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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Nearer my God to Thee: Designer Coffins

Of course, religion is an insurance policy. The amount you invest in praying and hymning, builds your deposit account in the Bank of the Supreme Being. It may, on the other hand, merely be an opiate to stop you worrying about the hereafter. Hearing the innumerable churches in full flood, around the house in Accra on a Sunday, seems to confirm these dual possibilities. For example, I passed a church the other day on the Spintex Road and there were probably a thousand plus supplicants, writhing and swaying and halleluiahing as the preacher whipped them into a frenzied delirium of worshipfulness. In Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby there is the cutting line, “The rich get richer and the poor get children”. In Christian evangelicalism the preacher gets rich and the poor get robbed blind. From the outside it seems hardly different from the ecstasy induced trances of the clubs in the land I left behind but at least there soul refers to a species of music and not part of a higher purchase agreement..

Further on I passed a broken down tro tro (a cross between a bus and a taxi) with the immortal (literally) words emblazoned on its back, “God has the Power.” He certainly had – and He wasn’t going to reconnect it in that vehicle! In the face of every kind of personal or public disaster, faith affirms that God is good and Jesus saves. The sole survivor from a crash in Thursday’s paper extolled God’s mercy, making no mention of His harsh judgment on the victims who didn’t make it.

Getting to heaven is BIG. The Biggest. And how you get there matters to many a worshipper. Along the same road there is a coffin maker. His current offering is a fish shaped box – for someone who was a fish monger or a fisherman. He makes screwdriver shaped receptacles for electricians, chicken shaped for egg producers and taxi shapes for the tro tro men. You die in a trade and there’s a bespoke chariot waiting to whisk you away.

So when I depart this mortal coil, it may be in Ghana and it may be in an agnostic-shaped construction of wood. The problem for the coffin-maker will be to create the perfect zen paradox. All the sound and fury of one Jack Sanger which actually signified – nothing!


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