Not long ago I was taking a cab from O’Hare Airport to downtown Chicago, and my friendly driver proved to be a Nigerian from the Yoruba people. As the traffic gave us lots of time to talk, I soon found that this man was a pastor of a Nigerian-based congregation about which I had written at some length, one of the so-called Aladura churches. Indeed, he was the nephew of the church’s founding prophet, and whenever the prophet visited the U.S. he normally stayed in his nephew’s apartment. The image startled me: drawing from the Old Testament, I had always imagined prophets laying their weary heads in caves or under trees, and not in a comfortable Chicago apartment. Yet another biblical stereotype bit the dust.
Philip Jenkins is professor of history at Baylor University's Institute for Studies of Religion and author of The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade and The Many Faces of Christ: The Thousand-Year Story of the Survival and Influence of the Lost Gospels.