Bishop Serverus Jjumba of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Masaka has made an ‘explanation’ of Covid-19 that we nowadays associate more with the pulpit shirks masquerading as prophets and apostles in our revivalist ‘papyrus’ churches, who thrive on neo-pagan spiritualism, witch-mongering, miracle-peddling and other medieval rubbish.
The usually widely read clerics who control our mainstream churches tend to have a more enlightened perspective, from which a pandemic like Covid-19 would probably not be interpreted as a punishment God has sent to the world because of widespread sin.
To rephrase Jjumba, God has unleashed a biological weapon in a global attack, because mankind is not doing things as He wants them to be done.
Jjumba can make this proclamation if God has talked to him directly when he is awake.
Jumba can also make this proclamation if he has had a dream. But Jjumba’s dreams are products of Jjumba’s weird mind, not injected or fed in from outside.
If our dreams were literal reality, Jjumba would be living in many worlds of strange creatures and freakish events that our brains conjure up as we sleep every night. So, if he has had a dream where God talked to him, Jjumba should keep that experience to himself, as normal human beings do.
Jjumba can also make that proclamation out of sheer speculation rooted in traditional superstition.
Superstition, the irrational belief in (causal) connections between unconnected things and not-yet-understood phenomena is, of course, a very big feature in religion. But superstition can nurture grossly harmful ignorance in a real world where many fear the supposed power of imaginary supernatural spirits.
If supernatural spirits existed and had power, Jjumba would have to know exactly how God uses that power. He would have to be in a position to know that (given the present condition of mankind), God could not have taken a course of action different from coronavirus; and that coronavirus could not have possibly appeared now except because of God’s wrath, and only in response to the sinfulness of mankind.
Now, let us go back several steps. If God talked directly to Jjumba, God can talk directly to anyone, anywhere and to many people at the same time. So, God was talking to the wrong person. A more rational God would have talked to a prophet in the part(s) of the world where the virus was unleashed; or where the effects of the attack have been most felt; or where there are so many people that the messenger would give the story of God’s wrath maximum reach. Even better, God should have bombarded the ears of seven billion humans with this message.
As it is, God will be lucky if a few million people heed Bishop Jjumba’s proclamation. And sin will return as soon as coronavirus has sufficiently subsided or been defeated by bio-chemo-scientific and socio-behavioural counter-measures that do not necessarily increase our faith in (and obedience of) God.
On the other hand, if Jjumba’s proclamation is sourced in superstition, then we are lucky it is just that: an irrational belief. Otherwise, we would be back to the old ways of a savage pre-Enlightenment – indeed even a pre-Christian – God, who dealt in collective punishment, and to whom pain, death and justice mean nothing.
Listed among the early victims of Covid-19 are places of worship. Mosques, synagogues, churches and religious schools in many serious locations are closing before the world’s brothels.
In the Holy Week, Pope Francis will speak to a camera-and-microphone fixture without a single soul in St Peter’s.
On our dark continent, it is religious fraudsters who are having a field day, peddling more doomsday-ware and making more money from fake miracles. Their churches will be the last to close.
A smart God would not work along Bishop Jjumba’s plan. Neither would a loving God. Amen.
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.