Every fertile imagination could have predicted that a crisis on the scale of what COVID-19 is would generate conspiracy theories that would purport to answer the what, the why and how it is happening.
In Africa, the theories have taken the form of Christian eschatology. The end times are here, so says some men of megachurches, and the devil is about to take over.
Chris Oyakhilome, the Nigerian leader of the Christ Embassy Church or LoveWorld Inc., has emerged as the continent’s most powerful evangelist of the theory of some sinister doing behind the pandemic.
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Oyakhilome, whose church claims to have about 13 million followers worldwide, is combining misapprehensions about 5G technology and the coronavirus.
He has a theory that unifies the two novel phenomena. The result is a multi-colored and -layered teaching which accuses the world’s governments, media corporations, scientific and medical experts as well as moneyed individuals of masterminding a “new world order.”
Africa has the world’s fastest-growing Christian population. But it is important to note the disclaimer that the interpretations of technology and health crises that lend themselves to some esoteric meanings are not uniquely African.
European priests spoke of the end times when sickly misery struck in just the last century. This is in spite of the fact the body of scientific knowledge at the time looked more like now than the time of the Bubonic plague.
In the 1930s and even as late as the 1960s, some American Christian preachers warned of the evil that is the television. They cautioned that it was a tool for demonic ends.
The internet age that picked up momentum about three decades ago, has followed the same trend of warnings from mainly evangelical preachers. They have warned of the theft of souls and talents via chatrooms.
Interestingly, this category of doomsday preachers have not connected the coronavirus pandemic with 5G technology and successfully propagated it. At least, not as well as Oyakhilome, nicknamed Pastor Chris.
What we have seen is the allegation that COVID-19 is caused by 5G. Even musician Keri Hilson was a proponent of this view that has been criticized by experts.
Face2FaceAfrica carefully scrutinized and quashed the view pushed by the likes of Hilson. But Pastor Chris is saying something different than Hilson.
What the Nigerian preacher alleges is that 5G technology, monumentally better than 4G is not responsible for the coronavirus pandemic. Rather, the coronavirus was artificially induced into humans to kick off a contagion.
What the faceless world-controlling people in the shadows intend to achieve when everyone is worried about the contagion, is to expand 5G connectivity.
The conditions of the contagion, according to his theory, are supposed to incite fear so that people surrender to government submission. People will stay indoors when told to, and that allows for the global 5G expansion to happen in secret.
As such, for Pastor Chris, the coronavirus itself is not be feared. It is not even a killer disease – people are only dying because they are not being taken care of.
In line with Pastor Chris’ theory, he suggests some very ambitious things he claims 5G technology can do – like literally connecting human brains to the internet.
“5G is, I always say, 10 times as powerful (as 4G)… 5G will be sold in a way that causes everyone to embrace it. You embrace Internet of Things with the 5G. When you understand what 5G is, you’ll love it…,” Pastor Chris preached in a video available on YouTube.
He explained what he meant by Internet of Things: “Internet of Things meaning we can have everything that can be connected, connected…”. These things that can be connected include human brains.
This is a wide-reaching plan, apparently, to institute, “one world, one world government, one world economy and one religion”. Pastor Chris drew parallels between his theory and the verse in the Christian Bible, specifically, Revelations 13, where readers are told of a force known as the Antichrist that will rule over the entire earth.
The 56-year-old pastor has had to defend himself against criticisms, some of them surprisingly coming from another veteran of the African Christian faith healing industry, Matthew Ashimolowo.
Ashimolowo in a virtual church service this week, rubbished Oyakhilome’s theory without mentioning his compatriot’s name.
But Pastor Chris’ army of believers do not seem to be weighed down by the discouragement that has come from the scientific community, politicians and religious skeptics.
A hashtag of support has been launched on Twitter, #IstandwithPastorChris, to express full compliance with the teaching and trust in the theory of Oyakhilome.
In a way, the strength of faith expressed by his followers reveals the depth of the success of psychosocial project that Pastor Chris has overseen for some 30 years.
He has overcome unfriendly government interest in different countries to being friends with some of the most powerful people on the continent. Oyakhliome has not done badly for himself too, with Forbes saying in 2011 that he was worth something between $30 million to $60 million.
Already in Nigeria, there has been media discussion about whether Oyakhilome is not crossing some legal lines with his teaching. But he would argue that any attempt to stop him would be an infringement on his religious and free speech rights.
On a continent where the gulf in trust between governments and citizenry keeps widening, Oyakhilome is hunting in a meaty territory. His unsubstantiated and sorely imperfect theory will most definitely win over people as the devastation of the pandemic only increases.