Back in March, when President Museveni was confidently in (the lockdown) command, and not many people could foresee how complicated the reasoning and decisions involved in opening up would be, the President made the kind of diplomatic gesture that inflates subordinates with self-importance; payment for their co-operation.
After some Inter-Religious Council people complained that religious worship had been put at the bottom on the list of priorities during the ‘war’ on Covid-19, the President ‘corrected’ the anomaly, casually promoting religious worship to the top.
Wow… From bottom to top position! A harmless joke, until some religious leaders took it too seriously and started using it to flog Museveni. If some ‘lower’ priorities are opening, they demand, why are the houses of God still closed?
The reasoning is strange, considering that schools and universities, a far greater priority in any nation’s development, and sports centres, where health benefits have been scientifically proven, are still closed, not to mention so many serious economic activities that are still locked, or are only very cautiously being allowed to open, and could be abruptly locked again.
Long before Covid-19, I have maintained that our most self-righteous religious leaders are in actuality merchants, using the good name of Jesus. The Covid-19 lockdown has exposed them further.
The way scientists and socio-political decision makers attempt to deal with Covid-19 problems is often at variance with established religious beliefs and practices.
Meanwhile, different religious operators sometimes exploit these differences to undermine each other.
Take a simple example: When Muslims gather for prayers, they take positions close to one another. Wider spaces between them would provide passages for the devil and other evil spirits to infiltrate the congregation.
I do not believe in the literal existence of the devil or of evil spirits; so there would be nothing to take advantage of any ‘social distance’ between the believers.
On the other hand, when they stand, bow, kneel and recite their prayers close to one another, they approach Allah as many in number, but united as ‘one’ in purpose, inaccessible to the devil.
Many of our noisy Christian groups mock Muslims for this seemingly irrational practice. They taunt the Muslims that observing the social distance rule would mean praying with the devil roaming in their midst.
However, the same Christian groups have a practice that predates Covid-19 and may have now become more pronounced. Pastors who broadcast their services ask listeners to place their hands over their radio/TV loudspeakers. Then the pastor commands diseases and demons to leave the listeners.
The power of Jesus (or the pastor?) supposedly rides on the transmission, passes from the loudspeaker, and through the listener’s arm to the afflicted area; a belief more ridiculous than that of the Muslims.
As they struggle to remain relevant, Covid-19 should have taught them some humility. But they don’t learn.
One of their new claims goes that people take politicians (and their scientists?) to be liars, serving ulterior interests; that the churches are the best places to teach about masks, hand-washing and so on, because people believe the men of God.
But to be believed is different from being honest. At all their mega crusades and prayer exhibitions, they claim miraculous healings that are not there. They exorcise evil spirits that do not exist.
You can teach hygiene to tactically get past the authorities before spreading theories of corona demons, enhanced by ‘tongues’. The devotees will probably forget the science and go home dizzy with the demons. Sweet music to the virus.
Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.