God’s Chariots

I said in the last blog that I would focus a little bit more on how God infiltrates every aspect of Ghanaian culture. The evangelicals are here with a vengeance. Churches are springing up everywhere and there are some extremely gold-laden pastors, as business class passengers may have noticed on flights to Britain for the recent Lambeth shindig. Every morning I hear neighbours practising their gospel harmonies or having prayer meetings or playing God radio loud. Sunday-best pedestrians walk the dusty streets to their all-day fare of sin-letting.
Meanwhile, in the neverending river of metal and rubber, rear windows are adorned by curious messages that reflect the way Christianity is grafted on to something older, just as it also is in Europe with its paganism, Green Man pantheism and the Sheelas. A kind of neo-magic, if you like for the superstitious.

These messages range from the mundane (The Jesus is Coming Mobile Phone Company) to the cryptic (1000 hate 1000 lies). There are the short, enigmatic trumpetings (Believer, What God proposes, Angel on Board, Mercy Seat) as well as intensely personal (Kill Me, Love A).

All of which tends to be displayed in the same shivery yellow capitals that I associate with 1950s horror comics’ banner fonts).

It was suggested to me that drivers must go to a particular store and pick up whatever letters are currently available and make up the best message they can with what they’ve bought: a sort of religious Scrabble. Given the way that some of them drive (overtaking on blind hills and corners at high speed) it is no wonder Ghana has among the least safe roads in the world. But, with God on board, there is a double whammy. If you survive, it is because of Him and if you don’t, He can read your rear windscreen from heavenly miles away and let you in to the Holy Garage in the sky.

The perversity of it all is one reason why it is such a joy to live here.

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