Bible schools may mushroom and teach fake knowledge

Sunday October 13 2019


By Alan Tacca

On his own testimony, the ‘apostle’ hosted by Impact Fm/Dream TV at 7am on weekdays, Mr Stephen Mulungi, used to brew and sell crude alcoholic drinks.
About three weeks ago, a phone caller into the programme asked the sort of question malwa drinkers could have discussed at his joint during his earlier occupation:
“If Adam and Eve were the first people, from where did their children get partners?”
Enlightened interpretations of Genesis mythology give insight into how the Jewish people imagined their origins and personified the forces behind the tangible universe. Mr Mulungi’s reply is devoid of such enlightenment.
He said Adam and Eve produced Cain, Abel and many other children. These had intimate relationships with each other, multiplying the human race.
It is a pack of fake knowledge, which the ‘apostle’ was broadcasting as hard history.
Faced with a (church) identity crisis, monumental personal morality challenges and venomous power struggles, the question of general and professional education among Uganda’s Pentecostal pastors, and their colleagues who travel as ‘bishops’, ‘apostles’ and ‘prophets’, has come to the fore.
Roughly, the anti-education camp argues: God’s calling is sufficient, even absolute. And God tells them what to say before their congregations. The pro-education camp only wants to control or even drive them out of their livelihood.
The pro-education camp replies: Yes, your divine calling is not disputed, but even God’s chosen servants in the Bible generally got mentored. Moses, Jesus himself, St Paul; all got mentored.
Ironically, between spitting venom at each other, their prayers for a resolution seem to be addressed to President Museveni, a mortal, not to the Divine.
This is the catch troubling our Pentecostals: the more you advocate formal training, the closer you return to the institutionalised religions of ordinary mortals. Religions are graveyards of spiritual death; spontaneously inspired (Pentecostal) faith is alive.
Many Pentecostals in both camps resent Fr Lokodo (Ethics and Integrity minister), because they think his department has formulated a policy to force them become a religion, or remain despised; the exact opposite of their opinion of themselves.
Above Lokodo is President Museveni, their saviour, but a puzzling arbiter. Now he sounds like a great friend; the next moment he reminds them to respect their fellow merchants in the spirit and demon-obsessed realm; African traditionalists, often loosely described as witchdoctors.
However, resolving the education controversy may amount to little. The evidence is that when it comes to pulpit performances, and to self-advertising, the Bible school graduates peddle the same narratives as the less educated preachers. The more educated preachers only sound more articulate, more persuasive, but spreading the same fake knowledge.
When Stephen Mulungi, a Bible school tutor, explains the expansion of the human race through incestuous intimacy in Adam’s household, he is in effect throwing overboard a whole edifice of archaeological, evolutionary and other scientific knowledge, even of common sense, simply to sustain the story of Adam as the first human and present the Bible as an incontestable factual record.
Because this is Uganda, to superficially meet the educational requirements the State may specify, Bible colleges could start mushrooming as the churches did. Fake knowledge will spread. Diplomas and doctorates will be awarded. Gowns will be flowing proudly everywhere.
So, not only is there a need to warn the vulnerable citizens who fall victim at church congregations, but also a need to establish that the content taught at the Bible colleges does not (seriously) damage the foundation for more rational knowledge the students acquired in their mainstream education.
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.