Many people in my country might remember a particular feature on a certain TV station where a false pastor who had been fleecing his followers got exposed. In one of the scenes, a woman is seen being urged by the said pastor to expose her breast to the whole church in order to receive prayers for healing. The poor woman had complained of constant aches in her breast, a condition which i would like to assume had she had enough finances, would have taken her to the doctor’s. But she was obviously desperate and in her desperation, she found herself in this particular church, requesting for prayers for healing. And you can actually hear the said pastor snickering at her as she turns to show him her breast in private. Only to order her to turn around and face the church as according to him, nobody can’t claim to not have seen a woman’s breast before. She could have been somebody’s wife and mother, mind you.
In another incident, some women belonging to a certain church in one of the African countries i shall not mention, are seen eating grass after orders from their pastor. I didn’t spot any man in their midst but only women who somehow seemed possessed by something, scrambling out of the church to the grounds outside where there was an abundance of green grass. And even after criticism from other people not of the said church who were appalled by that clip of people feeding on grass, the women claimed to have received healing afterward. There were other claims of yet another church in my country, where the women were asked to attend service without underwear so as to allow the Holy Spirit to travel freely in their bodies. Others in another country away from our continent, were supposedly tricked by their pastor into giving him oral sex as he claimed that his semen was `holy milk’.
And you might wonder why mainly women are targeted by denominations practicing extreme religion as well as cults. Before you start pointing accusatory fingers at me for touching on a sensitive subject, let me first clearly state that i am a Christian. And that i have happened to be a witness before, of how extreme religion can be used to twist the mind of an individual and especially a woman for that matter.
Women are emotional creatures. This is particularly helpful especially in our Christian lives. We get easily touched by God’s word and mostly if we feel like it is speaking directly to us. We yearn for a closer relationship with God and would like to connect with him through prayer and our spiritual walk in life. Cultists know this. Same to those out to brainwash others with their often misinterpreted, extreme, religious beliefs. Most men avoid being in tune with their emotions. As a matter of fact, they consider it unmanly to be highly emotional and as much as some may be born again Christians, it would not be very easy for someone to use their emotions to manipulate or control them with religion. Being mostly out of tune with their emotions make men to be practical thinkers. Before a man decides to run out and eat grass at the orders of his pastor, he would want to know why the said pastor is not setting an example first by being at the forefront of the grass eating stint. But for women, with their emotional desire to connect with God, they will gladly follow the orders and especially if they have already been manipulated enough to believe that by doing so they are getting a spiritual healing of sorts.
Society can be extremely harsh on women and especially if these women live in a patriarchal, chauvinistic society where the men rule. Women may be going through a lot in their personal lives in such societies. Perhaps a violent husband or a husband who is irresponsible or who left her for another woman and hardly provides. In laws who do not want to see her and almost all their waking hours are spent trying to get this particular woman to divorce with her husband. Perhaps a child born out of wedlock where the woman has to endure constant castigation. Homelessness and abject poverty. A previous rape incident where the woman isn’t allowed to talk about it at all and therefore has to live with the emotional scars as a result. These things equally happen in non-partriachal and less chauvinistic societies. And they are known to cause desperation in an individual. Cults many times welcome such women with emotional issues into their fold with an initial promise of acceptance and understanding. And being as vulnerable as she already is, she ends up unknowingly ensnared. In other situations, women suffering emotional issues may embrace extreme religion in a bid to overcome and forget about whatever their issues are. She may claim to be born again but not really sure what the word being `born again’ actually means except the fact that being overly preoccupied with religion makes her forget her problems.
Women are known to associate with authoritative figures. She wants to look up to someone. And that is why there is a particular reason why God designed a family to have a father so that he can be the head of that family and exercise his authority in that position positively, for the benefit of his family. Some men are known to misuse that authority by using it excessively and negatively therefore impacting their families in the wrong way. Others are known to neglect that responsibility as an authoritative figure. Many grown women are walking around battling daddy issues no wonder these cult leaders require their followers to call them `daddy’. And the women followers gladly do so because there is a fatherly void in their lives. The extreme religious leader or cult leader carries himself with the grace of a father and therefore she has no qualms addressing him as such. And everyone knows that a `daddy’ deserves his respect and obedience from his children. It is much easier that way for him to exert his control and manipulation over them in a cult or extreme religion situation.
Terminal illnesses. A wonderful bait for cultists and false preachers. These people know that it is never easy for a person to live with an unspoken `death sentence’ upon their lives and they use it to their maximum advantage with promises of healing. Many women have been misled to the point of death by being asked to stop their medication since they are now healed. The sad fact is that even men have fallen victim. God heals but there seems to be a misplaced notion amongst some people that even men purporting to be called by God can also heal. Yes, there are indeed those with a gift of healing from God and this is where we all need to have a discerning spirit to be sure whether the gift is really from God or a sick gimmick to garner followers.
Someone questioned why it only seems to be women being possessed by demons and rolling on the ground violently in church as the demons are being exorcised. Women are vulnerable and emotional. They get affected deeply by problems. Some end up in witchdoctors’ dens and dabbling in witchcraft as a result of it where the demons come in. They get even more afflicted and end up at times in wrong churches where the demons are exorcised in return for complete loyalty to the denomination leader. As a woman, i wish we joined churches out of a need of spiritual nourishment and not because we are desperately looking for something or are at our most vulnerable. I guess only then will our thinking be more practical. I believe in prayer and i believe that also an individual’s prayer works and therefore we need to trust in our praying skills and God to answer them at times.