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‘Ghana religiosa’: Preaching virtue but practicing vice

Mantis religiosa is the scientific name of the “praying mantis”, a member of the class Insecta and order Mantodea or Mantises.

This order of insects consists of about 2,200 species in 9 families and is found in both temperate and tropical habitats. Insects in this order (including Mantis religiosa) are commonly referred to as “praying mantises”, because of their typical “prayer-like” stance.

Interestingly, the word mantis in Greek means “prophet” or “fortune teller”. The scientific nameMantis religiosa, and the common name praying mantis, together with other variations such as Gottesanbeterin (German), prie-Dieu (French) and prega-Diou (Provençal) all suggest piety.

But how “prayerful” or “religious” is the praying mantis?  How prophetic can it be and does its prayer-like stance influence its life and social habits?

On the contrary, praying mantises are notoriously predatory in their feeding and sexual habits.

Praying mantises are exclusively predatory and can be nocturnal. Most species engage in sexual cannibalism both in captivity and in the field.

As masters of camouflage, larger species prey on small lizards, frogs, snakes, rodents, and anything they can successfully capture and devour.

Using the binary method of writing scientific names (i.e. Genus species), today our dear nation Ghana, can be called Ghana religiosa, suggesting how “religious” our society is or has become. A religious society in itself isn’t bad at all.

Indeed, it could impart our lives positively because religion and religious institutions can be agents of advocacy, funding, innovation, social justice, and individual and community transformation and empowerment. But the question is “has religion made us better people by deepening our principles, values and work ethics or it’s just a façade as in the case of the Mantis religiosa?”

During the 2010 World Cup Finals in South Africa, the Black Stars of Ghana was described by many, including Jeff Bradley of the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN), as a team that is “spiritually united.”

Ghanaian striker Asamoah Gyan told Bradley in an interview: “We love to sing together, dance together and pray together. It brings joy to our hearts. This is our team.”

In another instance, Captain John Mensah told the German news agency, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA), that prayer is not an afterthought. He noted: “We are Christians and we all know how important God is. We all respect God and we pray every time before the game and after the game. We praise God for what he has done for us. Then the next day is match-day, so we use that opportunity to give us strength and help us go on into the game. The team isn’t praying alone, the government and nation’s churches have called for united prayers at home for the team,” he added in conclusion.

In the year 2012, the media reported that 4 out of the then 8 political parties that took part in the position-balloting session organised by the Electoral Commission of Ghana for the political parties contesting the 2012 Presidential Elections, went religious by reading divine meanings into the positions picked by their respective parties.

“This is divine intervention. We said that the NDC is doing one-touch and the signs have already started showing,” the General Secretary of the NDC, Mr. Johnson Asiedu Nketiah, told journalists after picking the first position for his party on the ballot paper.

After picking the third position for his party, the National Chairman of the NPP, the late Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, said every day he prays to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – the Holy Trinity – for victory for the party. “The decision is the Lord’s and I thank Him for where He has placed us.” He added.

The flag bearer of the PNC, Mr. Hassan Ayariga, who picked the sixth position on the ballot paper, said – “I am satisfied with my position and confident that I will win with that position. We believe that God will do it for us.” Waxing Biblical, he said it was God, who anoints, enthrones and dethrones kings and “I have always asked God to direct me in whatever I do.”

On his part, the spokesperson for the presidential candidate of the CPP, Mr. Kwame Jantuah, said the seventh position he picked, was significant because the elections would be held on December 7, and the swearing-in would be on January 7. He then added – “God, after creating the world, also rested on the seventh day. These are all significant days.”

The Global Religiosity Index report for 2012 released by WIN-Gallup International Association ranked 7 African countries, out of 57, among the most religious countries in the world based on their religiosity (worship attendance, frequency of prayers and believe in God). Overall, Ghana was ranked first with 96%. Nigeria followed in second position with 93%, the others were Kenya – 88%, Cameroun – 82%, South Sudan – 79%, Tunisia – 75%, South Africa – 64%.

All the above evidence buttress the religious attitude of the average Ghanaian.

Indeed, religion is very much a part of the Ghanaian culture and majority of Ghanaians are deeply committed to the practices and major tenets of their religions. They highly regard their respective religious beliefs and practices and demonstrate it overtly in various ways. Most Ghanaians allot special time for religious events and rites that their groups observe.

These days, even political parties and politicians incorporate their speeches with scriptural and religious quotes; and allot time for religious practices like prayers and play gospel music at their political rallies and events.

Maybe we are rightfully religious, as our population is made up of about 70% Christians, with Muslims taking the second place. Churches and Christian places of worship are filled to capacity on Sundays while more are being established by the day just as pastors, prophets and ministers of God increase.

Indeed, the Spintex Road in Accra (i.e. from Accra Mall to Batsonaa Total) alone is said to have about 300 different churches with large congregation sizes. In the same way, mosques and other Muslim places of worship are filled to capacity during daily prayer times and for Friday prayers.

Our public places are littered with signposts, banners and posters advertising different churches and faith-based programmes, with more springing up by the week.

There are currently over 400 FM Radio and TV stations in Ghana. A random survey of the FM stations shows that over 90% of them have not less than 7 religious programmes (including sermons) in a week.

These vary in durations and are spread throughout the day – dawn, morning, afternoon, evening and late night – and in almost all the major local languages. This is besides the dedicated religious stations, whose programmes run all day.

The situation is even more pronounced during the weekends. When it comes to the TV stations, the situation is not much different, though they are not as much as the FM stations. Apart from Radio and TV sermons, preaching goes on in the churches and mosques, on public transports, in the market places, hospitals, prisons, offices and any other public place.

Take a random sample of 10 businesses in your community, and you are most likely to have the names of not less than 5 of them having one religious connotation or another. The scenario is the same for writings and stickers on vehicles etc.

In spite of all our religiosity, our society is increasingly being eaten up by the canker of crimes such as prostitution, drug trafficking, substance abuse, armed robbery, rape, child abuse, bribery and corruption; and religious, chieftaincy, ethnic and tribal conflicts among others. Bribery and corruption has been the bane of our society for some time now, but in recent years the political class and actors of our society have introduced a culture of insults and violence into our body politics. To the extent that these days politicians insult their opponents and prominent people of society and they are applauded and glorified by their followers.

In the name of politics, party supporters insult the elderly, leaders of state institutions and even former presidents on radio; and their leaders don’t see the need to correct them. Blatant lies are peddled around hypocritically as truths, having their conscience seared with hot iron. Our political class and actors promote and sponsor violence in the name of winning political power. They pull down and undermine each other, circumvent policies and programmes meant for the people and practice acts that does not promote nation building; and they call it political tactics and strategy.

Interestingly, each of these politicians come from a family first before they become politicians. They also happen to be prominent people and active members of their various churches and mosques; where love for one another, morality and good values are supposed to be taught. As ambassadors, is this the best way for them to represent God, their faith, their churches and mosque, their families, their tribes and their kinsmen? Obviously, they are all using God and taking the nation for granted. The church may have its own problems, but God will judge us all. Bible says “By their fruits, ye shall know them”. Matthew 7:20

Demonstration of our faith in God should be more than religious rituals. True faith in God should be demonstrated in our deeds and in relating to our fellow humans. Preaching the word of God, praying, fasting, reading the Bible or Quran are all supposed to draw us closer to our God  so we can be better Christians and Muslims and relate to one another more Godly. The teachings of Christ summarises it all – Do unto others what you would like others do unto you. Otherwise, we are just a sounding brass or tinkling cymbal. 1 Corinthians13:1.

Undoubtedly, religion, particularly Christianity, has become a potent social force in every facet of the average Ghanaian’s life. Unfortunately, however, our society is yet to benefit fully from the good principles and values from the teachings of Christianity and Islam, particularly, HONESTY, PEACE, LOVE and UNITY.

Probably, we have all become like praying mantises by preaching virtue and practicing vice; or worse still, we are just being hearers and not doers of the word of God and Allah. But the Bible says “…for there is nothing concealed, that shall not be disclosed; and hidden, that shall not be made known”. Matthew 10:26.


By: Tsorlor Nii Sowah


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