When someone volunteers to teach a slow learner like Alan Tacca how to gain “some insight into the life of a believer”, their kindness must be appreciated.
In her article, ‘spirituality should be off limits to people like Tacca’ (Sunday Monitor, August 18) Agnes Namaganda apparently set out to “demystify all the absurdities” I have been “spewing out against the Church at whim (sic)”, a task she said she had not accomplished in an earlier article because of limited space.
How does she reason?
First of all, Namaganda seems to confuse Uganda’s Pentecostal churches with ‘the Church’ in the broad sense.
Uganda’s Pentecostals are a multi-coloured fringe; big, but still a fringe. Right now, their rivalling leaders are struggling with the mother of absurdities: how (even whether) they can become one faith organisation in the eyes of the State, but (without) becoming a ‘religion’.
They hate the description, religion, as they hate something called the Roman Catholic Church; and, to a lesser extent, the Anglican Church and its offshoots. To the Pentecostals, the “rules and regulations” in the traditional churches prevent spiritual authenticity and direct contact with God; a position Namaganda parrots in her article.
Yes, Ms Namaganda, our people flock to these churches because the amplified voice of their charismatic preachers churn out far more adverts and stage/pulpit/broadcast studio performances claiming and promising miraculous solutions to all manner of human challenges than Alan Tacca “spews” or “churns out” newspaper articles to rubbish those claims.
Culturally linked to old African belief systems, and largely abandoned by the State, poor gullible citizens often turn to these preachers to pursue their dreams.
I may be pig-headed, but I also ask: Why are the most enlightened societies in our times, the most honest, the least barbaric and most humane, and in many ways the happiest; why are these societies (mostly in Europe) no longer following Ms Namaganda to church?
Indeed, in the Christian world, if one investigated 1,000 of the greatest minds of the last 100 years as a group; evolutionary biologists and other scientists, philosophers, historians, literary men and women, all the Nobel Prize winners, even theologians, I would be surprised if the number of believers in this group reached 20 per cent.
To these 1,000 giants, would Uganda’s lumpen spiritariat, striding up and down our streets, screaming at strangers because of a deep concern for human salvation, look anything but a public nuisance?
My reference to “believers in combat with imaginary demons” offended Namaganda. But what are demons if not imaginary creatures? And don’t our Pentecostal churches now schedule ‘combat’ months for fighting demons?
When witchdoctors and their clients have an unusual health or other complication, they attribute the problem to witchcraft, demons or disgruntled ancestors; a narrative involving esoteric wisdom and dark-force experiences that people like Tacca cannot understand.
At one level, Namaganda is just an innocent person thinking like a witchdoctor, transferring this mindset to her fetishistic relationship with Jesus.
At another level, she is a committed enemy of alternative ideas, who must be resisted.
For as the Pentecostal warriors claim to be higher humans and feel a compulsion to save us, I, too, feel a duty to debunk their lies.
Namaganda, a higher human and an aspiring politician who could become a ruler, thinks I should not enjoy that right. That is the Pentecostal self-righteousness and hidden fascism I attack.
I have chosen my target more carefully than Ms Namaganda thinks. And that target is not the broad Church. It is Pentecostal supremacism.
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.