My real intercourse with pentecostalism, By Bamidele Johnson

Aside from an Oyakhilome video and a few others featuring epic swindle artists, I think the modern Nigerian church has cured itself of the ailment symptomised by the belief that falling down when hands are laid is a genuine spiritual experience.

I’m not sure, but it seems less common these days to find full-grown adults falling like they were hit by sniper fire, while jerking as though in a convulsive fit. This is thought to happen during deliverance, receipt of anointing or whatever else laying of hands is used for.

I have many church-going friends, who have remained possessed for almost as long as I’ve known them. Trust me, that’s very long. I wonder how many times they’ve fallen, probably prevented by those delivering them from having their heads smashed on the floor and suffering a contusion, during the process.

Perhaps they got delivered, but whatever possessed them was issued, ab initio, a return ticket and multiple entry visa. I’ve been around such drama, including near-lurid episodes of it. These were marked by women falling in ways that they had to be covered with wrappers to keep sensitive parts away from sight.
I’m not persuaded that anointing will get into daughters of faith and seek to make public their privates. I’m not.

My own experience of it, perhaps my first real intercourse with Pentecostalism, was in January 1991. I’d reluctantly agreed to attend a fellowship to which I was invited by two women and a man. Not too long after arrival, those making their debut appearance were asked to step forward. We did, got some rousing welcome before a prayer session thick with tosh called speaking in tongues began.

Feel free to turn up your nose at this if you’re a speaking in tongues aficionado. We can deal with it in the comment section, but kereske shemaskar pocotua is utter bollocks. I was already frothing with ire because one of the women who invited me was so well known to me then and after that there was no way she could have fallen under anything resembling anointing. We knew each other well, very well. Too well. Like hand and glove. Dig that?

But she fell and was blabbing so lavishly that I was hit by second-hand embarrassment. The leader of the fellowship (will keep away the name because it eventually became a full-blown church and the chap is on Facebook), asked that I come forward. He started praying, placed a hand on my head and tried to push me. I didn’t go down. He was wispier than I was. He kept trying, but I fobbed him off.

He stuck his fingers in my ears and said I should release myself, as he pushed again. I kept my legs apart à la “Cristano Ronaldo free-kick pose. That gave me more balance. All the while, my eyes were shut. He applied more force, I snarled and opened my eyes. Before those praying, falling and dishing out of gobbledygook opened their eyes, I walked out of the place like I got an alert from a bomb disposal unit. To my house. Forever.

Those who invited me discovered- when they opened their eyes or got out of the simulated trance -that I had gone. They came to my house to ask why I left unceremoniously and delivered the pastor’s message that I needed to return because I was possessed. I told them to shove it wherever they wanted.

I later told my friend that she was assisting con artists and was one herself. She didn’t think it was wrong. Despite not getting off the rollercoaster, she thought she a terrific Christian.She still visited me alone and with her fellowship people. With me, there were no inhibitions. Whenever she came with her fellowship gang, they were brother this, sister that and conversations with me were carried out in the Pentecostal accent of that era.

Their relationship looked forced. I watched my friend, a really effervescent person, become a bot when with her new friends, with whom her conversations were stilted. With me, she took the handbrake off. Gradually too, the shit-hot babe started losing her lustre. It was painful watching her slip into that fraudulent mode, but I was powerless. We split up. She found her way back, not to me, but to where she was before the hijack. As the streets have it, prostitute wey marry na leave she go. When resumption time reach, she go enter work again. She got back her bubbly (real) self and kicked the pretense into touch.

From that point, it was clear to to me that myself, the modern preacher and his craft were not going to be a mutual admiration society. I simply couldn’t play the game.

-Johnson is a journalist and company executive in Lagos

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