Another ride to Yaoundé another story to tell.  Each time I get on the bus there is a new sales men – and the occasional preacher.  This ride I found both encompassed in one man.  He started as they all do – invoking the creator and asking “him” to protect us on our journey.  Honestly, this is always when I put my earphones in.  I have very little tolerance for preachers in general – I certainly have no patience for bus preachers.  I say this despite the fact that my mother is a preacher and I love her dearly.  I can say this because I know my mother and because she loves her religion so much she would also hate these preachers.  They often spend hours talking about Gods wrath and gods salvation – they spend very little time talking about my mother’s favorite topics justice and Gods love. 


This particular preacher was well beyond the word charismatic.  He told his life story – one of pan and suffering, death and war.  He talked about how God saved him from peril and in return he dedicated his life to “spreading the word.”  His idea of spreading the word however involved CDs on sale for a mere 1,000 CFA apiece.  He sang, he got the crowd to sing.  He threw his hands up and asked for an “amen.”  He had the bus laughing and almost crying – he was that good.


I am no stranger to a person using their talents to make their way in the world – I welcome it and applaud it.  However, something about using God to make your money in a country so obsessed with salvation bothered me.  The people on the bus were very much people who needed to count their pennies.  They were not poor by any stretch – obviously, since they were traveling; but regardless, they were the lower middle class of Buea a group who walk a line between pretending to be rich and being careful about where they spend.


The preacher wasn’t just selling his words on CD – he was selling brand new bibles – still in their wrapping and children’s bibles with an empty space to fill in a name.  I have never seen a new book in Buea let alone so many pristine bibles.  I also know there are a good many US churches that donate bibles of all sorts to churches all over the world.  Like the clothes we donate to the Salvation Army these bibles end up in the African commercial trade. 


What got me was not that he was using donated bibles for personal profit.  Not even that he was preaching his life story for a fee.  That reminded me of Tammy Faye and Tim Baker – tele-evangelism is nothing new to the US.  What got me was how readily these people ate it up.  They were desperate for those CDs.  Marx said that religion is the opiate of the masses.  If this is to be tested Cameroon would be the greatest case study to prove it.  Cramped, hot, and being rained on these people soaked up the “word of the Lord” with reckless abandon. 


I don’t know how to feel about honestly.  People need whatever they can get to get by with what they have.  But, it feels like people should be offered religion as a salve for their wounds and not a designer drug.  The complexity of the issue is, for me, a constant source of consternation.  Maybe it’s real for them.  Maybe it’s just an entertaining way to get “the word” and have a souvenir from their trip.  Either ay – people readily accept these preachers/salesmen and gladly pay the few thousand CFA for the experience.