Two Sides Of A Story

 

Claims of delivering LGBTI members from demons by a Nigerian church is disputed by some members of the community.

 

Pastor Christopher: What have you been pushing him to do against his will?

Tedus Odupute: I made him love men. Instead of loving women, he loves men…I made him gay.

Pastor Christopher: You unclean spirit, come here! Come here!

To anyone familiar with the Nigerian movie industry, this dramatic exchange between a pastor and a businessman may well have emanated from a Nollywood film studio. Instead, the words come from a real life conversation between Pastor Christopher of The Synagogue, Church of All Nations, SCOAN, (pastors in the church are only identified by their first names), one of Nigeria’s best-known Pentecostal churches, and Tedus Odupute, a Nigerian businessman based in Cameroon.

SCOAN

A healing session in SCOAN, Lagos, Nigeria.

The testy exchange took place in April 2015 at SCOAN headquarters in Lagos and was broadcast on Emmanuel TV, the 24-hour satellite channel set up by SCOAN’s charismatic leader and founder TB Joshua to reveal his congregation’s activities to the world.

As a popular Pentecostal church, SCOAN claims to offer miraculous healing powers, attracting more than 30,000 visitors each week. Emmanuel TV viewers witness a variety of supposed healing and deliverance sessions on a daily basis.

Among those who visit SCOAN are sexual and gender minorities seeking “deliverance.” In many African societies, as is true in much of the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people are sometimes viewed with suspicion or considered to be in need of spiritual cleansing.

In his account to SCOAN, Odupute said he wasn’t originally gay but was initiated on a business trip he made to Asia. After swimming with some men he met at a hotel, Odupute said he felt “as if something entered (inside) me and I started having a passion for men and going closer to my fellow man.”

The “I made him gay” comment supposedly emanated not from Odupute himself but from the “demon.” Odupute later claimed his session with SCOAN rid the demon from within him, and that his life has changed for the better.

 

“I have been myself, I’m so happy today,” he said after the session

“What do you mean by ‘you’ve been yourself?’,” TB Joshua asked.

“I now have total deliverance and a real passion for the opposite sex…I have been living like a normal human being, the way I was before three years ago,” Odupute replied.

Odupute’s case is just one of a number of deliverance sessions that have taken place at SCOAN over the years. In another clip from Emmanuel TV, a Tanzanian man named Patrick said a sexual encounter with another man made him begin to desire men instead of women. Patrick spoke of how he applied cosmetics and bleached his skin for 15 years in an effort to attract men until he met a woman who recommended that Emmanuel TV might help solve his “problem.”

During the Prophecy time at SCOAN Sunday Service, T.B. Joshua prophesied, “A brother there, you have this spirit upon you. Can I help you? I see you sitting down; you are sitting down. Can I help you? You have that spirit of man.”

Patrick rushed out from the congregation but was unable to speak, apparently tamed by a force, ostensibly his “homosexual spirit.” This prompted T.B. Joshua to order the spirit out of his life. Patrick fell to the ground and was declared free.

Many LGBTI community members and activists, however, disagree with the notion that someone can or needs to be cured in the first place. They insist that sexual and gender minorities who visit churches or mosques for healing are often forced to do so by family members or friends.

Jude, an LGBTI activist whose name has been changed to protect his identity, said he knows at least two LGBTI people who underwent deliverance sessions at Pentecostal churches in Nigeria without success.

“There was a time in my life I thought I wasn’t really living right, and I went to a Pentecostal church, but at the end of the day you find out it doesn’t help matters because they are just going to tell you that you are evil, you are possessed, which you are not,” he said. “[Deliverance] doesn’t last because these people would go back to their lifestyle.”

Another member of the LGBTI community, who also requested anonymity for security reasons, said some of those who visit religious centers in search of deliverance are lured by monetary rewards from the churches. Real sexual and gender minorities have no reason to seek deliverance, she insisted.

Fagbohungbe Oni Bamikole, a lecturer in the department of Psychology at the University of Lagos, says that while “the act of cleansing people who are possessed by evil spirits is as old as man himself,” such acts can either be “real and true cleansing” or “phony or stage-managed healing” depending on the persons involved.

“I have personally witnessed real and true deliverance in life,” Fagbohungbe claimed, drawing a distinction between what he believes to be “phony” “deliverance by arrangement” aimed at attracting “multitudes into the church” and extorting “money from unsuspecting victims” from a more genuine practice.

For Fagbohungbe, from a psychological perspective, the issues of religion and deliverance may boil down to individual belief.

“If a man defines a situation as real, it becomes real in its consequences. In Christianity it is called strong faith, i.e. you receive, you believe and you become.”

He listed the psychological effect of undergoing healing or deliverance to include “anxiety, neurosis or agoraphobia … triggered by the memory or any activity that symbolizes the purportedly cured evil spirit.”

Justine Dyikuk, a writer and Communications Director of Bauchi Catholic Diocese, Nigeria, in his reaction to miraculous healings involving churches, said, “It is God who gives healing powers to the Church.”

He added that while the use of electronic or social media for evangelization can be good, it should not be used for miracle sessions, as doing so “amounts to propaganda, cheap popularity or seeking membership, which is often tied to monetary gains.”

Jesus, Dyikuk says, often told those he healed to “tell no one about it.”

Although SCOAN, on Emmanuel TV, says it publicizes its activities in order to glorify God’s work, it declined to speak on issues related to LGBTI when the magazine contacted it. A   source within the church said the no-response has to do with the sensitive nature of the subject. He, however, clarified that the church doesn’t bill beneficiaries for its healing. However, people who feel they have benefited from the church’s services are known to willingly show appreciation in the form of financial or material gifts. Church members also tithe. Such donations, it is believed, account for the wealth of TB Joshua and other Nigerian Pentecostal pastors whose net worth run into billions of naira.

 

 

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