This story, which I first saw reported a couple of months ago, makes me simultaneously want to puke, weep, and punch my fist through a wall. Some Christian churches and pastors throughout Africa, and it seems particularly in Nigeria, have taken to accusing children of being witches and prescribing horrific forms of exorcism, up to and including murder.

Why? The report ascribes blame to a potent mixture of poverty, conflict, and poor education. Families and communities under great pressure seem to be seeking scapegoats for their misfortune, and children have become targets. The report also describes the rapid growth of “evangelical Christianity” in Africa. Churches with names like “Born 2 Rule” and “Winner’s Chapel” apparently dot the landscape. Appallingly, part of what seems to be happening is that these churches see themselves as in competition with each other; and a49909443ccusing children of witchcraft is a tactic some of these pastors are using to gain spiritual credibility (and, no doubt, followers). Further, churches often charge money for so-called exorcisms, resulting in further debilitating financial ruin for families.

Lest we think this is an “African” problem, the article points out that at least one of these churches has its origins in an American (California) church—but, it seems, the U.S. church hasn’t had contact with its African plant in some time. 

This situation is sickening in so many ways. Just a couple of rather obvious observations. (1) This is a prime example of what happens when bad theology and literalistic, wooden interpretation of the Bible is allowed to run amok in a situation of extreme poverty. American churches who have evangelized Africa in the past and are doing so presently need to wake up to the consequences of their actions, particularly if, like the church named in the article, they’ve disengaged from the African churches they planted. (2) Early Christians were known for adopting abandoned children—an extraordinarily countercultural move. Here we have the exact opposite.

And now a couple of declarations. (1) If you’re a Christian who thinks social justice issues like poverty and education are for liberals, it’s time to get real. (2) We keep hearing how quickly Christianity is growing in the global South. Any form of Christianity that does this to children needs to die, and quickly.

May God have mercy on the children of Nigeria being abused in this way.