Charismatic Churches and Corruption in Ghana: feeding the beast?

Mr. Riccardo D'Emidio

In the past thirty years Ghana has emerged as one of the centres of Neo-Pentecostal (or Charismatic) Christianity. With its emphasis on the acquisition of financial wealth and prosperity, this new doctrine has permeated the Ghanaian public sphere. Using Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) this paper seeks to explore and uncover the complex relationships between the discourses on wealth and prosperity preached in the Ghanaian Charismatic movements with the overall “corruption complex” in Ghana. Through an analysis of a set of semi-structured interviews with representatives of the Ghanaian anti-corruption sector and a set of sermons delivered in leading charismatic churches, this paper contends that in some cases Charismatic churches develop and reinforce a set of discourses, norms and practices that feed into the “corruption complex”. The main contention put forward in this paper is that there is a significant relationship between the Charismatic quest for wealth and the banalisation, or as some call it, “the cultural legitimacy” of corruption in Ghana. These findings have significant implications for anti-corruption theory and practice, calling further into question liberal expectations – often underpinning many anti-corruption campaigns and awareness raising initiatives in Africa – that citizens simply need more information or an increased level of awareness not to engage in corrupt behaviour. Rather, this research indicates that discourses and norms embedded in relationships of power and patronage constrain citizens’ engagement and action against corruption.