Saturday, July 3, 2010

Religion, faith, logic; anti-gayism in Africa

Logic, thought, the ability to discern.

May all sound like something out of dream, but... my greatest gift from my parents was most likely an education. Yet education and intelligence does not save one from believing things that cannot be true, or even uncritical thinking. Just thinking of Nsaba-Buturo, his magical and mythical thinking and the blurring of the line between faith and reason, and politics.
THE day was Sunday June 20, 2010. It will always be remembered as the turning point in the fortunes of Uganda which Churchill, in 1896 and in a prophetic truth called ‘The Pearl of Africa’.
On that day, Ugandans had responded to a call by the President (read the King in the biblical parlance) of Uganda to Ugandans to gather at Kololo Independence ground in order to pray and repent the sins of the nation against God.
When the President’s call was first made, it reverberated across Uganda with incredulity, shock, skepticism and spontaneous excitement. Such a call was as unprecedented as it was significant.
I was struck by the high degree of unanimity among those who attended and believed that it was unique as well as significant in so far as consolidation of God’s blessings for Uganda is concerned.
Ugandans who take seriously the teachings of God and are conversant with the travails of this nation, especially its record on the moral scale and attendant serious consequences for their nation, should rebellion against God continue unabated, were hilarious to the core.
Apparently many had been praying for years for this day little knowing that God would answer them in the affirmative.
True, I also blame this Economist article for my thoughts...! Matter of fact, it is a good analysis of what has been happening for most of my short life. This is the reality of our social-religious life in Uganda, in Africa.
Ms Wanjiru’s own church, Jesus Is Alive Ministries, is a good example of the new genre. She can draw 100,000 worshippers to a meeting. Add in a visiting televangelist and the number can rise to as many as 500,000. Ms Wanjiru has lived the Pentecostal dream. She is from a poor family of casual labourers and eked out a life as a housemaid and toilet cleaner before working her way up to a marketing job. She then experienced a vision from God calling on her to save Africa. These days videos, CDs and other accessories can be bought from her website using credit cards or phone credit. She makes good use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media. She is not afraid to court controversy, last year baptising the boss of the Mungiki organised-crime outfit, Maina Njenga. Mr Njenga’s gang had been involved in extortion and had a history of hacking off the heads of its enemies.
But the business of owner-operated churches is competitive. A few dud sermons and the crowd thins. That is one reason why they are so upbeat and aspirational. Indeed, their insistent calls for self-discipline and education, striving and victory prompt some people to say Pentecostalism should be encouraged in Africa as the new version of Max Weber’s Protestant work ethic. The churches are certainly prominent in anti-corruption campaigns.
However, there is also plenty of hucksterism. You will be blessed with health and wealth by God, congregants are told, especially if you give generously. As in other parts of the world, the new churches in Kenya and Uganda provide a place for the ambitious poor to get ahead. Yet the real competitive advantage of the new churches in east Africa seems to be their willingness to tap, at least subliminally, into traditional beliefs. “They give full play to the enchanted mentality, which holds the world to be inhabited with ghosts and spirits,” explains Paul Gifford, a professor of African Christianity at the University of London. It makes economic sense: getting spells lifted and spirits cast out on a Sunday morning saves money on a visit to the witch doctor during the week.
New churches are good at exploiting gaps in the market and profiting from them. A Ugandan Pentecostal preacher, Martin Ssempa, for instance, has mined a rich seam of homophobia in Uganda to help build up his standing. He and other Pentecostals pushed for the tabling of an anti-homosexuality bill in the Ugandan parliament, which advocates spying on gays and proscribes imprisonment for sodomy. Earlier versions of the law called for the death penalty in some instances.

Fact, I appreciate people's religious faith. I cannot help doing that. That is why I am not an atheist. Too many people believe for me to claim that I have discovered the truth myself by not believing.
I may not believe like you do, but I appreciate your faith and religious beliefs. And, of course I can afford to be condescending and ask you to allow for my lack of faith, as you see it.
Nevertheless, I am deeply troubled when my world, my reality is forced into the reality of others because they believe certain things.

I don't believe. And, I do not appreciate being forced to believe or to act like there is a universal truth which I must accept. That riles me. Especially if that truth includes things like thinking that I am bad, to assuage anothers feelings of shame about themselves.
See, having to feel bad about myself is the same if I the characteristic chosen for shame is my skin colour, tribal origin, ethnic group, or sexuality. They are all my characteristics. I will own up to them. Reading this article written by Buturo- it makes me feel sober. Because of the depth of his faith, and evident self desception. It is not evident to him, though I tend to think it very much out there. In the name of his idea of god, morality, faith, he has used a moral seive to segregate the whole mass of humanity into good and bad. To him it is a self evident truth that those who don't have his idea of morality are bad. Those who offend or transgress his idea of morality are anti-god, anti-truth, anti-human. Just because they do not see the world like he does.
See, all this does not matter, until the Honourable Nsaba-Buturo wants to send me to prison for life, or to kill me because I have HIV and am a homosexual. That is what he wants. No, I don't want to split hairs of whether he has ever said so. The words that he shared of his thoughts with the world regarding his support of the anti-homosexuality bill are self evident. Homosexuals should forget about human rights. Period.

Nsaba Buturo is a PhD (in economics, and not one of those awarded for looking great.). He got it from a university in Britain, if I am not wrong. So, he is hardly like the mass of uneducated Ugandans. But, all his education is negated by his blind allegiance to his faith. In my mind, there is little difference between Dr. Nsaba Buturo and one of the common Ugandans who sneaks into the shrine of a traditional witchdoctor and is convinced to sacrifice his son or daughter for some imaginary wealth. [In Uganda, human sacrifice is a fact of life.]
True, I see little difference between the reasoning there, and of Dr Martin Ssempa who preaches that belief in his idea of the Christian god is to embrace anti-gay hatred, just because you believe. To me, that is plain weird.

Yet I have to accept that Ssempa, Buturo, Bahati et al do think, and believe, like the vast majority of my country mates. That is just fact, which I cannot run away from.
And, I cannot blame it on only Ugandans. That is another common fault.
We Ugandans say 'Ugandans'- as if that covers it. Just like we sometimes think 'Africans'... forgetting that no group has a monopoly on stupidity, duplicity, and the ability to lie to ourselves, or accept others lies, if they are wrapped in suitable covers. That seems to be the most important criteria.

Another example, my friend Dr Martin 'eat da poo poo' Ssempa has had it rough because he failed to appreciate the differences between his audience in Uganda, and that in the west. He raises money from the west, and draws his political support from the masses in Uganda. So, the anti-homosexuality bill hit him squarely because he failed to appreciate that lying in Uganda in this day and age of the internet could have problems... If you have watched Vanguard's 'Missionaries of Hate', you will have got a feel of his beliefs and thoughts. But, to use his elegant words, what is maana in the US is poo poo in Uganda, and the reverse applies.
So, after a sustained campaign of targeting his double speak, you would expect that those who are blessed in the US with better education, access to the internet, more critical thinking- that they would have run away from Ssempa's brand of Christianity? But, no. Some do still believe in Ssempa. And, they are not ashamed to say so.... or to say some of the things that he has said to the west as fact. There is this church in the US which Martin numbers amongst his staunch supporters. They claim that what has been said about Martin is wrong....
The occasion was compassionate HIV testing for the masses. In the US, HIV is mainly a gay disease, and the church in question allied with the community to avail free testing and counseling services. A laudable objective.
But, and herein is the rub. That church supports Ssempa, who is reputed to be an HIV activist. He is an anti-gay HIV activist. This is the real world, and Ssempa's awards on both fronts are real things in Uganda. He believes that gay Ugandans shouldnt be included in the country's HIV programmes. He has explicitly said that. He believes in the HIV prevention powers of the anti-homosexuality bill 2009. (Gay ugandans imprisoned for life, those who are HIV positive given the death sentence.).

And, he is a Christian pastor.
But Ssempa has widespread support among American evangelicals, including those who run Canyon Ridge. Ssempa is listed as a ministry partner of the church.
Church leaders said they support Ssempa financially, but they refused to say how much they give to his ministry. Mitch Harrison, an executive pastor at Canyon Ridge, said activists have it all wrong. He said Ssempa actually opposes the more disturbing aspects of the Ugandan legislation that demands the death penalty for homosexuals who molest children or rape the handicapped.
"This year, we've had discussions with Martin about [the legislation], and I can tell you what's being reported about him in the American media is wrong," Harrison said. "He's repeatedly said he wants the death penalty [provision] removed and that he's not in favor of death for [homosexuals]."
You want to read more about that thing? Check out Box Turtle bulletin here, and here.

Now, are those contradictions or not?

If you live the reality of my world, you will understand that all these are 'evident truths'

I used to argue, long time ago, that 'logic is a perception'. I still think that is true... but unfortunately, I have failed to use that truth to my advantage. Too soft...!

A great day...


1 comment:

Karen said...

Where to start. Yes, contradictions abound.

It is quite sobering to read about the 'evident truths' of your world while watching the 4th of July celebration being televised from Washington, DC. I do love my country, but I am disgusted by the actions of my countrymen in your country (*sigh* unfortunately not the only place. . .).

I am not sure I understand what you mean by "logic is a perception".

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