Will Pentecostal pastors eat humble pie?

Sunday February 10 2019

By Alan Tacca

Our Pentecostal pastors believe they are building Christianity by claiming a monopoly over the path to heaven, which (probably) will never even exist.
When mainstream religious traditions are seeking common values on which to spiritually reconcile humanity, Pentecostals invade the streets with armies of lumpen preachers whose only qualification seems to be the ability to look mad and divide people.

You cannot build Christianity by distressing other people because your church loudspeakers must thunder through their business centres and residential neighbourhoods, day and night.
You cannot build Christianity by aggressively seeking to convert people to your faith when the present ethos tends to view proselytising as an insult.

You cannot build Christianity by promising miracles because you have smeared your followers with oil.
Tomorrow, more enlightened, knowing that miracles do not happen, more people will ask: if a pastor’s exotic oil is no better (and no worse) than a witchdoctor’s exotic herbs, how is his divine power superior to the witchdoctor’s?

The Pentecostal dismisses such concerns with a self-righteousness that verges on insolence.
There is now a quinine-flavoured irony. These men, who are holier than all of us, are rudely and loudly trashing each other.
Reason: Who will have hierarchical power, and who will control the money in their churches? Their differences over ‘genuine’ and ‘false’ prophets are nothing more than kettles calling pots black.

When an MP with Pentecostal interests, John Baptist Nambeshe, recently introduced a private member’s Bill ostensibly aimed at harmonising the registration and regulation of religious organisations, he did not know what hit him.
The other MPs instantly denounced the Bill. A few days later, Mr Nambeshe was invited by one of the Born Again leaders to speak to his colleagues about the Bill.

Before Nambeshe even started, the pastors ganged up and drove him out.
For a few years now, there are some politically connected pastors/apostles/prophets, who believe that their churches (or estates?) cannot be secure without guiding laws, even if those laws partly restrict their operations.
Mistake: these leaders deluded themselves that they could elevate their Pentecostal profile by pulling down Catholicism, Anglicanism and Islam. They used to scream: the Catholic and Anglican churches and mosques are also not registered; so, they, like any Pentecostal outfit, could be washed away with ease by a regime unsympathetic to religion.

They forgot the weight of centuries of tradition behind these organisations, not to mention the sheer power and influence of their mother bodies in Rome and Canterbury, as well as existing Ugandan laws protecting them from way back in the early 1900s.
As a generalisation, today’s Pentecostal leaders were renegades from the established churches. They hacked their separate paths, introduced their different idiosyncrasies and told their lies in different ways. They were performing ‘artistes’ of a sort, and each sought money and celebrity status as an independent ‘cult’ leader.

In the mother of ironies, some of these leaders now want to herd the less successful, the less connected, and the younger pastors under a regime of control where clerical education and financial accountability are enforced; the very kind of control they themselves rejected when they became renegades 30 or 40 years ago.
However, they fear that an impending Bill/law shaped by Ethics minister Fr Simon Lokodo may curtail them too much, while non-Pentecostal MPs thought John Baptist Nambeshe’s Bill was an offside exercise in Pentecostal impudence.
Meanwhile, like our hawkers and street vendors, most other pastors do not want any control. Their traditional fishing ground is chaos. These are very interesting times.

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.
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