I react to a comment, ‘Death tax’: Are Pentecostals shaking the Anglican Church?’ by Mr Nicholas Sengoba, which appeared in the Daily Monitor of July 2. With due respect, the article does not tell us whether it is theologically wrong to give stipend to Church during burials.
Instead, the comment concentrates on telling us how the conservative Church of Uganda (and Catholic Church) are making adjustments to cope with the rising modern Pentecostal movement or Born-Again churches. The comment argues “that many of the ‘old-fashioned churches’ are losing out to ‘Born-Again groups,’ to which many young people are flocking because of their ‘exciting’ mode of worship, liberal dressing and appealing prosperity gospel plus miracle healing.”
We should avoid creating competitive environment in evangelisation. St James (James 3:16) warns that “Where jealous and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every kind of evil”. I think Mr Sengoba has missed out a few facts about the Church and its Mission. The Mission of the Church is to lead its followers to heaven. This mission to heaven is not dependant on the number of followers a Church has; it is dependent on individual faith. We are created of both a physical and spiritual nature.
Life is more deeply about a spiritual struggle with forces of the evil one, and we don’t win that battle by just being worldly. That is what Jesus meant when he said, “Whoever does not gather with me scatters’ (Luke 11:44). It is not about ‘being modern,” it is about being in Communion with Christ in the New Covenant (Luke 22:19-20) to be able to make use of what He has availed us with from His death and Resurrection for that very purpose of fighting off the attacks of the evil one.
In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus advised us to enter through the small gate, and narrow road that leads to life, and only a few find it. In Matthew 7:15, He warned us to watch out for false prophets and he said by their fruit you will know them. St Peter (2Peter 2:1-3) said, “False prophets appeared in the past among the people, and in the same way false teachers will appear among you… In their greed these false teachers will make a profit out of telling you made-up stories”.
In Matthew 7:21, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven… Many will say to me that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and performed many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” In Matthew 18: 6-7 He warns misleaders,
“But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin!...”.
The Born-Again churches are riddled with squabbles. We see in newspapers, many of their leaders behave in unchristian manners: Leaders re-marry and continue with their ministry, miracles are faked and young girls are defiled. Some Born-Again Christians live polygamous lives. I am not judging anyone, but I am stating what is on the ground.
The strongest weapon Satan has against us is our ignorance. Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are ruined for lack of knowledge; since you have rejected knowledge, I will reject you serving as a priest.” Religion is probably the strongest belief system and code of conduct. It has thematic principles such as concepts of God, love, honesty, altruism, and peacekeeping. Christianity teaches us to love God and your neighbour as you love yourself. Failure to do this, you cannot enter heaven. Beliefs influence human behavior.
If your mind believes in one God, then the body will worship one God. If the mind believes smoking is bad, the body is not likely to smoke. But if the mind believes on the contrary, then it will have negative influence. Religion infuses ‘God-fearing’ element such as heaven-hell and salvation.
Researchers tell us that there is a correlation between religious belief and behaviour. Fighting crimes like corruption, defilement, cannot stop by a mere legislation and enforcement.
Uganda needs proper environment to learn religion. Christian Religious Education (CRE), which is taught in schools is not deep enough. Every religion is different, so their beliefs or faiths are also different.
Take for instance, two major Christian denominations: Catholic and Protestant. The Catholics have seven Sacraments while the Protestants have two. The Protestant Bible has 66 books while the Catholic one has 73 books. The Catholics have Mass while Protestants have Communion Service. So you cannot put these two categories of Christians in one class and teach them Christianity. The dogma of the faiths must be taught in classrooms. The youth Mr Sengoba is talking about are looking for truth. Lack of environment in schools for the conservative Church of Uganda and Catholic Church to teach religious dogma in their own schools has favoured the Pentecostal movement.
Patriotism is not the same as religion. Patriotism is defined as love of your country. It makes us proud of our country whenever we hear the National Anthem. Uganda’s Motto says: ‘For God and My Country,’ putting God first, and indeed if we put God first, the rest will be history.
We see people we trust with our money stealing it, those we trust with our children defiling them and parents who are the primary custodian of their children are raping them, thus increasing the rate of incest and abortion.
People we send to Parliament to make laws cheat in elections, well placed people in government service steal peoples’ land, and the list is long.
Ordinary Ugandans have no control over these people. The long-term solution to these problems is to go back to the conservative Churches to teach religion in class-rooms.
Dr Okoth is a concerned citizen and a Christian.