Pentecostals can clean their churches, starting with baptism

Sunday September 8 2019



Alan Tacca

Alan Tacca 

By Alan Tacca

When a Ugandan Pentecostal preacher is described as a ‘pastor’, an ‘apostle’, a ‘prophet’, or a ‘bishop’, they probably styled themselves into that title.
If they are reasonably Bible schooled, their diplomas can be deemed to amount to a doctorate. If the husband is a prophet or an apostle, the wife must be a pastor.
If you can talk… and talk… and act, and attract enough followers and money, you can set up your own church.
However, avoid setting up shop too close to another Pentecostal player’s turf.
For instance, the half-mile between Pastor Senyonga’s church on Bombo Road and Prophet Kakande’s synagogue at Mile Two has made that general area a war zone. A battlefield of the spirits.
Religion is not about demonstrable facts or sound logic. All religions started as cults, spreading mythical narratives reinforced by fear-mongering and sweetened by tenuous threads of hope. The great religions have survived, partly because they gradually masked the false ‘facts’ with elaborate form.
In their broadcasts, some of our Pentecostal preachers have been grudgingly acknowledging the order and plain decency with which the Church of Uganda is retiring Archbishop Stanley Ntagali and replacing him with Rev Stephen Kaziimba.
With similar envy, they had watched the African Catholic bishops who had gathered at Munyonyo for an ecumenical conference.
It must be harder than eating humble pie, when those who claim to get their instructions directly from God openly wish they could imitate those who they say lost their contact with God.
They forget – no, they have never learned – that God gets His truth and wisdom from men. The rest is illusion and form.
Our Pentecostal fundamentalists have read and reread the Bible until they know it almost by heart. It is a strange obsession. There are hundreds of passages that place God in a rational light, but there are also hundreds of passages that present God as a ruthless race-prejudiced figure who can hate to the point of prescribing genocide.
So, if the wisdom we attribute to God is human wisdom, then that wisdom must be resilient and always open to revision.
That is why I am amazed that a fairly erudite ‘apostle’, Mr Stephen Mulungi, has for several weeks (except weekends) been hammering into Impact FM listeners’ heads his pet idea that baptisms short of complete immersion in water are not valid. His goal is to imply that only Pentecostals are true Christians.
He exhausts himself in a useless enterprise. Slowly, rites get modified. Slowly, rites change. Rites even get abandoned. Common sense.
But we could actually grant the ‘apostle’ his interpretation and take a roll-call at the next census.
The members of the Christian denominations that adopted sprinkling for baptism, followed by confirmation at decision-making age, are convinced that their process is legitimate.
However, some of these people are sometimes lured to various Pentecostal outfits without necessarily changing their conviction.
But you do not define your religious group by simply rejecting what other groups do. Just as Mulungi et al grudgingly acknowledge the good sense behind the titles and functions of the Anglican and Catholic bishops, they can begin by cleaning their own congregations, the base.
Give certificates to all those who have declared their faith (and) been baptised by immersion. Dismiss the rest in the Pentecostal congregations as tourists and religious nomads before the next census.