Back to Naija.
By the time I returned to Nigeria, my tolerance for noise had collapsed. It took me months before I braced up to buy a generator that was then becoming common place in Nigeria. And the rule of use was strict. It must be switched off by 11/12pm so that everyone can sleep in peace. But that was an effort in futility. Many left their generators to run all night, so putting off my own was of no effect, other than lowering the noise level by just a meaningless notch.
I also wrestled with going back to using my horn the Nigerian way. I still do till date. I use my car horn sparingly. So far I have not noticed any disadvantage of not blasting my way around like most drivers do.
However, one important decision I made on my return was not to live in a house within 1000 meters of a Church.
When I was a child, my grandmother’s house was just a few meters from a Baptist Church. Their service was normal. No screaming. The loudest sound you would probably hear was that of the big organ and it was not irritating by any means.
My earliest recollection of this modern day “bring down the roof” preaching in the church must have been with Archbishop Benson Idahosa of the Church of God Mission. He used to preach on radio from his base in Benin City. Then came Pastor Joseph Oritsejafor, Idahosa’s protege who preached on radio from his base in Warri. He raised his voice while preaching much higher than that of his master.
Soon the “screaming game” became the gold standard of preaching inside and outside a church in Nigeria. Everyone who aspired to or has been called, as often said, must first learn how to shake the heavens with his voice so that “God will not fall asleep.” Even when a pastor has a few members before him, he will mount Disc Jockey speakers and speak at four or five times his normal voice level.
The technology behind the sound system was meant to make it easy for speakers to talk comfortably to a large audience. But there are ethics for the use of these instruments. A spesker is expected to hold a mic a few centimeters from his mouth and modulate his voice level such that it is neither too low that people strain to hear him nor too high that they are irritated.
In Nigerian churches, these guidelines have been tossed out of the window. These days, there is very little difference between attending a “rock music jam” and a typical Nigerian Church.
Sadly, no one has sat down yet to quantify and do a scientific study of the damages done to the ear drums of woshippers who attend these ear blowing religious sessions. It would be interesting to know the condition of the ear drums of someone who has just given his life to Jesus and the one who had done so years back and has been exposed to a prolonged period of sound abuse.
Unfortunately, the habit has been exported to private homes. A neighbor who just moved out would begin his prayers at 4am and wake up everybody. He sings, dances, cries (yes cries) at the top of his voice for two hours. And that happened every day until he moved out. He did not give any thought to the fact that for some that was their best sleeping period.
Now to the most important question. Where did the habit of screaming when preaching come from? The most authoritative person that walked the surface of the earth was Jesus. And he was not known to be a screamer. This is what the scripture said of him at Isaiah 42:2 and Matthew 12:19
“He will not cry out or raise his voice, And he will not make his voice heard in the street.”
Jesus disciples, with all the powers bestowed on them were not known to be screamers either. They were as gentle as their master in both speech and action.
Screaming is inconsiderate of the health of immediate listeners in a church and that is not something that should be taken lightly. It is a public health issue. Not only to those in the church but also to those living around a church that have to endure high decibel sound both day and night.
But for church goers who are not concerned, it is their business. However, church authorities have the responsibility to contain their noise within their buildings.
Lagos State has tried to curtail the menace after a lot of complain from across the state. I am not sure what the situation is at today. For all other states, Nigerians are helpless. The best we can do is to appeal that pastors reduce their tones for the sake of everyone’s wellbeing. God will never fall asleep even if pastors preach in whispers.Besides, it it mot the high falutin messages that make people to change their ways. If it was, Nigeria would perhaps be the best country in the world.