s appointment as chairman of the parish council, events take a turn for the worse. His clandestine activities as a prominent figure in the local assembly politics ultimately spell doom for the pew and pulpit.
Although Akaogu appears to be a pious Christian and a committed catechist, his real intentions are not hidden from the members of the church. For this reason, he survives a series of assassination attempts.
But, unable to cope with opposition from his detractors any more, Akaogu engineers the death of his arch rival. Then when the parish priest attempts to rape his daughter, he executes a fetish plot that killed the parish priest and leads to his own end.
The deaths of the council chairman and priest eventually completes the vicious cycle of hypocrisy, deceit and unbelief that has derailed the vision of the leadership of the church.
However, Ngoladi’s choice of title for this novella reflects the essence of the Eucharist to Catholicism, as much as it symbolises what he describes as the ‘mundane spirituality and false puritanism’ that has seized Christianity in modern Nigeria by the jugular.
“The Eucharist is the body of Christ that is meant to heal and prosper those who believe in it. But the leadership of the church has turned it into something different and negative through their sinful or evil actions. Now the Eucharist is causing havoc to the church because of this,” he says.
Beyond this, he urges erring Christian leaders to re-examine their consciences and to practise what they preach or be prepared to face the ‘wrath of God’.
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