OUR TREES, LANDS, STREAMS AND ART ARE NOT EVIL! ONLY THE DEVIL IS

OUR TREES, LANDS, STREAMS AND ART ARE NOT EVIL! ONLY THE DEVIL IS

1. A couple of years back, I set my foot for the first time on the soil of Enugu-Ezike. It was on a normal tropical African afternoon, the sun was well ahead of us and our skins were burnt in its scorching heat. My classmate and friend Ekere Chika had taken me on a tour to his ancestral home and most significantly to meet a tree. This tree according to the oral tradition handed on to him from generations past through his father held a lot of significance for his people. This Akpu-tree was indeed magnificent and appeared regal. As young as I was then, I could see from the rhythm of his lip’s movement, the colour of his skin as well as the rigour and delicacy with which he told me this story, how much this tree meant not just to him but also his people. Infact, each time I ferried through his village in a bus or a motorcycle, I made sure I carefully observed the akpu-Tree. At least it reminded me of my friend and how much his cultural heritage meant to him.

2. Fast forward to May 2018, I heard that some Christian fundamentalists had cut down the tree, claiming it was the home of demons and the seat/sea of evil spirits. In a similar fashion, good trees, fertile lands, beautiful and creative arts as well as good streams, rivers and springs have been termed evil and thus destroyed, abandoned and laid waste. As genuine as these crusaders have thought their crusage to be, they have only played out a set-script in ignorance. In their naïve-fundamentalist-ignorance, they only destroyed the possessed and not the possessor.

KNOW THIS THEN
3. Our God is good, He is goodness and love issues forth from Him. In his loving goodness, He created all things, and “God saw that all he had made and indeed it was very good(Gen. 1: 31).” To man God gave charge of all created things to exercise dominion over, and use them through rightful means, modes and proportion for his own good. Exercising dominion here implies none of either a consumerist or a destructive-exploitative attitude but that of a cultivation and taking care of creation. Hence, water bodies, vegetation and infact all creation are benefices from God to us. More so, they are sacramental in the sense that they are manifest and real symbol of God’s love for humanity. God also reveals himself to humanity through the beauty, harmony and order manifested by/in these created realities. THIS IS A FACT THAT EVEN THE DEVIL IS AWARE OF in greater measure than we do, and is truly unhappy about. The devil can sure go any length to thwart this even if it means possessing and holding to ransom any part of creation.

4. God is truth and truth is beautiful and good in itself. God in his love desires to reveal himself to humanity, to dwell among humanity so they could come to the knowledge of him. Thus God- Truth himself allows frail human mind to conceive him in his heart. This truth can also find other complementary form of human expression, above all when it is a matter of evoking what is beyond word(Catechism of the Catholic Church [henceforth CCC], 2500). Of such complementary form is the Visual Art. “Created in the Image of God, man expresses the truth of his relationship with God the creator by the beauty of his artistic works (CCC 2501).”

Therefore, an artist whether he understands or believes this or not, in using his God-given talent and by his/her own efforts simply witnesses to the truth which God has communicated and confirms humanity’s participation in God’s on-going creative process. Nota Bene, to the extent that is inspired by truth and love of beings, art bears a certain likeness to God’s activity in what he has created (cf CCC 2501). This prior sentence is necessary because man being weak and prone to faults and imperfection is susceptible to the devil’s machinations and can misunderstand as well as misrepresent God’s revelation process. Even though Arts of their nature express the infinite beauty and truth about God, the devil can thwart their form, through the artist and re-direct them to his own vane glory.

5. In all these what do we do in concrete situations? Do we keep burning and cutting down trees or plants because they are possessed? Can we kill human beings who are possessed too?

6. All good things come from God including Trees, Plants, Lakes, Rivers and Arts too. The devil only comes to Steal, possess and reap from what he did not sow. However, Christ has given us authority over the evil spirits (cf Mk. 6: 7) and we will drive out demons in his name (Mk. 16: 17) whether they dwell in trees, waters or Arts. The devil knows more than we do and can see more than we can ever see. He is as well a great and patient planner. He can come up with different tact and tactics in order to ridicule anything that can reveal or mediate God to humanity. It is his sole desire to covet every good which God has ordained for man. But in Christ Jesus and through his church, we have the power of EXORCISM. Exorcism takes place when the church-the people of God asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil one and withdrawn from his dominion (CCC 1673). Jesus performed Exorcism and from him the church has received the powers to do so in his name and for our good and to the glory of God the Father.

7. CONCLUDING POINTS

a. Our trees, lands, Arts and Streams are gifts from God. They are not evil, only the devil is.
b. The good God cannot and will not offer man the “cream of the crop” of His creation something, a gift that will demean him or be harmful to him. What father if his son ask for a fish will give him a snake?
c. The seventh commandment enjoins respect for the integrity of creation, they are by nature destined for the common good of past, present and future humanity (CCC 2415.) Eco-Justice and Christian charity demands that we allow future generations to enjoy the goods of creation.
d. The dominion granted by the Creator over creation and natural resources of the universe cannot be separated from the respect for moral obligation, including those towards generations to come.
e. Stop cutting down these trees, Stop burning traditional artworks. Exorcise them and preserve them for our own good and for posterity.
Author: Onoyima Maximillian Nnaemeka

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Uche Asogwa

    Ejiofor Samson Asadu replied to this post on Facebook thus :

    Such a wonderful theological reflection!!!
    But I would like to make the following remarks:

    1. Life is larger than theology. I was once a vibrant theologian with first class grade. But as a pastor, I realized that life is larger than theology and there are many life threatening problems that theology has no answer to.

    2. New Testament: we note the use of the two words: Devil (διάβολος diábolos “slanderer, accuser”) and demon (δαιμόνιον, daimónion- evil supernatural force)- although the NT sometimes interchange the use of the two words, we know very well that in most cases, when the NT uses “demon”, it doesn’t mean devil, but a supernatural evil force. Thus, a dumb man may be said to be possessed by a dumb demon. That does not necessarily mean that the man was possessed by a devil but that he was under the evil of dumbness and in need of healing/deliverance from it. Sure there are cases of possession by the devil in the NT.
    So when one says that a tree or a river is possessed by demon, it doesn’t necessarily mean that devils are living in that but that they have become objects of enslavement of the people, who are as a result in need of healing/deliverance. We note that in this sense, demons are logical beings.

    3. Though I never believed that some devils were living in any particular tree, I personally approved that a particular tree be cut down (not that Akpu-tree you referred to). The tree (an iroko tree) was supposed to be at the service of the people. So if a particular tree is believed (even if falsely) to molest the people, it must be made to be at their service by cutting it down to provide wood for building houses at the service of the people. The owners of the tree who could not conveniently afford three meals a day got N150, 000 from the sale of the tree which hitherto they were afraid to sell. The case of the Akpu-tree you mentioned, the parish house is now located there, a place that has destroyed so many youths who used the thick forest around the Akpu-tree to smoke marijuana! Since the tree has become a supernatural force against the people, it wouldn’t be improper to say that it is possessed by demon (not in the sense of devil). And mark you that many sites of parishes and churches were once evil forests filled with such trees!!!
    Most importantly, when the people saw that I first cut the tree and yet I didn’t die as they believed, this was far more efficacious way to communicate to them the Almighty power of Jesus than homilies saturated with high theological concepts for a whole year!!!

    4. Personally, I am not afraid of any stream or river. But if a particular river prevents people from a particular village from going to a particular place with the threat of death, if it is possible me, I will dry up that river!
    The fact that the people were invited in the name Jesus to go and see the river. Some went, saw the river and returned and none of them died is a far more efficacious homily than a yr of retreat on the power of Jesus!

    NB: In missionary area, a theologian with a missionary spirit extends the boundaries which theology has set for boundless Divine grace.
    All theology is at the service of “Salus animarum suprema lex” (The salvation of souls is the supreme law). Thus, the deliverance of a single man is more important than a thousand pigs that perished into the sea. Works of arts and crafts are wonderful. They should be preserved but not at the expense of the slavery of the people.

    ●In any case, I condemn with all my might the forceful destruction of arts and crafts of the traditional religion. I also condemn the superstitious attribution of demonic prowess to these trees and rivers. Our people need catechesis accompanying such pastoral endeavours.

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