No matter what spin is placed on it, the mere symbolism of the Bishop of the United Methodist Church and members of his clergy prostrating in prayer before the feet of President George Weah conveys a very strong sense of impropriety, which even non-Christians, including Muslims and traditional religious adherents, seem to find repugnant (offensive, objectionable, distasteful, even shocking).
Prostration is an age-old practice dating to ancient times. According to Wikipedia, prostration is the placement of the body in a reverentially or submissively prone position as a gesture. Prostration in religious practice is observed as an act of reverence to God and God alone. All the great religions of the world practice prostration as an act of reverence and submission to God. In Christianity, there are several Biblical references to prostration.
In Nehemiah 8:6, it is written, “Then Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen!’ while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.” And in the Book of Matthew 2:11, it reads, “After coming into the house they (the three wise men) saw the Child with Mary His mother, and they fell to the ground and worshipped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
In Islam, “Prostration” (Sajda /Sujud) is used to praise and glorify God by humbling oneself through prostration before “Allah” and it is a vital part of the five obligatory prayers performed daily; it is deemed obligatory for every Muslim, whether praying individually or in assembly. Showing humility to Allah through prostration and the willingness to humble oneself before Allah is what separates believers from unbelievers.
In view of the above, it is hardly surprising that video shots of a Christian Bishop in the House of God prostrating at the feet of the President of the nation in prayer sublimation would receive the kind of backlash it has simply because most people, especially men and women of “faith”, find it repugnant and antithetical to moral Christian ethics and behavior.
Had President Weah, for example, been photographed or videographed lying prostrate alongside the outstretched bodies of the Bishop and his clergy, such levels of repugnance his action has evoked would hardly have been and for obvious reasons. Could such a scenario have ever unfolded in a Mosque where the faithful would prostrate in prayer before an individual (in this case the President) seated before them? Never ever, in the opinion of this newspaper! For such would have been considered heretical.
Thus, the action by the Bishop of the United Methodist Church, the Right Reverend Samuel J. Quire, has left a lot of Liberians, especially Christians, feeling completely and shockingly let down. Why? Because they see the Church as a last bastion of hope, capable of asserting a strong moral influence against vices in society and against tendencies and inclinations to place the personal interests of the leader above the national interests.
Would the Bishop, therefore, find within himself the courage to speak the truth, whereby his actions suggest loyalty and total submission, not to his Lord Jesus Christ, but to a mere mortal? Was the United Methodist Bishop’s act an attempt to ingratiate the United Methodist Church of Liberia or himself into the favors and good graces of President Weah? Or was this just a mistake?
Quite clearly, the bishop, over the coming weeks or months, will find himself hard-pressed to provide an explanation to his fellow Methodists and to Christians in general.
But in the opinion of this newspaper, there is absolutely no explanation Bishop Quire can give for his action, which is in total violation of the very first of the Ten Commandments proclaimed by God to Moses in Exodus Chapter 20: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate me…”
Did not Bishop Quire learn this fundamental commandment in the catechism, or even in theology school? If he did, did he not believe it? If he did not believe it, then why did he offer himself for consecration as a bishop, then proceed to violate the very first of the Ten Commandments?
Whatever the case, the harm has been done as the video has already gone viral. But just how this is going to play out and what its fallout effects might be, appear uncertain at this point. One thing which is clear in the Scriptures as a living guide to how a balance can be struck between the earthly and the godly is found in Christ’s remarks: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.” This means, give to worldly authorities what is theirs and to God what belongs to Him. This is why the Daily Observer commiserates with all those men and women of faith whose sensibilities might have been offended by the acts of a single individual whose motives for performing such acts, not out of compulsion, but out of what the public views as an attempt to ingratiate either his institution or his person or both into the good graces of President George Manneh Weah.
Quire owes it not only to the United Methodist Church but to the nation, to make an admission of his grave mistake and an apology, with a pledge never again to repeat it. Otherwise, he would force his fellow Methodists to rethink his role as their bishop.
We all must remember how desperately we Liberians long for an Archbishop Michael Francis, who never feared to speak the truth to power.