First, designating the current year as 2014 AD of course has its roots in Christian and Roman imperial history. So, if a 33-year-old Jesus were to live, die and rise from the dead today, our year would have almost certainly been called by another number, determined by a different calendric convention.
Now, Jese-Jesu, an enigmatic youngish man with ancient royal connections has been preaching in several places around Africa. Linked to a mysterious Afro-Davidian cult, this nomad of faith had 12 followers in his entourage.
There may have been one or two skeptics among them, but most of the 12 disciples were fanatically devoted to Jesus, as the preacher was fondly called by members of the cult.
Some of his sermons have been interpreted as aimed at destabilising Africa’s more troublesome dictatorships; so, leaders of the AU member states were not particularly amused by him. There was no love lost when, last Friday, at a kangaroo court in the Bokon Republic, the preacher was tried and convicted for treason before being summarily executed.
But Bokon authorities have been sent into a panic by reports that Jese-Jesu has risen from the dead. Barely 48 hours after his execution, cult members who had scattered and gone into hiding at Jesus’ arrest have been quietly regrouping and are reporting sightings of their resurrected leader.
Scientists have dismissed the possibility of a resurrection. A psychologist, who has been studying the cult for some time, has described the sightings as post-traumatic apparitions.
He noted that the execution was probably the most traumatic event any of them had ever been close to. Already brainwashed to believe in Jese-Jesu’s supernatural powers and immortality, some of his followers were unconsciously forming images of his “undead” existence.
The Bokon are not alone. So late in the day, a number of people in Japan claim to have had encounters with spirits (or ghosts) of victims who perished in the 2011 tsunami. And, you have heard or guessed right; there are spiritual men working to banish the ghosts.
One taxi-cab driver, for instance, took a lady on board and drove as instructed. After a while, he glanced back at his passenger...The lady had vanished!
To return to Jese-Jesu, some experts have questioned the execution itself. In the past, there have been a few cases where the executioner’s mechanical contraption seriously injured the prisoner but failed to complete the job.
Under Bokon law, the body of an executed person can be handed over to their relatives. Jese-Jesu could have been unconscious but alive, making reports of his resurrection a glorious exaggeration.
A few months back, the circumstances of his parentage came under scrutiny. Cult members had maintained that his conception was a divine act, since they were convinced his mother had been a virgin. But in the course of a trial over false pretence charges, a genetic test had established that his erstwhile guardian, an elderly carpenter who had descended from an ancient royal line in his tribe, was in fact his biological father.
This latest myth may be debunked, but, as with the mystery around his parentage, it will not necessarily go away. The Bokon are a fervently superstitious people, with a low literacy rate. The execution on trumped up charges, on a day when a powerful storm ripped off the roofs of many shanty dwellings, will most likely enhance Jese-Jesu’s claim to martyrdom and play into the hands of natives bent on raising him to divine status.
Ironically, the wide availability of high-tech mobile telephone devices in this otherwise backward region may be aiding in the spread of patently unscientific perceptions. Social media networks are already awash with grossly distorted accounts and weird comments on the phenomenon.
One Facebook post reads: “God unleashed the storm on the day of the execution so that the dispossessed shanty town dwellers may seize the day of the resurrection to rise against the Bokon dictatorship that had neglected them in the face of one misfortune after another. The risen Jese-Jesu is their supreme commander.”
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator firstname.lastname@example.org.