Essay on How Does Pentecostalism Impact On and Interfere With Politics in African Societies?

Published: 2021/11/12
Number of words: 2784

Pentecostalism and Politics in African Societies


Pentecostalism is a charismatic protestant Christian movement that focuses on the encounter with Jesus Christ as the savior and healer. Potential converts in Pentecostalism are born again as Christians after ordained and approved processes, which are universally acceptable to their practices. Pentecostalism combines aspects of African worship while emphasizing its role in shaping Pentecostal networks across the world. Pentecostalism has impacted the politics in African societies for decades now, and there is a need to assess its impact in shaping political orientations for many nations (Heuser, 2015). In many communities, religion is a tool that shapes morality and other practices that revolve around politics. Religious leaders in such organizations play a crucial role in offering guidance and political advice for economies that have accepted Pentecostalism as a form of Christianity. Pentecostal practices have advanced from a peripheral position to become a vital force of reckoning within the African religious landscape. The paper focuses on Pentecostalism and its impact on politics within African societies. A deeper understanding of the scope of Pentecostal churches and their operations can help answer the question, “how does Pentecostalism impact on and do interfere with politics in African societies?” The research seeks to focus on Nigeria as an example of an African country that practices Pentecostalism (Van Klinken, 2013). The study needs to examine how the protestant church has affected politics in Nigeria.

Pentecostalism and its Impact on Politics in Africa

Pentecostalism in Africa has become a phenomenon, which has gained massive popularity as a Christian movement across the continent. The church is increasing growing its wealth, membership, and fraternization with the political and business class. Politics have engulfed among Pentecostal members, as evident in the case of Nigeria. Politics and Pentecostalism share a history as activist movements rose in defence for freedom of worship, especially in Nigeria (Von Sinner, 2012). Pentecostal activism in Nigeria emerged among educated university youth in the year 1977. The emphasis of activism is based on the spiritual forces that govern politics and the involvement of prayer during reforms. Activism indicates how Pentecostal practices started impacting politics in African societies. The need for prayer and changes throughout Africa nations prompted many people to join the protestant movement. Some political leaders were and are part of the evangelical Christian movement, which has continued to impact politics. In essence, the emergence of the Pentecostalism has helped shape the scope of politics, especially for Nigeria, a country well known for its huge followership (Burgess, 2015). The idea that the church had huge popularity means that in one way or the other, it would influence the politics of various nations.

Need an essay assistance?
Our professional writers are here to help you.
Place an order

Acceptance of Pentecostalism in Nigeria was followed by immense post-independence instability, civil war, impunity and rise of a military government. Life became hard for some Nigerians in the country at that time, making many turn to Pentecostalism as a way of guidance and access to basic needs. The church took advantage of the elite and wealthy in society to preach prosperity, which made the movement gain more popularity and wealth. In the process, the church has managed to impact politics in the country for some time (Paul, 2015). The period of Islamization saw Pentecostal church gain popularity for opposing the establishment of Sharia courts in the Republic of Nigeria. In the year 1986, Nigeria became a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The factor triggered Pentecostal protests in the country as their most famous preacher, Benson Idahosa threatened for a boycott for all newspapers and magazines that supported Islamization. The declaration made by Sheikh Abubakar Gumi in the year 1987 sparked further animosity. He publicly stated that they would never allow non-Muslims to assume power in Nigeria (Burgess, 2015). Pentecostal church members allied with other Christian members in the Kaduna state to field candidates in the 1988 local government elections. As such, the involvement of Pentecostal church input in the shaping of Nigerian politics is a clear indication of how the phenomenon impact politics in many African societies.

Pentecostalism has impacted politics in African societies by distinctly outlining what is required of its members within the community. For instance, Pentecostalism encouraged political leaders who are their members to act in good faith and serve with a high level of accountability. The main aim of the protestant movement getting involved in Nigerian politics was to set a clear path for diligence and leadership based on service for all (Gifford, 2004). Condemnation of other evangelical churches during the Islamization period was an indication of the political class interfering with religious matters. In 1993, government-sanctioned parties in Nigeria fielded a candidate for presidential elections. Christians voted for Abiola who was a member of the Social Democratic Party. Abiola won the election, but unfortunately, the government cancelled the result prompting Christians to appeal to the military in a bid to relinquish power. The case is indicative of how the church can be used as a tool to gain the right political direction within African societies (Burgess, 2015). Incorporation of religious and Christian principles in governance is presumed to have a positive impact on the growth and development of the economy. As such, the Pentecostal movement has played a critical role in shaping crucial behavior within the African political context.

Pentecostals and other evangelists competed at various levels in the general elections that were held in 1993. Among those emerged as winners were deacons, priests, prophets, apostles, and evangelists. Early in the 90s Idahosa encouraged all Protestants and Christians to push for political reforms in Nigeria as a way of boosting development in the country. The fact that Christians won various seats including gubernatorial, deputy governors, local government chairpersons and councillors is an indication of how the church is actively participating in politics, especially within the African society (Burgess, 2015). Politics of any country affect most of its operations, a factor that explains why the church becomes actively engaged in the politics of the day. Processes that are associated with the formulation of policies require inclusivity and consultation for them to be acceptable by all affected parties. Failure of the church to guide such processes through prayer might lead to failure according to the Pentecostal beliefs. Religion is believed to hold beliefs that can help shape the behavior of leaders, which makes it an essential tool for shaping the political landscape, as evidenced by the case of Nigeria. Pentecostalism has helped instil essential morals in leaders, which has projected them as better leaders within the African context.

Pentecostalism involvement in African politics has led to the emergence of conflicts that have escalated to high levels in African history. For instance, Nigerian Pentecostal Christians are partially responsible for the rise of interreligious violence between Muslims and Protestants. In Northern Nigeria, both movements were characterized by the youth who conveyed messages that indicated animosity among the two groups. Pentecostals condemned Muslim practices and healing rituals, purporting them to be unfit and a threat to existence and continuity of Christianity (Maxwell, 2000). The conflict resonated in Pentecostal activism against the introduction of Sharia within the Nigerian context. Muslims had conspired to make the whole of Africa an Islamic continent. The confronting of the two religious fronts is an indication of how the protestant churches are participating actively in the shaping of the political landscape in African societies. Nigeria serves as an example of a nation immensely affected by conflicts as a result of religious disagreements. Churches are generally viewed as a way instilling peace and unity in any society, and that should not change to a source of hatred and animosity. Religious conflict can be avoided by understanding and showing tolerance to each other according to the requirements of beliefs held. As such, the emergence of Pentecostalism has impacted the scope of politics within the African context.

The Presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo in the year 1999 symbolizes a significant win for the Protestants and Pentecostals who advocated for Christian leadership. The candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party was a symbol of the restoration of the Christian control of the government. Obasanjo was a protestant who believed in right leadership and treatment of everyone according to the requirements of Pentecostals. Christians saw him a better shot at the presidency for his born again nature after serving a jail term (Maxwell, 2000). After his win, he called for national prayer and fasting day in a bid to ensure the successful transition of the government. During the period, Pentecostal leaders conducted all-night prayers for the newly elected president of Nigeria. In the same elections held in the year 1999, a member of Assemblies of God Ministry, Anyim Pius Anyim, was elected to the senate and later becomes the president of the senate. The election of Anyim to the presidency of the senate in Nigeria was a significant step towards establishing a Pentecostal oriented leadership in an African context (Maxwell, 2000). The reign of the Islamic era in Nigeria sparked a war that Pentecostals should have avoided by retaliating. However, their active involvement in matters associated with politics is an indication of how the phenomenon has impacted the political terrain in African societies.

Pentecostal churches have managed to encourage the general public to vote for their preferred choice of a leader. The movement is actively involved in mobilizing voters to rally behind their option for a leader in a bid to ensure economic growth and prosperity in the economy (Maxwell, 2000). For instance, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria encouraged all of its members to vote for Obasanjo, who was a Christian and a member of the protestant church. At a thanksgiving ceremony, the qualities of Obasanjo are likened to Prophet Elisha, indicating how Pentecostalism impacts politics in African societies. Equally, in the year 2005, the Christian Association of Nigeria threatened to boycott the national census if religion is not among the aspects that are covered in the forms. The president met with the association leaders and persuaded them to take part in the exercise citing equality of all religions under the constitution of the country. The involvement of Pentecostals in the negotiation and running of various affairs of the country is a clear indication of how religion has impacted politics (Meyer, 1998). Third world countries in the African context are most impacted by practices of the protestant movement, especially in Nigeria. Pentecostalism has been at the forefront to fight for reforms in Nigeria as an example of an affected African nation.

Pentecostalism has impacted politics in that most religious leaders are turning political for various reasons. There are leaders in the African context who have been elected based on their religious alignment. President Obasanjo is an example of a leader who rose to power courtesy of Christian association in the country. As such, religion can help one gain access to political power, especially within the African context (Klinken, 2014). The idea that Pentecostalism has engulfed in African societies is a clear indication that religion is impacting the scope of politics. The 1993 elections in Nigeria indicated that people could vote for leaders based on their religious affiliation. The idea behind electing Christian leaders is to spearhead change and reform, as evident in the Nigerian context. Pentecostals are guided by strong principles, which act as a guideline for generally acceptable behavior within the society. Its impact on the political landscape of African societies continues to manifest each day (Marshall, 2009). Leaders in religion are seeking a mandate to serve in political positions. The fact that Pentecostals are actively participating in politics is evidence of interference from the religious front. Conflicts that have been witnessed in Nigeria serve as an example of political interference from religious leaders (Klinken, 2014). The interference has, to some extent, promoted sanity within government operations, especially for the Nigerian case.

Pentecostalism has promoted good morals in governance and equality in most African leaders. The truths and principles for the protestant church define how one should conduct themselves within the society. Leaders who adhere to Pentecostal teachings are likely to deliver better results as compared to those who do not practice religion (Obadare, 2018). In essence, Pentecostal teachings act as a cushion to uncouth behavior that can lead to discrimination within society. For instance, it is through church guidance that divine healing can come upon a nation and its leaders. Pentecostal teachings appeal to such beliefs in a bid to ensure peace, prosperity and mutual understanding among members of the society. Leaders who are guided by a strong sense of morality within the Christian limits are better placed to drive an economic agenda for the country forward. As illustrated in the case of Nigeria, Pentecostalism has impacted and interfered with African politics in one way or the other. It has positively instilled positive morals that are necessary for leaders in a top position. Pentecostal churches have a huge following in African societies, which has led to their active participation in political matters that affect their followers.

Worry about your grades?
See how we can help you with our essay writing service.

Pentecostalism is well known for preserving the African political approach to leadership and governance. As such, it remains to be a significant factor in the shaping of political landscapes of many societies in the African context. Upholding of culture and traditions is an essential factor for leaders who need to be elected. Many African states, such as Kenya have embraced Pentecostalism as a way of handling social and cultural issues within society (Burgess, 2012). The need for one’s church to gain more popularity within the public sparks religious animosity that can be fatal in some circumstances (Marshall, 2009). The continued involvement of Pentecostalism in political matters has faced criticism from other Protestants who feel they should take part in national politics. Nigeria is one country that has faced political interference from a religious front over the years in the name of reforms. It symbolizes the impact and interference of political matters by religious leaders who believe in Pentecostal teachings.


To sum it up, Pentecostalism is a form of religion that subscribes to thoughts of Jesus Christ being the savior and healer. Pentecostals are born again Christians who focus on spreading the gospel of Christianity across the world. The paper examines the participation of Pentecostal leaders in politics and significant effects that the religion has had on African societies, especially in the Nigerian context. Pentecostalism has brought about sanity in politics, advocating for democracy and peace for all communities. The teachings that one gets from being a follower of Pentecostalism have shaped the political scope in many African states. Pentecostalism, in some cases, can lead to the rise of religious conflicts. For instance, the animosity that rose in Northern Nigeria was partially contributed by Pentecostal involvement. The protestant movement has also improved citizen involvement in political matters due to its vast followership in Africa countries. For instance, the fact that Pentecostal Fellowship organization in Nigeria encouraged many Christians to go and vote is evidence of the church’s active involvement in politics. Pentecostalism has had a far much-reaching effect on African politics as evidenced by the Nigerian context.


Burgess, R., 2012. Pentecostals and Political Culture in Sub-Saharan Africa: Nigeria, Zambia, and Kenya as Case Studies. In Global Pentecostal Movements (pp. 15-42). Brill.

Burgess, R., 2015. Pentecostals and Politics in Nigeria and Zambia: An Historical Perspective. In Pentecostalism in Africa (pp. 291-321). Brill.

Gifford, P., 2004. Ghana’s new Christianity: Pentecostalism in a globalizing African economy. Indiana University Press.

Heuser, A., 2015. Encoding Caesar’s Realm–Variants of Spiritual Warfare Politics in Africa. In Pentecostalism in Africa (pp. 270-290). Brill.

Klinken, A.V., 2014. Homosexuality, politics and Pentecostal nationalism in Zambia. Studies in World Christianity20(3), pp.259-281.

Marshall, R., 2009. Political spiritualities: the Pentecostal revolution in Nigeria. University of Chicago Press.

Marshall, R., 2009. Political spiritualities: the Pentecostal revolution in Nigeria. University of Chicago Press.

Maxwell, D., 2000. ‘Catch the Cockerel Before Dawn’: Pentecostalism and politics in post-colonial Zimbabwe. Africa70(2), pp.249-277.

Meyer, B., 1998. The power of money: politics, occult forces, and Pentecostalism in Ghana. African Studies Review41(3), pp.15-37.

Obadare, E., 2018. Pentecostal republic: Religion and the struggle for state power in Nigeria. Zed Books Ltd..

Paul, G., 2015. Christianity Development and Modernity in Africa. London: C. Hurst & Co.

Van Klinken, A.S., 2013. Gay rights, the devil and the end times: public religion and the enchantment of the homosexuality debate in Zambia. Religion43(4), pp.519-540.

Von Sinner, R., 2012. Yong, Amos, In the Days of Caesar: Pentecostalism and Political Theology. Grand Rapids, MI/Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010. 377 pp. Pbk. ISBN-13: 978-0-8028-6406-2. US $30.00. PentecoStudies11(1), pp.115-117.

Cite this page

Choose cite format:
Online Chat Messenger Email
+44 800 520 0055