Intending couples in the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) are now required to undergo genital test to ascertain their level of potency. Apollonia Adeyemi and Tai Anyanwu report on the raging controversy trailing this order from the RCCG General Overseer, Pastor Enoch Adeboye
Brother Chuks (surname withheld), was fervent in the things of the Lord. He was a trader, dealing in second-hand clothes at Yaba in Lagos.
But when it was time to get married, he decided to return to his hometown in Ebonyi State, to pick a chaste village belle. The lady was beautiful and endowed with everything any man would desire in a wife. But there was a snag.
Chuks got married to his dreamed girl but the joy of the marriage was momentary. It lasted only 72 hours.
“Bro Chuks was a devoted Christian. His virtues as a Christian were not in doubt. When he notified the church of his intention to get married in Ebonyi State in 1996, we were happy. We had to send a letter to a branch of our church close to his hometown to conduct the marriage since it could not be consummated in our church because of the distance. As a pastor and a member of the Church Council, I drafted the letter, which was signed by the senior pastor then.
“But we were surprised on the third day after the wedding when Bro Chuks said he was no longer interested in the marriage and that the woman should pack and go.
“It was a dilemma. The church elders met and decided to intervene. But at first, the man was reluctant to tell us what the problem was,” Pastor Ejiwunmi, said.
However, the pastor did not want his full names and that of the church published because Bro Chuks was not contacted.
According to him, Chuks said his wife and her parents deceived him into getting married.
He added: “Eventually when he told us, everybody was surprised. We had heard of the situation only in fairy tales. His wife, he told us, had no vagina opening.
“The Church Council deliberated on what next to do. Our senior pastor, now late, said the couple should go to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). It was at LUTH it was discovered that the woman had reproductive system and that with surgery she would be able to have children.
“The church rallied round and raised money; I cannot remember the amount. But we were able to raise money for the surgery, which was successful. After that, the couple had three children before they relocated to Ebonyi State.”
Bro Chuks’ wife’s condition could be linked to vaginal hypoplasia which is related to Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser syndrome.
Vaginal hypoplasia, according to Wikipedia, is the underdevelopment or incomplete development of the vagina.
“It is a birth defect or congenital abnormality of the female genitourinary system,” it adds.
Apart from Bro Chuks’ case, there are countless situations millions of couples are going through. Several marriages and homes have been destroyed on the altar of undisclosed medical conditions.
Also in recent times, many n pastors have been compelling intending couples in their congregations to go for one form of medical test or the other. One of the reasons these clerics usually give is the need to eliminate unnecessary stress in Christian homes orchestrated by avoidable health conditions.
This probably also explained why the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adeboye, ordered intending couples to go for genital test.
But controversy has continued to trail the ‘no genital test, no marriage in RCCG’ order of Adeboye, seen as one of the world’s most influential God’s Generals.
According to Adeboye’s memo to the church, the decision was taken to check re-occurrence of cases of marital crisis resulting from falsehood, especially in the case of undeclared or not confessed reproductive/genital status; and signs and symptoms that might indicate the presence of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or to find any abnormalities that could indicate a more serious problem such as cancer.
But the Senior Superintendent of the Lagos Headquarters of Moitalatu Aladura Church, Rev James Akinadewo, frowned at the ‘no genital test, no marriage’ stance of Adeboye.
According to him, the order is indicative of an eroded faith in the omnipotent God.
“I will not tell my members to go for genital examination before choosing their life partners because anyone in Christ is a new creation, everything has become new. The essence of our complete faith in God must be demonstrated in the way we do things and in our decisions. Even if a couple has dysfunctional organ, if he or she has faith, the Almighty God is able to renew his or her organs and make it functional.
“Besides, true Christians will not tell lies about their health status and should have made up their mind whether or not to uphold the standards of God in their matrimonial relationship from the beginning,” Akinadewo said.
A lay faithful at SS Philip and James Catholic Church, Lekki, Lagos, said men of God who subject members of their church to such medical examinations are simply playing Pontius Pilate, when they should rather teach their followers to demonstrate robust faith in God. “It is not right for Christian leaders to wash-off their hands from the problems of their followers. They should rather encourage them to make exploits of faith because such will bring converts to the Christendom as it showcases practical proof that God is indeed reliable and sufficient solution to all human needs,” he said.
Taju Al-maruf, who prefers to be called a free thinker, however, saw Adeboye’s order differently. “It kind of justifies those of us who think it is foolish for any man or woman who goes into a marital relationship blindly. A plunge into unexplored terrain could land one into eternal sorrow. It is as dangerous as taking a plunge into the deep blue sea which harbours breeds of dangerous creatures,” he said.
The story of 15-year-old marriage between Esther Onome, whose resides on Lagos Island with her childhood friend, Stephen Onome, has been nothing but an unfortunate nightmare. Stephen was quite healthy before and after they wedded in church. “Three years after, my husband’s organ became flaccid and brought much sorrow into our almost unconsummated love life. But I love him and as a Christian, I cannot divorce him because he can no longer perform as a man. I believe that God can make him potent again,” she said, with tears rolling down her cheeks.
In the case of Felicia Obodo, another housewife at the Ajah axis of Lagos, she was deceived into marriage by a husband who knew that he was impotent from the start. Being a Christian, she resisted false sexual advances by her husband prior to their wedding only to discover that her lovely husband is impotent.
“He is so pitiable and scared of losing me; and he wants me that he begs me to find someone to impregnate me so I can bear him a child provided I can keep that secret. You know what, it is nerve-wrecking to have a man who can’t give you sexual pleasure but I am not going to let him down because God can heal,” Esther said.
Should intending couples go for medical examination before coming together or not? Medical experts have described the directive from the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God regarding genital test before marriage as an invasion of the people’s privacy.
According to Dr. Ejike Oji, a physician and Chairman of the Association of the Advancement of Family Planning (AAFP), by issuing this directive for its members, the church was blatantly invading the freedom of its members’ privacy by making members to reveal their medical conditions, which is supposed to be confidential matter. “The church has no right to ask for a person’s medical record; it’s wrong,” Oji added.
Faulting the directive irrespective of the benefits the church was expecting it would bring for members, Oji said marriage did not fail only because couples were not compatible sexually. “There are couples that have very wonderful sex, yet their marriage still break.”
He said the directive showed that the church was not preaching love. “For the church to do this means it was admitting failure; that is to say it is not infusing the spirit of love into members, noting that marriage is for better; for worse. A good Christian will not divorce his or her spouse because they are sexually incompatible.
“This is a process indicator that the church has failed in its work to encourage people to live happily ever after.”
On whether there was guarantee that genitals that passed the test would certainly function effectively thereafter, Oji said a lot of things usually affect a man’s libido and general genital function. “At the point of sex, the man might have some libido problem, but that doesn’t mean that when he is in the confine of the bedroom with his wife and he is sexually aroused that his organ won’t come up.”
Besides, Oji reasoned that anyone who had erectile dysfunction could be treated, depending on what was causing it.
Oji explained that executive stress could cause erectile dysfunction and loss of libido. Citing practical examples of his practice as a young medical doctor, Oji said he saw many cases of young women coming to complain that their husbands could not perform sexually, but when many of the cases were analysed, “it was found that most of the men were under too much pressure to achieve. Hence, it affected them psychologically and impacted their sexual performance negatively at some point.”
Also, the physician said medically, it was possible for a man to have a strong erection for one woman and for another woman he might not. While this might be attributed to diabolical factor in some, Oji punctured that line of thought, saying, “sex is about emotion; a man gets attracted to a woman, thinks of sex and the man gets aroused.
“Some wives could equally make it impossible for their husbands to have sexual feeling towards them and this explains why some men have loss of libido with their wives but when they go elsewhere with girlfriends, they become a tiger.”
On his recommendation, the chairman of the AAFP said the church had no business dabbling into the sexual relationship of couples. “The responsibility of the church is to counsel couples to love each other; husbands should love their wives and wives should be submissive to their husbands.
“The church should not get into the personal lives of couples. If the church does that, it would be going too far.”
Also, reacting to the directive for couples to undergo genital test, a clinical psychologist, Titi Tade, said the church was crossing into a territory they should not be going into.”
According to her, the test could be certified to be positive but thereafter, that same genital could develop problems.
She noted that such a problem could be psychological. Tade said: “Even the fact that you are examining somebody might cause some form of trauma. If they are going to embark on such a thing it would amount to encroaching on people’s human rights. They are using the church to encroach on people’s human rights.”
Tade said there was similarly an ethical implication the directive might be throwing up if the directive was implemented.
However, she suggested that churches should remain what they are, which is guiding the faith of the congregation and their morals without getting into issues that were personal, except if individuals invited them to look into those areas.
Citing an example of what could be a fallout, she said a person who did not know she had an issue with her genital could go through the test and found out she had an issue which was congenital, that is she was born with that problem but did not know. If the news is broken to her, will she have adequate psychological support?
Secondly, she said who would explain to the spouse what that meant. Consequently, Tade urged the church to factor all these into it. Besides, if the test was negative, and the marriage fails to hold, Tade said an affected spouse could be labelled, resulting in stigma. “It could be very far reaching.”
Furthermore, in reacting to the development, a clinical psychologist, Mr. Akin Gabriel, said sexual dysfunction could arise as a result of several factors including psychological issues, adding that some of the factors could be temporary. For instance a young man who has a psychological issue, at that time, it could be affecting his sexual performance. If such a person could go for that test at that time, he could be disqualified.
“But if he is attended to and the psychological distress was addressed and his genital function was restored, he would have missed the opportunity of getting married to his choice.”
However, Gabriel suggested that it was better to subject members to a psychological evaluation test which would reveal possibility of somebody having now or in the future any problem.
According to the clinical psychologist, the psychological evaluation test would bring out any of the psychological issues that could cause so many problems including sexual dysfunction.
He said: “A general psychological evaluation would be more appropriate in this case than a genital test which will be limited to sexual and reproductive functions.”
This, according to him, will show the totality of the individual including what is currently rampant: stress, killings, anger and they could be dealt with and some of them that is latent, covered could be addressed before the marriage.
Similarly, speaking further, he said factors like hardship, poor economic situation of the country could have an impact on psychological functions. Gabriel said: “There are clinical causes and psychological causes. The most popular clinical causes are chronic illnesses including diabetes, heart-related conditions and the use of certain treatment drugs that have some side effects on genital functions.
In addition, he said some lifestyle such as smoking tobacco and alcohol consumption could directly impact genital functions. “Largely, are anxieties associated with daily living including hardship, poverty, and unemployment, among others.”
But Pastor Ejiwunmi saw nothing wrong in the RCCG’s General Overseer’s directive.
He said: “Like I told you, if Bro Chuks and the lady he eventually married had gone for genital test, it would have been detected before marriage. It would have been hellish if the church had not intervened.
“You could say it was divine intervention for the woman for if she had not married Chuks, she would have probably remained in that condition for life. But on the other hand, if Chuks was not closed to the church, how would the church have intervened.
“I am not a member of RCCG, so I cannot speak for the church. But as a pastor with the experience I relayed to you, I support the directive. It has nothing to do with faith. It is meant to save intending couples from a life of hell on earth.”
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