|Brotherhood of the Cross and Star (BCS) beliefs come principally from the selection, reinterpretation and rejection by one man, Olumba Olumba Obu (born 1918), of traditional African religious practices and Christianity. Originating in Nigeria in the late 1950's from a healing and prayer group of largely women and children, the movement has spread to a membership of over two million in various parts of the world. Believers say that BCS itself is co-eternal with God, however.|
|A principal belief strand can be described as totemism plus reincarnation. Human beings come from animals, fishes, birds, trees, the Sun, moon, etc. and aspects of our behaviour relate to the specific origins each of us have. We have souls doubled in animals, trees, etc., which is why Obu so promotes vegetarianism. 'All the fishes killed daily represent the number of human beings who die daily in various parts of the world,' he says. So I would have thought eating some plants kills humans. Anyway, children are the spirits of the apparantly dead but come to earth again through women. God can appear as animals or people too, a view with origins in witchcraft and sorcery.|
|Yet, despite all this, Obu attacks witchcraft! He condemns churches which have been seeking dialogue with regional practices. He condemns churches anyway from a black religious (and economic) nationalist point of view. Whites siezed the word of God from Africa and non-indigenous churches have been the agents of white trickery.|
|Obu has said, 'This is the time for the blacks, whether you want it or not, this is the time for the blacks to reign.' In support of this he has unique insight to the secret message held by the Popes since the visions of the Virgin Mary at Fatima in 1917. He wrote, 'If you were the Pope, would you have released it? After reading that the person who will rule the world will be a black man, an African, would you have released it?'|
|He attacks marriage, polygamy and advocates celibacy for entry into the '144,000 virgins'. He opposes funerals and forbids mourning because humans reincarnate.|
|When worship happens, even angels, the devil and the supposed dead join in. The Brotherhood Feast may be equated to the binding function of the Christian eucharist. If carried out by those with bad thoughts for one another, evil may come, but otherwise it can make good or protect from evil spirits. So confessing sin beforehand is important. The preparation of oil and water for healing, good fortune but against evil spirits is exclusive to Obu as no one else has equivalent spiritual powers.|
|Obu is the Holy Spirit on earth (separate from the Holy Ghost), the eighth and last reincarnation of Christ, though God is also pantheistic and bisexual. The whole of the Old Testament and much of the New is redundant. Obu has his own publications. Many with needs passionately worship his power.|
|He made these claims along with his witnessed healing abilities in an area of bubbling religious growth (especially since the 1967-70 civil war). However, that he is the decision maker means that discontented leaders may create schism, as in 1977 (with violent attacks on BCS members, even destroying bethels in Calabar).|
|How does all this compare to Unitarianism? Notions of unorthodoxy do not help. There is a cultural approach. Unitarianism might be called modernist, in that it has rooted out and thinned down to what can continue to be believed (but unevenly: a modern myth-free human Jesus but usually still a premodern God). It has little in common with the BCS which has beliefs some modernists call superstitions or fantasies. But then all religion is premodern in origins.|
|Let's be charitable. A lot of BCS beliefs Unitarians would describe as nonsense, but then there is no end to peeling the onion even with Unitarian beliefs. An alternative view is postmodern, to display and use past beliefs in an ironic second hand way. Pantheism and bisexuality, semi-Christian forms, rootedness in and rejection of aspects of Paganism and developing world concerns may appeal as texts to postmodernists frustrated by religious modernism, if not devotion as of the kind shown to Obu.|
|Goodness knows what Obu would make of parts of the flexible playful UUA adopting native and European Paganism (even British Unitarian modernists squirm at such ritual postmodernism).|
|But Obu is no postmodernist, of course. He uses premodern forms that he believes, fears and hopes to command. His is a movement rooted in a culture with different plausibility structures to ours. Western modernists use naturalistic explanations of reality and claims as Obu's are heard from our schizophrenics! As a postmodernist, I am positive about religious fantasies, but I use them as fantasies partly because of modernity beforehand. No Westerner can avoid the legacy of modernity. Today, all believing religion may be sectarian, but Westerners must become cultish if they wish to be fully loyal to Obu and his premodern belief world.|
Mbon, Friday M., 'Olumba Olumba Obu and African Traditional Culture', Update: A Quarterly Journal on New Religious Movements, 9 No. 3, 36-45, S 1985.
Mbon, Friday M., 'Christianity: A Bone of Contention in Nigeria', Journal of Dharma, 14, 247-258, Jl-S 1989.
Offiong, Essian A., 'Schism and Religious Independency in Nigeria: The Case of the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star' in Hackett, R. I., ed., New Religious Movements in Nigeria, African Studies Vol. 5, The Edwin Mellen Press, New York: 1987.
Other articles in Offiong refer to BCS