State radio: President 'has all power over men and things'
Weblog has heard reports of state radio's boosterism in various countries, but few have gone this far. Those listening to the weekly program Bidze-Nduan (Bury the Fire) on the state radio station of the small West African country of Equatorial Guinea heard it call President Teodoro Obiang Nguema "the country's God," according to the BBC, The Star of South Africa, and other news reports.

Actually, the radio broadcast seemed to be of two minds on the divinity of Nguema, who came to power in a 1979 coup and has, according to the BBC, one of the worst human rights abuse records in Africa. At times, it called him God, and at other times it suggested he was merely God's agent. But the difference seems to have been lost on whoever wrote the script, which was delivered in the ethnically dominant Fang language.

Nguema, the broadcast said, is "in permanent contact with the Almighty," and "like God in heaven. He has all power over men and things…. He can decide to kill without anyone calling him to account and without going to hell because it is God himself, with whom he is in permanent contact, who gives him this strength."

A head of state comparing himself thusly to God is not without precedent, of course, but what sets Equatorial Guinea apart from Caligula's Rome is that it's a dominantly Christian country. More than 95 percent of the country is Christian, the vast majority (85%) being Roman Catholic (from its nearly 200 years as a Spanish colony).

Will the local Christians react? If so, they risk serious persecution. Political prisoners, says the U.S. State Department, are regularly tortured and beaten, and sometimes killed.

Norwegian bishop asks journalists to review worship services
Speaking of state broadcasting and religion, Bishop Finn Wagle of the world-famous Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, Norway, complained on Norwegian Broadcasting today that "it's very seldom that journalists attend church services and actually cover what happens."

It sounds like a standard complaint, which would be just as appropriate in the U.S. as it is in Scandinavia. (Though not as true in Equatorial Guinea, which doesn't have newspapers and until recently prohibited all journalism.)

But Wagle's solution is unusual: he thinks Norwegian news outlets should review church services just as they do films, concerts, and other cultural events. He even supports a ratings system, provided they include "good reasons as to why the ratings are given."

Article continues below

Wagle, says the Oslo newpaper Aftenposten, "is clearly soliciting more public attention and involvement in the church. Norwegians automatically become members of the state church at birth, but only about 4 percent regularly attend church services."

Meanwhile, church-service reviews do appear in several media outlets elsewhere, including The Times of London's "At Your Service" department, and the "Mystery Worshipper" feature from the Christian humor website Ship of Fools.

Related Elsewhere

Suggest links and stories by sending e-mail to

What is Weblog?

Check out Books & Culture's weblog, Content & Context.

See our past Weblog updates:

July 25 | 24 | 23 | 22 | 21
July 18 | 17 | 16 | 15 | 14
July 11 | 10 | 9 | 8 | 7
July 3 | 2 | 1 | June 30
June 27 | 26 | 25 | 24 | 23
June 20 | 19 | 18 | 17 | 16
June 13 | 12 | 11 | 9
and more, back to November 1999