By Bola Bolawole
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The sad and very unfortunate death, in controversial circumstances, of the popular Nigerian gospel singer, Osinachi Nwachukwu, has, once again, set tongues wagging about the vexed issue of domestic violence occasioning bodily harm, even death, in marriages and the views and position of Nigeria’s usually conservative Church fathers on marriage or marital vows often couched as Church doctrine or God’s position on marriage.
To be sure, the number of husbands killing their wives and vice-versa is infinitesimal when compared to those who are not but, as we all know in journalism parlance, bad news make the headlines, travel faster and have better traction than good news. A popular journalism dictum says: When a dog bites a man, it is no news but when a man bites a dog; that is the news! So, couples living in peace and harmony are no newsmakers but the few who do not are those that hug the limelight.
In recent times, there have been many cases of high-brow domestic violence resulting in husbands killing their wife and wife killing their husband. Surprisingly and interestingly, it is no longer a one-way traffic; women liberation, perhaps, have seen to it that the womenfolk, often touted as the weaker sex, no longer take domestic violence lying low! As the new fad posits, not only can women do anything men can do, they now go a step further and do it even more gruesomely! In one particular video that I could not even watch to the end, the woman and her accomplices-in-crime tied up the husband and broke his scrotums; the harrowing torture made the man’s eventual death to pale into insignificance.
The gruesome nature of the killings, whether perpetrated by wife or husband, is something else. How love could turn to such astounding hatred over time deserves investigation. Could it be that there was no real or actual love in the relationship in the first place? Many marriages are contracted based on factors extraneous to genuine and real love between couples; diabolical means are employed by a party desperate to have his or her way. When the other party’s eyes “clear” somewhere down the line, bedlam! Unmet expectations (including exaggerated and unrealistic expectations) play a big role in why marriages collapse; changes or fluctuations in personalities and lifestyles; issues over finance; interference from outsiders (including friends, extended family members, and even pastors); infidelity; and loss of self-esteem (times are hard!) by either of the couple are some of the other factors that could turn loving husband or wife to murderers overnight or over time.
Osinachi died on Friday, 9th April, 2022 and her death has been attributed to domestic violence, with the husband, Peter Nwachukwu, the prime suspect. Painful as the loss of Sister Osinachi must have been to her family, friends and admirers alike, the position of the law is that the husband (already arrested) must be presumed innocent until the contrary is proven. That is trite but it does appear the public is not willing to extend such luxury to the Church, especially so the church where the late sister worshiped and the man of God that was supposed to care for her. Torrents of questions have thus been asked concerning the quality of care the sister received, especially in the light of emerging revelations that her case was not hidden and it was not a one-off incident. What did her church and pastor – as well as her family and friends – do to save her? One narration is that she rejected all overtures to her to walk away! Why would this be so?
The reasons could be: She loved her husband despite his alleged maltreatment of her. She did not want to cut and run and leave her children at the mercy of her husband. She was afraid of the stigma – social and scriptural – should her marriage collapse. For a popular gospel singer, her fame and fortunes could be adversely affected and she could even be excommunicated from or ostracised by her church and fellow brothers and sisters in a society and system that is acutely judgmental and inquisitorial without considering the merits of each case – and this while reading and interpreting the scriptures upside down! She might have been one of those born-again Christians who have swallowed hook-line-and-sinker the hogwash bandied about by many preachers that divorcees will not make heaven. She might also have encouraged herself or been encouraged to stay within an allegedly abusive marriage to continue to intercede for her husband. But didn’t the bible say a living dog is better than a dead lion (Ecclesiastes 9:4)? And as a gospel singer, Sister Osinachi must be familiar with the song that says only the living can praise the Lord!
Now that everyone is blaming the Church as much as the husband for Osinachi’s death, the question we must ask is: Would the Church be blamed if those involved are Muslims, people of other faith or unbelievers? The truth of the matter is that a couple turning on one another is not a church thing; it cuts across faith and it does not exclude faith-less people, so to say. That said, two areas of concern to many are the position of the Church on divorce and the marital vow of “for better, for worse…until death do us part”. Does God frown on divorce? Yes, because Malachi 2:16 says: “For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the Lord of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously”. Jesus Christ in Matthew 19: 1-6 emphasized this when, in answering the tempting question of the Pharisees, said in verse 6b: “What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder”
Does God permit divorce under any circumstance? Yes, He does! In the same Bible passage under reference, the Pharisees reminded Jesus that Moses did command their fathers “to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away… (Deuteronomy: 1-4)” And Jesus answered and said unto them: “Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so” It means, then, that the problem of husband killing wife or vice-versa is not new as the Preacher said in Ecclesiastes 1: 9 that there is nothing new under the sun. Moses tried to solve the problem; he did not run away from it or pretend it did not exist. His solution might not have been perfect but it probably provided a practical solution and Jesus did not condemn it; instead, Jesus pointed the people in the direction of the perfect will of God for them, which he said operated in the beginning until the heart of man became corrupted from his youth (Genesis 8:21). Some bible scholars speak of the perfect will of God and the permissive will of God. Besides, sin is sin and God’s eyes cannot behold any – be it divorce, fornication, adultery, lying, stealing, favouritism, oppression, etc. Why, then, do we single out some for condemnation but close our eyes to others?
Jesus gave his own condition for divorce in verse 9 when He said: “And I say unto you, whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” So, a man can divorce on grounds of fornication/adultery! Is God a respecter of persons? Does he favour men only to disfavour women? Or does he apply the same rule to both? So, if a man can divorce on grounds of fornication or adultery, a woman should be able to do likewise! Some preachers frighten the daylight out of anyone contemplating divorce by saying, though erroneously if the above scripture is properly interpreted, that such a divorcee must stay unmarried until the ex-wife or ex-husband dies! But that is not what Jesus said! The person who must stay unmarried if he divorces is the one who does so on grounds other than the one stipulated by Jesus – fornication/adultery. The punishment for a woman who is divorced on grounds of fornication is grave (staying unmarried ever after) possibly to discourage waywardness.
Did God impose heavy punishment on wayward wives while letting their men go scot-free? Not at all! But like Lucky Dube crooned, you must “read your bible and understand what it says!” If you allow the interpretation of another fellow to enslave and mislead you, that is your fault! One other ground for divorce or separation was given by Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7: 10-15 when he said: “But if the unbelieving departs, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace” So, if the brother or sister whose unbelieving spouse runs away with another partner is not under bondage, why ask him or her not to re-marry? Those whom God has set free, why are some preachers putting them in fetters of iron? TO BE CONTINUED.